Josh Duhamel – A late starter but then he hit the jackpot twenty years ago

                             Judy 2003  By Philip Berk

Don’t judge Josh Duhamel by his performance in Win a Date With Tad Hamilton.

As lame as he was in that, he’s sensational in the series Las Vegas in which he emerges as the hottest, sexiest, TV hybrid since George Clooney.

Six years ago he was working in the construction business.

As he tells it, “I was with my girlfriend, and a scout for an agency in San Francisco asked me if I’d be interested in modeling. I didn’t know if he was hitting on me or if he was serious. I thought about it, and I called him back. We took some pictures, and from there I just started doing occasional work. I never made much money. They thought I was too commercial.”

Before that, had it never entered his mind to be an actor?

“I think a lot of people have fantasies about what it would be like to be on TV or to be a movie star. That was something I always thought might be fun, but I was never really serious about it. I always wanted to be a pro athlete. That was my big dream. And to be honest, when I started out I was Godawful. I remember my first auditions, it was pilot season, they were sending me to different casting directors. I really didn’t know what I was doing. It was a Saturday. I had gone in thinking, ‘Okay, anybody can do this.’ I don’t even remember the casting director’s name, it was for a cop show on ABC, and the following Monday, my roommate, who worked at the agency, asked me, ‘How did the audition go?’ and I said, ‘Pretty good,’ even though I knew I had stunk up the place. ‘Apparently it didn’t go too well,’ he told me, ‘and if you don’t do any better they’re not planning to send you out anymore.’ So that was the point where I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to take it very seriously.’ And after that, I got two call backs, even though I didn’t get cast, but at least I showed some progress. At that point I started watching other actors, Alec Baldwin, Tom Hanks, Brando to find out what made these guys good. So that’s a ongoing process to try to get better.”

Surprisingly, he’s 32.

So what did he do his first twenty-six years?

One of the things he neglects to tell me is that along with Ashton Kutcher he worked the runway in New York. He’s not proud of having paraded in his skimpy briefs, but at least he beat out Ashton as top model! 

His bio claims he’s one credit shy of a college degree.

What’s that all about?

“I majored in biology, and I was on track to get my degree to get into dental school. You needed a 4 point average so I decided to re-take organic chemistry and physics to bump up my GPA, which meant having to drop a one credit  art class. I didn’t think it would matter because as an art minor I had taken so many advanced art classes, but they weren’t buying it. So that’s why I’m one credit short. My mother wishes I had just gone through with it.”

Is it something he might do in the future?

“I’m actually planning to do it. It’s no longer one credit; now they want me to take four credits, and I’ll probably do it on the internet, just for myself and my mother and my own peace of mind. I doubt if I’ll use it.” 

Was there a reason why he chose dentistry as a profession?

“Every time I tell somebody I wanted to be a dentist, they remind me that dentists have the highest suicide rate of anybody. At the time I didn’t know that,” he jokes. “The truth is, I was a sophomore in high school and needed something that I wanted to do. You could say I made that choice just to get my mother to quit asking me what I planned to do. But I was very serious about it. I’d go watch dentists in their offices. In high school I took classes to prepare for it, but in retrospect I think it was more for my mother’s sake that for me.”

So she obviously was disappointed when he dropped out?

“Of course, and she didn’t want me to go into acting, until I got on the soap, and then she was like, ‘Oh God, I love it!’ even though it wasn’t her favorite soap. When I told her I was leaving the show (All My children,) she couldn’t believe it. She thought it the epitome of my success!”

That  must have taken guts. Did he have a plan in mind?

“I guess my plan when I left the soap, which was a good ensemble show where you can learn, and where I was lucky enough right off the bat to get the lead, was to break into movies. And then to get Tad Hamilton right after that,  it was almost like waiting for the other shoe to drop. It was too good to be true. But you just take it one day at a time, concentrate on doing the work, getting in there every morning, and doing your best.”

After attending college, he returned home, where he planned to marry his high school sweetheart, but she had fallen in love with someone else.

Was that hard to take? 

“That was so long ago. It was only part of the reason I left home. Maybe it was because I wanted to leave certain things behind, which I might have done anyway. I don’t want to get into that relationship because she’s a good girl, and she’s got three kids now, and she’s happily married. It was just a growing process. In college you meet girls and break up with girls, and you make dumb mistakes, and you learn from them. That was more the reason why I moved out here and found the motivation to start afresh.”

His character on Las Vegas is “young and horny” as he describes him. Will he be less so in the second season?

“I think we are trying to depart a little from him just being a player, the guy who always chasing the skirts. You want him to have a little more moral fibre. I want him to be a guy who respects women not that there’s anything wrong with looking at the menu, you just can’t order all the time.” 

So when did he stop ordering?

“Five and a half years ago when I met Kristy” (Pierce)

How did they meet?

“We met on an actual  modeling job for Bacardi Rum. It was for a TV commercial,  or was it a print job? I remember it was shot in the Hollywood Hills. It was a big party scene. We were all drinking Bacardi, and I guess I got the nerve to ask ‘What are you doing later?’ or something like that. I don’t even remember what line I used, but I got her. I remember the date; it was November 17, l998, I think.”

(His memory seems to be his weakest suit; hopefully he doesn’t have a problem remembering his lines.)

What qualities make her so special?

He thinks a moment.

I rephrase the question.

What is he looking for in a woman?

“My standard answer is a great sense of humor and a nice butt. She has both. But it’s not just physical beauty,  because there are all kinds of beautiful girls out there. She obviously has something that sets her apart, and sets a little fire inside me. I’m not sure what it is exactly,  but a lot of it is her sense of humor, her heart, her thoughtfulness for people, and stuff like that, which is essential if a relationship is to last.”

Is she still working?

“She does a lot of TV commercials.”

And are they planning to get married.

“Yes we are.”

But he won’t say when.

The name Duhamel, how is it pronounced?

“It’s French Canadian. It’s supposed to be Du Hamel, but we’ve always said, Du mel.” (with the accent on the second syllable.)

Before getting the part, what was his experience with Las Vegas?

“Growing up in North Dakota, you don’t have a lot of opportunities to go there. The closest I came was the Indian reservation resorts. But even after moving out here, I probably visited Vegas maybe five or six times, but then when I got the part I had to go to Mandalay Bay (Hotel in Vegas) to observe how they run their surveillance and security,”

The show is shot on a sound stage in Los Angeles, which includes a mockup of a real gambling casino. The Casinos in Vegas do not allow cameras inside.

Does he gamble?

”I’m not much of a gambler. The last time I was there, I lost two-hundred bucks in five minutes. I gambled more when I had zero money. Now I work too hard to throw it away.”

Can he relate to his character?

“I really can. Like Danny McCoy, I grew up sort of blue collar. I worked construction, and I worked with a guy who was almost in the same situation. His mother died when he was a teenager. Danny’s mother died when he was much younger. So because we worked together for three years,  I felt I knew who he was.” 

How hectic has the last six months been? 

“It’s slowed down quite a bit since the promotion of the movie. For a while it was pretty hectic, but it’s the kind of thing you dream about. You’ve seen it all on Entertainment Tonight and there you are. It was more than I expected, but more the kind of thing you dream of.”

What’s the most surprising thing he’s learned?

“The most surprising I guess would be the different demographics of people who recognize you.  From All My Children to Tad Hamilton and now Las Vegas. 

Mostly women?

“Housewives. And we’re told not a lot of men watch the soaps, but then you go get your tire changed, and the guy will recognize you with ‘Hey, I love your show.”

Working on a TV series, won’t that hurt his chances of getting another movie?

“Jeffrey Katzenberg (head of Dreamworks which produced  both Tad Hamilton and Las Vegas) advised me. The best route to do movies is have a TV show like this. I feel very lucky to be on TV and fortunate because we’ve been picked up for a second season.”

How has his life style changed?

“I’ve bought a house, but I’m just as poor as I was when I started because all the money is in the house. But truthfully, I don’t feel anything’s different. Life is a little busier than before. There’s a lot more responsibility when you’re making a little more money.”

For the record, he has three sisters.

But he doesn’t mention them!

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