Take Five

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If you're going to make your debut in daytime, you might as well start at the top. That's exactly what Justin Hartley, who joined the cast of Passions in December, has done. As Nicholas Foxworthy "Fox" Crane, Hartley plays the privileged male heir to the Crane dynasty. Blessed with his family's staggering wealth and good looks, Fox will tap into it all as he pursues his fellow tennis pro, Whitney Russell, and his stepmother Theresa Crane.
But fans, take note. Hartley stresses there's more to his alter ego than roguish charm. Every calculated move Fox makes will have an intent and purpose in this daytime newcomer's capable hands. Coming across more like the boy next door than a future corporate lothario, Hartley is destined to leave the broken hearts on-screen and win over the heart of the viewers.

Passions really marks your acting debut. You must have done something in your audition that just wowed the casting director.

I wish I knew! I like to think of Michael J. Fox; he just looks comfortable in whatever role he's doing, and he has confidence. That comes from being relaxed. I'm still young and learning, but I think I just relaxed and trusted myself. Maybe I'm just a good actor, and I acted like I had confidence!

When did you realize you wanted to be an actor?

I didn't really act as a child. I played sports, and I was really into baseball. But I've always loved performing. If you ask anyone from the Midwest, [acting] isn't really something you think about doing as a profession. Once I got older, in my high school years, I realized it was something I wanted to do and got involved in it.

What did your family do the first time they saw you on screen?

I've always been real family-oriented. When I came out here, everyone was really supportive of me, but at the same time, I could tell that they were worried considering the odds [of becoming an actor]. When I landed Passions and I told them, everyone was excited but they didn't really understand it. It really hit them the first time they saw me on screen. They went crazy. They're my biggest fans.

What did you know about Passions before you landed the role?

I had auditioned for the show before, and my sister and my mom are avid watchers. It's a cool thing when you get a show, but to get something that your folks actually watch is even better because you don't have to explain it to them. When I auditioned a year ago, I watched it because I like to get involved with a project I'm up for as much as I can. Before I knew it, I was tuning in regularly, then I was turning it on everyday and I got hooked. So I've been watching it for about a year.

Were your mom and sister happy that you had been cast as a Crane?

My mom is so sweet. As soon as I told her my character, she knew his whole story. Of course, she doesn't want anyone not to like my character. But I think she's warming up to the idea.

I loved the description the show initially gave of Fox, that his body is toned and tanned from playing tennis. Do you play the game?

I play racquetball. When I learned I would be auditioning for the role, I watched every tennis event on TV that I could, because you never know. I might have to play tennis on air one day. I think I could play. I could learn.

So would you describe Fox as a smooth-talking, woman-loving gambler?

I don't think he's necessarily a spoiled rich kid; that's just people's perception of him. I think he's misunderstood in that way. People will think he's a heel, but while I'm playing the character, he'll never make choices that are mean just to be mean. He's doing it for a reason.

QUICK QUESTIONS WITH MCKENZIE...AND SHERIDAN!


We threw five quick questions at McKenzie and challenged her to come up with answers for both herself and her character! Here's what she came up with!
What is your favorite way to spend the day?
Sheridan: With Luis!
McKenzie: Anything, so long as I'm with my family or friends!

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Sheridan: Finishing those darn hours at the Youth Center!
McKenzie: Getting the part of Sheridan!

Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
Sheridan: Happily married with children (hopefully with Luis!)
McKenzie: I also want to be happily married with children!

Who has had the greatest influence on your life?
Sheridan: My mother. Even though I never really knew her, I know she is watching over me.
McKenzie: My parents!

If you could change anything about yourself what would it be?
Sheridan: That I didn't give into Luis sooner!
McKenzie: My stubbornness can sometimes get in the way!

Getting To Know You! McKenzie Westmore (Sheridan, Passions)

Stylish and romantic and a chocoholic, too? PASSIONSs Sheridan shares more than a few traits with McKenzie Westmore., who expounds on her love of the sweet treat and her taste for real-life romance.

Margarita or Martini? Theres nothing better than a strawberry margarita at Chevys [in L.A.]
Beach or Mountains? Beach because of Rollerblading. And with the sun setting on the water, it can be very romantic.
Candy of Flowers? I have to go with flowers. I love flowers, any kind.
Wax or Shave? Shave. Wax is too painful!
Monet or Warhol? Monet because of the colors.
Calvin Klein or Ralph Lauren? Everything in my closet is pretty much Calvin Klein. His clothes just fit me perfectly.
Making Dinner or Making Reservations? Making Reservations. Im not much of a cook.
Book or Movie? Its a tossup, but movie. Im more of a visual person. I like to be able to see whats going on.
CD or Vinyl? CD. I like the sound better. Its just crisper.
Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate. Its my favourite and always has been. My dad used to take me to a chocolate convention when I was growing up, an for two days straight all you did was eat chocolate.
Rain or Snow? Rain. Theres nothing more romantic than being next to the fireplace hearing the rain on the roof.
Gel or Mousse? Gel. I rarely use mousse. If Im going to slick my hair back, I use gel.
Bath or Shower? I always take a shower, but I prefer a bath because its very soothing and relaxing.
Boxers of Briefs? Boxers. Ive never been a briefs fan.
Dog or Cat? Cat. I have a cat, and hes my baby. Hes a Maine Coon named Mickey and hes huge. Ive had him since 1984 and hes still just as vibrant.
Matt Demon or Ben Affleck? Matt Damon. There seems to be more of the masculinity thing going on with him.
On THE VIEW: Meredith, Barbara, Joy, Star or Lisa? I love Star. She just cracks me up.
Sunrise or Sunset? Sunset. Again its the romantic thing.

Julian Crane, Mr. Contemptible



Not since All in the Family's Archie Bunker, has television had a bigger biggest than Passions Julian Crane. "He is so politically incorrect," says Ben Masters, who is often stunned by his character's racist remarks. "Like his bigotry about the Lopez-Fitzgerald family. I had this whole (speech once) about how Pilar should be out beating clothes on a rock by the river. It was unbelievable."
Not surprisingly, Ben often worries about offending the show's multicultural viewers. "We had a softball game last year that preceded the airing of this scene (where I had to) do this bad Asian accent. There were a lot of Asian-Americans there. And these really nice young women, Asian-Americans, came up to me and said, 'We just love you.' I told them, 'Please, you have to forgive me, because in another week, you may have effrontery to what I do,'" Ben recounts.
"People on the Internet write things like 'Julian, that pig!'" he adds, which makes the actor a bit wary of his fan mail. "I open every large envelope, because they usually want pictures. But I usually have Travis Schuldt, (Ethan) open my big boxes for me...just in case."

Lindsay Korman *Theresa Passions: FYI
Recent fad I admit to trying: Jeweled necklaces, hair accessories and shawls
Favourite actor: Anthony Hopkins
Favourite actress: Natalie Wood
Favourite movie: Doctor Zhivago
Favourite TV show: Ally McBeal
Favourite singer: Tori Amos
Greatest fear: Being alone in my house at night, especially when it is windy or during an earthquake
If I could only keep one household appliance, it would be: Microwave
Something youd be surprised to know about me: I love making popcorn and then adding M&Ms.
Favourite Food: Lasagna
Least Favourite Food: Fish
Favourite comfort food: Any chocolate with nuts and/or caramel
Favourite Song: I Will Always Love You
Favourite items of clothing: T-shirts, sweatpants and pajamas!
Nobody knows I can: Keep my house boiling hot and love it
If I couldnt be an actor, Id be: A math teacher
If I had one wish: That my family lived in L.A.
Most treasured possessions: Princess, my Shetland sheepdog, and Nikki, my Pomeranian
First thing I do when I wake up in the morning: Turn the heat on and/or feed my dogs
Last thing I do before I go to bed: Talk to my best girlfriend, Lucy
Most embarrassing moment: Falling in the mall after tripping over the escalator going down
Best quality: I love to give 100 percent to whatever Im involved in: people, work, cooking.
Worst quality: Too serious and not enough play
Biggest regret: Not telling my cousin, I love you, enough before she died
What I dislike most about my appearance: My mouth is crooked.
Smartest thing I ever did: Listen to my parents
Quality I like most in a mate: Communication
My hero: My grandma *

Entertainment Weekly Takes Five with Passions


Galen Gering looks worried. The actor, who plays the upstanding, hunky cop Luis Lopez-Fitzgerald on the NBC soap Passions, stands in front of a gazebo, as hundreds of red and white rose petals fall from above in a slow flurry. He is clasping the well-manicured hands of McKenzie Westmore, the bubbly blond with the TV-ready name who portrays his girlfriend, starry-eyed rich girl, and international socialite Sheridan Crane. Having just nailed a crucial scene in which Sheridan accepts Luis' marriage proposal, Gering, 30, should be smiling--but instead the actor wrinkles his forehead and fixes his shocked gaze upon the production crew.

"That's it?" he asks, his voice heavy with disappointment. "No bombs, explosions, people dying? What's going on here? "He's got a right to be suspicious, because gushy vignettes of love and hunky-dory fairy-tale endings are fleeting on this Studio City, Calif., set. After all, Passions' most popular couple is not Luis and Sheridan, but a 300-year-old witch and her adoring acolyte, a talking doll. And the humble townsfolk of Harmony, a saltboxes-'n'-seafood hamlet located somewhere along the Atlantic coast, have a lot more to deal with than love triangles and kidnapped babies.

Explains former Falcon Crest star Dana Sparks, who plays premonition-ridden craft-store owner Grace Bennett: "In the last two or three days, I've found out my husband was in love with a wealthy woman in town and had a baby with her. I fell down some stairs, miscarried, died, was resurrected, spoke to an angel, saved the town hunk from the jaws of a demon who was in the fires of hell, was on Jerry Springer's show, and got to play a scarecrow.

"Whoa! Angels and demons? Fires of hell? Jerry Springer? This is definitely not your grandmother's soap opera. Heck, it's not even your mother's. But whatever you want to call it--comedy, drama, camp classic, soap send-up--Passions works. By tossing the traditional rules of daytime TV to hell, the emerging cult serial is turning the ailing soap-opera industry on its well-lathered head and giving NBC's struggling daytime division hope: Its ratings in the key 18-49 demographic have risen 42 percent since May have last year, and Passions has helped the network reach No. 1 in that same demo for the first time ever. So while a new audience finds itself tuning in tomorrow--and the next day and the next--network execs are as puzzled as Galen Gering, realizing that this may be where love in the afternoon is heading.

"I had to bang the drum," says Passions' Emmy-winning creator and head writer, James E. Reilly, 51, over lunch near his home in Amagansett, NY. "People's lives are so complicated. I had to give them a reason to try us. I wanted a show that people would talk about." He got exactly what he wanted--and then some. Immediately following Passions' July 5, 1999, premiere, the media cauldron began to bubble over with disdain. Viewers took umbrage at a short-lived plotline that compared Sheridan Crane to the recently deceased Princess Diana; the narrative was so vilified, it was decried as "totally inappropriate" by--no kidding--Yugoslavia's Princess Elizabeth.

Even the actors, a mix of soap vets and newcomers, weren't quite sure what they had gotten themselves into. "It was definitely challenging," says first-timer Jesse Metcalfe, 22, whose teen hottie Miguel Lopez-Fitzgerald spent much of last spring battling the undead in Hades. "Once i realized we weren't the traditional soap, it became easier." Ben Masters, 54, who portrays sniveling aristocrat Julian Crane, says, "The only way I could do it was over-the-top and three inches above reality. I said, 'I think this is what they want...'" Adds Westmore, 24, who found herself at the epicenter of the Princess Di brouhaha, "We weren't sure how to play it. Then we realized we could play it to the hilt and go overboard.

"So they did--literally. A splashy storyline last summer that saw Harmony's teen set go Titanic aboard a sinking "prom boat" helped Passions secure its No. 1 spot among teens 12 to 17. The show's sudden status as soap trailblazer had NBC brass turning cartwheels down their Burbank office hallways. "[Passions] made management take another look at daytime," says Sheraton Kalouria, NBC's senior VP of daytime. "It reenergized the daytime spirit at the company.

"And none too soon. NBC, until recently a perpetually last-place network in the soaps-ratings war, badly needed a hit, having axed both Aaron Spelling's Sunset Beach and 35-year veteran Another World in 1999. Two years earlier, they'd handed Reilly a hefty deal to create and write his own show after vacating the head writer post at Days of Our Lives, where he concocted headline-grabbing storylines of live burials and demonic possession that were obvious precursors to his Passions yarns. NBC knew launching yet another soap was risky, but it also trusted Reilly's Midas touch. "I think the show is the future of daytime," says Kalouria. "Jim is responsible for that. This show is introducing the soap form to a new generation.

"It's also introduced them to the most unlikely supercouple in daytime history: Tabitha and Timmy. Indeed, Passions' biggest--and weirdest--draw comes in the form of the aforementioned witch and the Chucky-like doll who aids in her schemes against Harmony residents. "I did not think the network would go for it," admits Reilly. "I thought I would have to fight, and I was prepared. Then they read the first week. They loved it! All they spoke about was Timmy the doll.

"Ah, Timmy. The mischievious sprite and master of disguise (he's worn everything from a Tony Manero disco suit to a Wizard of Oz flying monkey outfit) played by 38-inch-tall actor Josh Ryan Evans (Ally McBeal) has emerged as the show's true breakout character. Staffers in the MSNBC newsroom requested an autographed poster of the demonic duo, and the pair has received shout-outs on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and The West Wing. "He's like Puck from A. Midsummer Night's Dream." Says Evans, 19, who became the first Passions cast member to be nominated for a Daytime Emmy last March. "He speaks to the audience. He jokes around. Timmy can do anything.

"Juliet Mills--who was plugging away at forgettable fare like The Other Sister and Waxwork II: Lost in Time before landing her role as Tabitha, Harmony's resident sorceress--couldn't be happier with her new cadre of disparate fans. "My 7-year-old granddaughter just loves the show," says the 58-year-old actress, "and so do all my gay friends in New York!" Ever pragmatic, Reilly elaborates on the allure of this 21st-century Luke and Laura: "Timmy and Tabitha are the relaxing break. You get involved in the heavy organ music, and [they] come on, and you go, 'Oh my God!' You throw your bologna sandwich at the screen and say, 'They're ridiculous. They're crazy.' But you laugh for a moment.

And then you get back into the next story, which is more conventional. We let the audience laugh with us." If the audience is laughing, imagine how difficult it is for the actors to keep a straight face while delivering dialogue like, "Oh my God! I don't have anything to wear! Everything I have was destroyed when the house sank!" Sparks recalls busting up during a scene in which Grace made Harmony's hospital rumble with her otherworldly powers. "Everybody came running into the room," says Sparks, "and our brilliant town doctor said, 'What an odd thing to happen. Grace must have gotten so upset that she shook the whole room.' Literally, we never made it through the line. They ended up cutting around it.

"Such left-field lunacy has sometimes translated into pure profit, as when Reilly launched a story last November that found Timmy selling Tabitha's witchy memoirs to the HarperCollins publishing house. Suddenly, every episode seemed to feature not-so-slyly-placed promotional materials and numerous mentions of Hidden Passions: Secrets from the Diaries of Tabitha Lenox--a real-life tie-in novel (based on Reilly's back story and penned by romance writer Alice Alfonsi) that hit shelves in January and promptly debuted as No. 8 on the New York Times bestseller list.

"It proved the passion and commitment of daytime soap fans," says Kalouria. "It was a wake-up call to the powers-that-be at our own network and at publishing companies. On that level, it far surpassed anything we could ever have expected." Adds Hope Innelli, VP and editorial director of Harper Entertainment, "A lot of the romantic things on the show happen with the younger characters. Here was a chance to find out what the older characters did when they were young. They did have a racy past, and that was fun to discover." So fun, in fact, that the book has sold an estimated 150,000 copies to date, and Innelli is high on producing a sequel. "I think there's opportunity. The property is rich enough.

"It does seem as if the sands in this hourglass aren't even close to running out. Though it's hard to engineer an encore when you've sent half the cast to hell, Reilly has prepared for the teen-viewer-rich summer months with such twisted storylines as an "island adventure" (featuring the show's buff and beautiful adolescent cast, notch), a sure-to-be doomed double wedding, and the beheading of a major character. Says Kalouria, "The stuff in store for the summer is Passions to the extreme." That's just fine with the actors, who recognize that realism is anathema to Passions fans. "That's not what we do here," shrugs Masters. "I like what we do. It's much more fun. I mean, God forbid if this were a soap soap opera." Amen to that.


BRUCE MICHAEL HALL

The writers at PASSIONS haven't known what to do with Bruce Michael Hall [Reese] for the longest time. They have him playing the resident Harmony nerd -- and to see Bruce off camera belies that he is anything but a nerd [check the abs, the biceps]. So we get some delight whenever Reese is on, knowing just what a great character actor Hall is. He really is playing someone diametrically opposed to himself.

And to have seen his comedic timing at the recent PASSIONS fan club event [he does a wicked impression of Lindsay Korman's weepy Theresa that's not to be believed it's so uncanny] makes us appreciate him even more. Obviously, we're not the only fans. The show recently put the young actor on contract after he was only listed as a recurring character. Now, if the contract lives up to the potential of what he could bring to the party [those abs, those biceps, that acting talent] the show will have something there. Today they get off on the right foot. And that's one reason Bruce Michael Hall is Hot Today.

Reese sees Timmy and knows that Timmy isn't a doll but a real boy! Uh oh. How will Timmy and Tabitha get out of this one?! The mind boggles. Bruce Michael Hall has been entertaining in a limited role. He's had to play opposite two, and now three, Kays. So maybe, now, finally the storyline we have been waiting for -- Jessica cleans Reese up and he becomes not so much the nerd but someone the young women in Harmony now find interesting -- will happen before too long.

Hiding that handsome mug behind those nerdy glasses is almost unconscionable. It's like painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa....and she never had a calendar. [Trust us on the 2001 Bruce Michael Hall calendar. He poses with his twin. Twice the abs, twice the biceps. And worth the price of admission.] Bruce Michael Hall is Hot Today because of his good-natured charm, his sense of fun and mirth, playing a real character role, and doing so very effectively. Oh, and if we've forgotten to mention it, the abs and the biceps and the face ain't too shabby either. Bruce Michael Hall is Hot Today and to that we say Bravo, Bruce!


JESSE METCALFE

If it's true that real men don't eat quiche, PASSIONS' Miguel Lopez-Fitgerald is certainly putting his manhood to the test today after girlfriend Charity makes him one. What he doesn't know is that evil Charity [not the sweet girl he knows and loves] has made her special quiche with poison mushrooms. Uh oh.If it's true that real men don't eat quiche, PASSIONS' Miguel Lopez-Fitgerald is certainly putting his manhood to the test today after girlfriend Charity makes him one.

What he doesn't know is that evil Charity [not the sweet girl he knows and loves] has made her special quiche with poison mushrooms. Uh oh. It's all due, of course, to the evil pendant [don't ask] Charity is wearing around her neck. It's Miguel's neck which is in danger today as Miguel bites into what could be his last meal. Evil pendant aside, the real gem in all this is that PASSIONS has discovered a charming couple in Miguel and Charity. Who would have thunk it? And, Jesse Metcalfe, in particular has been bringing a sweetness and hunkiness to the role of the innocent Fitzgerald-Lopez sibling.

To be perfectly blunt about it, when Miguel and Charity were first paired, they blended as well as peanut butter and sardines. Without the flavor. Combined, the two put out few sparks and the writers didn't seem to have a clue as to how to make them interesting. Then, bingo!, they made Charity evil [even if she didn't intend to be.] At least it gave Metcalfe and his lovely scene partner, Molly Stanton, something interesting to do other than have her continually exclaim, "Oh Miguel, I've never [name the mundane task or activity and she waxed poetic about it....zzzzzzz.....] before. It's so exciting."

No, actually, it was anything but. Even worse -- if possible -- was the moon-eyed way the writers had Miguel and Charity swoon every time they came within two feet of each other. That was incredibly inane. People on crack have their wits about them more than these two did. Now with some real meat and potatoes to play [or quiche in this case] the two actors are no longer standing around looking like they would rather be playing canasta than doing scenes together. Bravo to the writers for making the couple work. Finally.

We're not surprised. Jesse Metcalfe worked for us [literally] from the beginning and he has been a vital part of Soap Star World from jumpstreet. [Shameless plug #1: you can buy his sexy poster in our store; shameless plug #2: Metcalfe and costar Donn Swaby (Chad) will be doing a live chat with YOU this coming Wednesday, 9 p.m. ET and 6 p.m. PT.] Talk to Jesse Metcalfe about his popular role on the increasingly popular soap, his onscreen love life and the Miguel/Charity/Kay triangle.

Speaking of Kay, the storyline was immensely helped in that Metcalfe had palpable chemistry from the start with Taylor Anne Mountz [Kay.] You know there is something chemical and watchable there all along when you're pulling for the nice boy to end up with the bitch and not the nice girl. With the Kay recast [NBC says temporary, the actress says permanent] it remains to be seen how this triangle will play out.

But one thing is clear, two-thirds of the triangle is right on track. And thanks in large part to the hunky male side of the equation. The true essence of good soap opera is wanting to make the audience tune in tomorrow. In this story, featuring Metcalfe and Stanton, PASSIONS has that. Without giving too much away, Miguel has taken a few bites of the quiche and he grabs for his throat. Uh oh. But Kay also has her eyes on the quiche and two other Harmony residents also accidentally get their hands on Charity's dish with possibly fatal consequences. But that's not entirely why we'll be watching this storyline play out.

Jesse Metcalfe is Hot Today for his continual promise as a leading man of tomorrow, for making his mark -- despite the material he was handed early on -- and for playing Miguel in a non stereotyped and proud way. Need more? Well, uh, just look at the poster, okay? Jesse Metcalfe is Hot Today but in our book he's hot just about every day he wakes up. Bravo, Jesse Metcalfe.

It's all due, of course, to the evil pendant [don't ask] Charity is wearing around her neck. It's Miguel's neck which is in danger today as Miguel bites into what could be his last meal. Evil pendant aside, the real gem in all this is that PASSIONS has discovered a charming couple in Miguel and Charity. Who would have thunk it? And, Jesse Metcalfe, in particular has been bringing a sweetness and hunkiness to the role of the innocent Fitzgerald-Lopez sibling.

To be perfectly blunt about it, when Miguel and Charity were first paired, they blended as well as peanut butter and sardines. Without the flavor. Combined, the two put out few sparks and the writers didn't seem to have a clue as to how to make them interesting. Then, bingo!, they made Charity evil [even if she didn't intend to be.] At least it gave Metcalfe and his lovely scene partner, Molly Stanton, something interesting to do other than have her continually exclaim, "Oh Miguel, I've never [name the mundane task or activity and she waxed poetic about it....zzzzzzz.....] before. It's so exciting."

No, actually, it was anything but. Even worse -- if possible -- was the moon-eyed way the writers had Miguel and Charity swoon every time they came within two feet of each other. That was incredibly inane. People on crack have their wits about them more than these two did. Now with some real meat and potatoes to play [or quiche in this case] the two actors are no longer standing around looking like they would rather be playing canasta than doing scenes together. Bravo to the writers for making the couple work. Finally.

We're not surprised. Jesse Metcalfe worked for us [literally] from the beginning and he has been a vital part of Soap Star World from jumpstreet. [Shameless plug #1: you can buy his sexy poster in our store; Speaking of Kay, the storyline was immensely helped in that Metcalfe had palpable chemistry from the start with Taylor Anne Mountz [Kay.] You know there is something chemical and watchable there all along when you're pulling for the nice boy to end up with the bitch and not the nice girl. With the Kay recast [NBC says temporary, the actress says permanent] it remains to be seen how this triangle will play out.

But one thing is clear, two-thirds of the triangle is right on track. And thanks in large part to the hunky male side of the equation. The true essence of good soap opera is wanting to make the audience tune in tomorrow. In this story, featuring Metcalfe and Stanton, PASSIONS has that. Without giving too much away, Miguel has taken a few bites of the quiche and he grabs for his throat. Uh oh. But Kay also has her eyes on the quiche and two other Harmony residents also accidentally get their hands on Charity's dish with possibly fatal consequences.

But that's not entirely why we'll be watching this storyline play out. Jesse Metcalfe is Hot Today for his continual promise as a leading man of tomorrow, for making his mark -- despite the material he was handed early on -- and for playing Miguel in a non stereotyped and proud way. Need more? Well, uh, just look at the poster, okay? Jesse Metcalfe is Hot Today but in our book he's hot just about every day he wakes up. Bravo, Jesse Metcalfe.


RODNEY VAN JOHNSON

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Participating in the birth of my son.

Q: What is your biggest failure?
A: Failure is not something I dwell on. If you do, then you are a failure.

Q: What is your best high-school memory? Worst?
A: The best was dunking the basketball in the game my sophomore year. I was only 5-feet-9 at the time. The worst was all of my teachers. Too much negative energy for a kid.

Q: Where do you find paradise?
A: With my family and friends.

Q: What do you want to improve about yourself?
A: I am what I am.

Meet Ryan McPartlin (Hank Bennett)!


How did the role on 'Passions' come about for you?

It's pilot season, and during pilot season there are a lot of auditions. So, instead of feeling like a professional actor, I was feeling like a professional 'auditioner.' I was going a few times a week for auditions, so, my nerves were not very stressed. I came in to read for 'Passions' but they told me they weren't sure I was right for the role. I didn't even think I was going to get a callback. But then the callback came! I was thinking that for my first audition, I went in with my hair down, baggy pants, and sandals. So, this time I decided to wear my suede jacket and have my hair up. It was just a simple difference in my look that put the connection in their minds. I read for the producers and then they wanted to screentest me. I tested with McKenzie. She's such a great actress that it feels natural to just have a conversation with her. I felt comfortable.

Did McKenzie give you any tips?

I had about five minutes to talk to her before the screentest. We just read the lines together. She told me not to worry and I said I'd be fine. I asked her how she likes working at 'Passions' because I figured this was the last step before I might become part of this family. She told me the cast is great and that they're like family. She said everybody is really nice and friendly-and that I wouldn't feel like the new kid at school that's the outcast. That made it even easier to do the audition with her.

What was your reaction when you found out you got the part?

It was funny because the day after I did my screentest, I was on the phone with my mother. The other line beeped and I asked my mom to hold on. I never put my mom on hold but I was waiting to find out! It was my agent on the other line and she told me I got the part. I got back on the line with my mom and told her I'd call right back. My agent asked if I was excited, and I said was in disbelief. When I told my mom, she was so excited. And then the word got out to the whole family, so the calls starting coming in. Finally, I told them I couldn't talk anymore because I had to run to the restaurant to wait tables. They said--no, you don't. You got the job. But I still didn't believe it! So I went to the restaurant that night and waited tables!

Today's your first day. Were you nervous?

I stepped on set and I was really anxious. I wasn't nervous though, because this process has been going on for a while. But I was anxious to work. And that was the first lesson I learned about being on a soap opera-don't be too anxious to get on set. Bring stuff to do and work on your lines. The nerves will probably hit in about forty minutes before I do my first scene.

Who in the cast has been particularly welcoming?

First of all, McKenzie-right from the get-go. There's a familiarity with her, like I've known her for years. And Ben actually approached me after my screen-test, when I was on the way out. He said my screen-test was fantastic-that I had done a really good job. That was really important to me, because Ben is a veteran actor. It's been a really comfortable fit with everyone I've talked to.

What have you been told about the character of Hank?

I know a lot about his background, just from conversing today and from the internet. I got on the internet right away and checked out Hank's background. I'm going to follow the guidelines that have been set up so far, and see where it goes. We'll start off on one foot and see where we end up.

What do you hope to bring to the character?

I'm a positive guy. Even if Hank has a dark past, I think it all has to intertwine with my positive attitude. You always get somebody much more with a smile.

How did you decide to become an actor?

I was a speech communications major at the University of Illinois. After I was injured playing football, I went to Australia and studied there for six months. I came back to school for six months, finished up college, and graduated. And then I went home and told the family I was going out to Hollywood to be an actor. They knew I had an interest in it because of a lot of the courses I'd taken, but they didn't know how serious I was. I worked as a bartender in Chicago for another six months, saved up every last dime, and then moved out here. I struggled for the last couple of years and now it's nice to have steady work. Although, there's the actor's mentality of never knowing what's going to happen! I'm always on my toes.

What else have you done before this job?

I recently did 'Three Sisters,' which should be airing soon. I come in at the end and take out AJ Langer's character. I kind of break up one of the other character's confession of his love for her. So, I'm the bad guy! I also did 'The Nanny,' which was my first job on television. I did an independent film that's up for distribution right now. I was one of the leads in that. It's a football movie, so it was perfect for me. I did an Abercrombie and Fitch campaign a couple of years ago. It's been a wild ride.

Did you watch soaps at all before getting the job? Were you familiar with 'Passions?'

My soap growing up was 'Days of our Lives.' I remember back when John Black was Roman. Once I got to college, I stopped watching because I had classes. But those summers were spent watching Days! I've been watching 'Passions.' The first time I saw it, I thought this is a strange show. And then the next day, I was wondering what was happening on the show. I was already a fan. I get such a kick out of it! The funniest thing was, when I first got the part, I didn't know too much about the character. One of my roommates played football for the Chicago Bears for a year and a half. This is a 6 foot 4 African American guy who's really tough. The next day, I told him I got this job on 'Passions.' And he just goes, "Are you gonna be Hank?" He said, "Let me just tell you. The Crane family is going to have something against you. And I bet you're going to be matched up with Sheridan. You've been working with the FBI or something." I couldn't believe he'd been watching the show! He filled me in on everything! He just reeled off everything.

What are your first impressions of 'Passions?'

I was just trying to see who I'd be matched up with for a love interest! And I'd be happy with any of the women on the show. This is a good looking group!

You're a personal trainer. How did that come about?

I was working in a restaurant and I wanted to get out of waiting tables. I've always been into fitness and athletics. I wanted to think of a way that I could start training people, and eventually help athletes improve their performance. Personal training was a great way to start that and then move on. I took the course, paid the fees, worked hard, and then two days after I got this job I found out I'd been certified. I do plan to do some training in the future. I don't want my certification to go to waste.

What's your own fitness routine?

I change it up so many times. As a personal trainer, I can set up a routine for other people. But for myself, I'm in as much need of a personal trainer as anyone else. I need a structure that someone else can set up and keep me to!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love going to the movies. The reason I came out here, the one movie that really did it for me, was 'Braveheart.' It made a serious impact on the way I viewed film and the film industry, and on what I wanted to do with my life. It heightened every emotion that I have. I thought to be able to do that would be an absolute miracle for me. Other than movies, I love being active. And I love spending time with close friends.

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Number one is passionate. I really do feel passionate, sometimes to a fault. Number two would be sensitive. Not in your "new-century sensitive male" way, but sensitive to others. I really feel I can connect to others and feel the pain they're feeling. And number three is motivated. But I'm so many different things. Three words is hard!

What's something people would be surprised to know about you?

I'm a huge Parrot-head, a die hard Jimmy Buffet fan. Tickets go on sale tomorrow and I've been thinking about it all day. It's just a great laid-back culture that says don't take everything so seriously.

How do you think your life will change now that you're on 'Passions?'

I don't even want to think about it. A number of things go through your head, but you like to keep the dream alive that not much is going to change-except for maybe paying my credit card bill! That's the most exciting thing to me.

What are you most proud of in your life?

I would have to say my relationship with my family. It's tough to keep a family together, let alone have a really close one where you're all very sincere friends. The times I look most forward to in my life are spending time with the whole family together. And about a month from now, I'm going to be uncle!