Taylor Swift's younger brother is carving his own path in Hollywood
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Austin Swift is carving his own path in Hollywood.

Though his older sister is superstar Taylor Swift, the 26-year-old actor surprised himself — and his loved ones — when he decided to pursue an acting career.

“I’m pretty reserved in most circumstances, so it never seemed like it would be a good fit,” the Cover Versions star tells PEOPLE exclusively. “But I kind of got thrust into it and realized that it could be an opportunity to be creative.”

Austin swift publicity image 2018
Credit: Kurt Iswarienko

While studying film at the University of Notre Dame, Swift scored his first leading role in a campus production of Six Characters in Search of an Author.

And though he never imagined following in his sister’s footsteps, Swift shares the same work ethic as Taylor, 28, and found himself staying far past his required rehearsal time.

“I got really worried I wasn’t good enough,” he says. “It became clear I needed to either buckle down or walk away. I started staying after rehearsals every night and running the whole play by myself, over and over, acting every part until the sun came up. By opening day, it was a different play and I felt like I was a different person.”

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For more on Austin Swift, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

Counting Top Gun, GoldenEye and The Empire Strikes Back as some of his favorite films, Swift is drawn towards sci-fi but is “excited to work with anybody who’s all about the project they’re on,” he says.

While on set of Cover Versions, he bonded with the film’s other young stars including Katie Cassidy, Drake Bell and Debby Ryan. “It became this cool kind of clubhouse,” he says of the shoot.

“There were a few funny times like trying not to freeze during the pool scenes and the barely working van self-destructing once we wrapped, but the best times were just hanging out between scenes and working with people who cared about each other and about what we were trying to do,” he adds.

On his days off, Swift enjoys reading graphic novels and has been “getting into jiu-jitsu,” which he sees as a “good complement” to acting.

“I had always wanted to try it and I finally started this year,” he says. “It’s very immediate. You never have to wonder how you’re doing and yet it can be intellectual in its own way.”