Ithaca College Quarterly 2005/1

 

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He's No Angel

Former TV vampire David Boreanaz '91 stars in a new series, Bones

by Jeff Candura '01

David Boreanaz '91 has come back from the dead. Well, not really. But for the first time in nine years the star of the television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel is not playing a vampire but a living, breathing person.

With a legion of fans, great reviews, a prime-time slot, and, of course, an Ithaca College education, there is nothing to indicate that Bones, his third television show, won't also be a hit.

David, 36, was born in Buffalo, New York, and grew up outside Philadelphia. His father was a local television weatherman ("I was always the one who got blamed if it rained on football practice," David laughs); his mother was a horse breeder. Despite the blame he took whenever a cold front moved through southeastern Pennsylvania, David credits his parents for making him the person he is today. "My dad is such a grounding influence in my life," says the actor. "He always listened to people, which is an important lesson to learn in today's society and one I try to follow."

A self-professed "family guy," he regrets that as he lives in Los Angeles he only gets to see his parents and two sisters, who still live on the east coast, a few times a year. "It's really one of the downfalls of living out here," says David.

His mother instilled in him her love of antiques, nostalgia, and classic Hollywood; enjoyment of "oldies" still plays a prominent role in David's life. "My mom really had an affinity towards older films -- Gary Cooper, Doris Day, Hepburn, Tracy, Mitchum," says David. "I've always loved old films."


With fellow Bones cast members, including series star Emily Deschanel (front)
 

In his wife, actor and model Jaime Bergman, David found someone who shared his love of the tried and true. After meeting at a Valentine's Day party in 2001, the couple was married the following Thanksgiving at the Ingleside Inn in Palm Springs, California, which was built in the 1920s and played host to the likes of everyone from Howard Hughes to Salvador Dali to Spencer Tracy. As a wedding gift David gave his bride a 1966 Ford Mustang. Pictures of Bette Davis, James Cagney, and other actors from Hollywood's glory days hang on the walls of their house. David collects old guitars. And they don't seem to want to break a mutual addiction to classic rock (they spent their first date listening to Pink Floyd, and Jaime walked down the aisle to "Watching the Wheels" by John Lennon).

This is all fitting for a guy who still fondly remembers sitting in his Ithaca dorm room and listening to the Grateful Dead with friends. "Classic rock is really an influence from my sisters," says David. "Listening to their music, listening to the Dead, and then going to Ithaca, with all the Dead-heads there . . . "

David was initially drawn to the atmosphere of Ithaca and the Finger Lakes region, but there was also a family connection. His sister, Beth, graduated from the College in 1989.

"The environment and the community and the people drew me there," says David. "Being at a relatively small school really allows you to focus on a subject area, and that is such an asset in life." At Ithaca the onetime high school football and track and field athlete and future television star spent more time on the sports field than in front of a camera -- playing intramural softball, basketball, and football no matter the season. Despite what you may read online, David did not study acting at Ithaca; in fact, as a cinema and photography major he spent much of his time behind the camera. He took only one theater class, Introduction to Acting, during his four years.

After graduation David found himself trying to decide whether to move to Los Angeles or New York. He opted for the west because his sister lived in Los Angeles and he hoped that his degree would open some doors to working in film or television. It has proven the right choice. "At Ithaca I always imagined myself in a place where I would be happy, a place that would make sense," he says, "and that's here. Right now, it's great."

At first David paid the bills by working various odd jobs (painting houses, parking cars, handing out towels at a gym) and taking bit parts in movies, acting whenever he could find a job (paying or not). His first "break" came in 1993 when he guest-starred on a few episodes of Married . . . with Children. Though some cast members reportedly lobbied to make him a regular, he returned to his more familiar recurring role as struggling actor and odd-jobber

He removed "struggling" from his job title in 1997, when a producer noticed the athletic young man walking his dog and cast him as a vampire in the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. After he'd appeared as a guest actor for two episodes, the chemistry between him and the show's star, Sarah Michelle Gellar, was evident; David was written in as a regular. His character, Angel, a 248-year-old vampire looking to redeem himself for his past mistakes, was so popular with fans that a spinoff show of the same name was created only two years later.

To say that Angel was a hit would be an understatement; David had become a bona fide star. Angel lasted five years, but fans clamored for more of its leading man. Today, if you search for "David Boreanaz" on the Internet, you come up with over a million hits.

Bones is David's chance to prove that he can succeed as a character other than Angel -- one who, though still a little dark, also has a quick wit. Boreanaz plays FBI special agent Seeley Booth, a former army sniper who likes to solve crimes the old-fashioned way: by questioning witnesses and trusting his instincts. He also mistrusts scientists, like the forensic anthropologist he is often teamed with in solving crimes, Temperance "Bones" Brennan (Emily Deschanel). Critics have called the show a cross between Moonlighting and The X-Files, two shows driven by smart, witty writing and palpable chemistry between two lead characters. "What really matter in a show like this are the relationships," David points out. "What sets our show apart is that it is character driven." It isn't surprising that an old-Hollywood buff like David counts Steve McQueen as an influence for his character or that he hopes the relationship between Booth and Brennan becomes "like Hepburn and Tracy." The show has survived its first few months and according to David has received the go-ahead from Fox to film a full 22-episode season. So maybe he really has channeled some of the old Hollywood legends.


As we went to press we learned that Boreanaz is starring in an independent dark comedy directed by Alan Cumming, suffer Man's Charity.
 

David Boreanaz is an unusual mix of contentment and drive, of east-coast intensity and California cool. He prefers classic cars to the more flashy modern models. He would rather stay home and cook dinner and drink a glass of wine with his wife than go out to a club. When he manages to get downtime, he's more likely to be found spending time with Jaime and their three-year-old son, Jaden, and dog, a yellow lab named Buddha. Though Angel was a cult phenomenon that made David an international sex symbol, he tries to pay as little attention to his image as possible. "I just don't think about that stuff," he says bluntly. "I'm here to work and to keep growing."

The intensity that hides under David's laid-back exterior is the reason why he has no intention of resting on his laurels. David says that one of the original draws of working on Bones was to work with Barry Josephson and Hart Hanson, successful producers from the film world, in which he would like to do more work. "This is a long journey that is still going on, not a means to an end," David says. "It is in the learning where you begin to know a little more about yourself and begin to see more of the bigger picture."

David still feels a strong connection with Ithaca -- the College and the city. He can't bring up the subject without smiling. "Man -- the gorges, hanging out, the city -- I have so many good memories of that place," he says, laughing. "I really would like to make it back there to visit." Although he received Ithaca's Young Alumni Award in 2001, because of work commitments he wasn't able to accept it in person; he hasn't returned since graduation. But he knows that every year students graduate from Ithaca and move to Los Angeles or New York, about to start on a journey similar to that he is taking. He wants to reminds them that even after you're discovered, even after three hit series, there is still more work to be done.

"The sweetness of success comes while the journey is still going on," he says. "I know I still have many mountains to climb."

Photos © 2005 Twentieth Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.

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