Canadian Actor in Denial Over His Sudden Fame (CP)


For Scott Speedman, fame has been such a roller-coaster ride that the handsome 23-year-old Toronto actor hasn't had time to appeciate how his world is changing.
 "I'm in denial about that," is the soft-spoken reply of the co-star of Felicity, one of the hottest of the new American TV series.
 "You just try to forget it's there because the last thing I want to do is change my day-to-day life. That's pretty scary."
 So far Speedman has been mostly insulated from his meteoric rise to teen heartthrob status as Ben Covington, the "sensitive jock" who turns the head of Felicity (Keri Russell). In the opening episode of the series -- carried on both the fledgling WB network in the U.S. and on CTV here in Canada -- the winsome California woman has impulsively chucked the college and career plans her domineering parents had made for her. Instead the newly-graduated Felicity travels all the way to New York City just to attend the same university as the moody guy she has admired from afar and who, amazingly, wrote something nice in her high-school yearbook.
 Speedman acknowledges fan mail is pouring in but he hasn't read it yet. Instead he's been working long, hard hours on a Hollywood sound stage ever since Felicity's much-hyped fall premiere.
 "L.A. is a very bubbled community where you don't get the public interaction from the outside world," he explains.
 But on a break for the recent U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, Speedman came home for a visit and found out that he can forget about anonymity.
 "It would be great to have one place to come where nobody knew about the show. I'd love it if it wasn't on in Toronto."
 A publicist insists that the dark, wool tuque the actor has pulled down over his curly locks is not a disguise, but just part of "the look." But he admits to being embarrassed by alliteration-obsessed press releases describing him as a "hot hunk" and "sizzling sex symbol."
 Besides some ribbing from his old pals, Speedman's euphoric success has been tempered by a family crisis. His father is battling cancer and while Speedman is reluctant to discuss it, he is prepared to put a positive light on the situation.
 "It's a nice thing this is happening to me. With all that sadness going on, they have something to look to. It's hard on me because I'm down there."
 Meanwhile, Speedman tries to counter certain publicity material that suggests he went from absolutely no acting experience to a star of the new fall TV season. It is true that five years ago he was "discovered" after appearing on Speaker's Corner, a video platform set up outside the studios of Toronto's Citytv to give the public an on-air outlet. The then-18-year-old gave his name and number and suggested he be considered for the role of Robin in the new Batman movie that was scouting in town.
 "My girlfriend at the time dared me to do it. I was driving to Hamilton and just double-parked the car and jumped into the booth, threw in the coin and did it really quickly."
 Two weeks later, Warner Bros. called and invited him to do an audition. It's a misconception, though, that things went from there straight to stardom. He did act in a number of forgettable made-in-Toronto TV movies and series episodes in the interim and even did a brief tour at a New York theatre school.
 But when the break came it was quick. Literally overnight he was Keri Russell's prime-time co-star.
 "I flew in on Friday night. I met her on Sunday afternoon, and we shot our hardest scene Monday morning."
 So with all the acting wannabes hanging out in California why did the producers select this Canadian for the role of Ben? Speedman isn't sure himself, seemingly unaware that smouldering sex appeal is a rare gift.
 "Honestly, a lot of actors read the script and go 'I know him. I got him. He's like this tough, brooding guy.' But he's not. He's just a guy and they try to affect him a little too much. I just sat in front of the camera and tried to be as real as possible."
 And what about the storyline (and the message to teen viewers) that has the heroine making a critical life decision based on a passionate impulse?
 "Follow your heart. I agree. I mean, you're talking to a 23-year-old, so I have no problems with it. I think it's a good thing."
 Speedman certainly has no qualms either about acting as his personal career choice.
 "I want to do it for the rest of my life. I know when I am 40, I will still be working."



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