Breaking In’s Levi Meaden is breaking out.
The actor and longtime boyfriend of Modern Family’s Ariel Winter stars in the new home-invasion thriller alongside Gabrielle Union — and he says he’s taking his heightened fame “one step at a time.”
“I still am trying to navigate it,” Meaden, 30, tells PEOPLE. “I try to keep relatively the same. I’ve always kind of been a homebody so that’s still the same. I just go out and come back home with my girlfriend and three dogs and chill out. I try to make sure I don’t change too much because I like that. This is what I do for a job, but the home and family is where the actual life is, so I try to keep that in mind.”
For Meaden, having Winter, 20, in the business has “certainly” helped when it comes to making career-related decisions.
“We can ask each other to weigh in,” Meaden says about Winter, with whom he has lived with since first sparking dating rumors in November 2016. “We also try to, in our private life, keep it separate from the industry and try to keep it grounded and normal and about us.”
Plus, he always has a partner to run lines with.
“It helps when it’s somebody else who is in the industry,” he says. “It helps when you get a role and run it past each other and see what they think and read the script and try things. It’s really helpful.”
In Breaking In, Meaden plays the “nicest of the bad guys” with his character Sam, who breaks into Union’s character’s home in order to find some hidden money. He says he couldn’t have been more impressed watching Union, who also produced, during filming.
“She was doing double duty, and she was just kicking ass non-stop,” he says. “It was so fun to watch, she’s such a pro.”
Next, Meaden will star in CBC and Sundance TV’s eight-part drama miniseries, Unspeakable, which chronicles the real-life tainted blood scandal in Canada beginning in the 1980’s. As a native to Canada, Meaden says the project hits close to home.
“In the 1980s, the Red Cross used tainted blood during the AIDS crisis and a lot of people got infected from blood transfusions,” he says. “My character is a hemophiliac who, as a young kid, had to get a blood transfusion and ended up with HIV. Knowing this happened to a real family just broke my heart. I know that there were thousands of people affected by this and it’s something I’m really trying to bring justice to.”
Meaden got his start in acting by doing local projects in Canada before attending school in Prague, Czech Republic. While there, he was taking classes in writing and directing when a teacher got him interested in acting. Though he still wanted to pursue writing and directing when he got back to Vancouver, Meaden says a boss of his pushed him to pursue acting full-time.
“From there, I went looking for an agent,” he says. “I was still working in a kitchen five days a week to support myself for a while. I took whatever classes I could, I worked in casting offices, I was a camera operator, I helped out with filming behind the camera. I just did whatever I could to try to get myself around movies and filmmaking and theater. I did whatever I could to break through. Finally, I got The Killing and it was my first big project.”
Though he has a lot of exciting projects coming up, Meaden says there’s one role that would be a dream to play some day — comic book character John Constantine.
“He’s my favorite, not just comic book character, but one of my favorite characters,” he says. “I have the look, I just need to nail the accent because he’s British!”
Breaking In is in theaters now.
people.com | 5/12/18