As the green-eyed, blond hunk Ben Covington on the WB series Felicity, Canadian actor Scott Speedman reluctantly steals Keri Russell's heart. On screen, he may be blessed with an irresistibly smoky vulnerability that helped him snag a plum role in the upcoming feature film Duets, nailing a part that once belonged to Brad Pitt. But this is one guy who, believe it or not, insists that in real life, he can't get a date. "I'm not really dating," he told US in 1999. "It's been hard for me to meet someone in Los Angeles, where everyone is always in their car or their house."
Thanks to the breakout success of Felicity, Speedman may have an easier time meeting people these days. In less than a year, Speedman has emerged from relative obscurity to become one of the small screen's hottest and most earnest young stars. And he's moving over to the big screen as well, joining none other than Gwyneth Paltrow in Duets, which deals with karaoke hustlers in the Midwest. That, of course, comes on the heels of Speedman's much-publicized night of post-Oscar partying with Paltrow.
Yet his budding celebrity status notwithstanding, this transplant from the Great White North says he would rather be outdoors, hiking, running or just walking around L.A. And that's because Speedman's roots are firmly entrenched in athletics, not acting. The son of a department store buyer father and an elementary school teacher mother (who also held a world record in running), Speedman grew up in Toronto and evolved into a championship swimmer.
At ages 12 and 14, Speedman was a part of the relay swim team that held the Canadian national record for the 400-meter medley. In fact, he was a member of the Canadian national team until a neck injury forced a career change.
He turned to acting when a high school girlfriend urged him to apply for a Canadian open-forum talent show. "I sat down and declared my interest in playing the role of Boy Wonder in Batman Forever, which was casting in Toronto at the time," Speedman told US in April 1999. "I didn't get the part, but the casting director put me in touch with an agent."
That, in turn, led to roles in such cinematic gems as the TV series Nancy Drew and the television film Net Worth. Speedman had also started attending classes at New York's Neighborhood Playhouse theater school, but dropped out and ended up crashing on his mother's Toronto couch. He then hooked up with David Rotenberg, a novelist and former Broadway director, and started studying at Toronto's Equity Showcase Theatre.
That commitment led Speedman to a role in the short film Can I Get a Witness, developed at the Norman Jewison Film Center in Toronto, which was screened at the 1996 Toronto International Film Festival. And ultimately, in a fortuitous twist of fate, Speedman landed the coveted role of "the sensitive jock" on Felicity. "Last year I went to a casting house in Manhattan where you pay $50 for a half-hour and recorded a videotape for my audition," he told US in April 1999. "The producers flew me out to L.A. the day after they got my tape."
During his summer 1999 break from Felicity, Speedman returned to his Toronto theater roots, training with his mentor Rotenberg to star in a workshop production of Edward Albee's The Zoo Story. In a far cry from his role on Felicity, Speedman tackled the part of a deranged man.
But then again, Speedman says theater has always been his first love. "After eight months of television I just wanted to get back to basics," he recently told The Globe and Mail. "I just wanted to come back and do something small with people I really wanted to work with and with people I trusted. L.A. gets pretty crazy pretty fast."
"L.A. is very weird. They really try to pump you up. They say 'You're a star' and all this stuff. And it's just not true, it's not accurate," Speedman added. "You've got to think about yourself as just an actor because the truth is, it could all be gone in a second."
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