Taylor Kitsch plays a single-minded killer from the south in "American Assassin." But in real life, he’s an easy-going actor from up north.

"I grew up in Kelowna [B.C.,] but also in Port Moody and around, an hour outside Vancouver, so we were a two hour drive from Seattle,” the actor said.

After high school, a bad knee ended his hopes of playing in the NHL and Kitsch headed to California to pursue acting.

“I haven't been through Seattle since I drove my Firefly Pontiac hatchback through it, when I was living in my car,” he said. “I bought it for $1,000, it took me down to L.A., I lived in it, then it brought me back home. Best $1,000 I've ever spent in my life."

At age 25, Kitsch landed his breakout role -- Tim Riggins on NBC's hit show "Friday Night Lights." It showcased his ability to pack an emotional punch.

His character in "American Assassin" is more physical, and in the course of throwing actual punches, Kitsch accidentally landed some against co-star Dylan O'Brien.

“I gave him a couple of legit left hooks to the ribs and he didn't say anything after, and I was like, 'Man, I'm so sorry, dude.' And he's like, 'That one got me really good,'" Kitsch said. "We would die laughing between takes. I don't know why, but sometimes you're so tired, you're just gone."

Their exhausting work amounts to a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat spy thriller -- and the next chapter in the story of a kid from Kelowna.

"American Assassin" is rated R and opens in theaters September 15.

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