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I'd like to think that I'm completely ready [to be a superstar], but I have no idea what to expect."
-- James Van Der Beek
James Van Der Beek never intended to become a pinup boy. He wasn't really sure about doing a TV show. He even questioned the Dawson's Creek producers when they wanted him to read for the lead part of Dawson Leery.
"I said, 'You understand that I'm twenty years old and the character's supposed to be fifteen,'" James says. But once he read the script for the pilot, he wanted to swallow his words. "I thought, Ooh, I really want to do this. I hope I didn't just talk myself out of a job."
As if anyone else could really be Dawson. James was the only person the producers wanted. They scoured both coasts for the perfect Spielberg wannabe and kept coming back to James.
Dawson's Creek and Scream writer Kevin Williamson reveals why: "We knew he was Dawson. He's very bright, but also very vulnerable. I like that because it keeps him fifteen years old." Three days after his final read, James landed the role every young actor in Hollywood was drooling over. Before he could blink, his life had taken a turn toward the insane.
"It's very funny to me that anyone would want to put my face on the cover of a magazine," James says. Anyone? Try everyone.
In the spring of 1998 James's face was plastered on billboards, teen mags, and even the J. Crew catalog. Girls were screaming, reporters were calling, and James was just trying to understand how he'd gone from a virtual unknown to the hottest guy on television.
When he saw his first billboard, James burst out laughing. "I didn't know how to deal with the hype," he says. I keep asking myself, 'How did I get here?'"
The question is easily answered: hard work, patience, perseverance...and an absolute love for his trade -- even if he does think it's pure torture.
"Acting is the most unstable, unreliable, heart-wrenching career to choose," James says. But as deflating as rejections are, acceptance, acclaim, and fame are equally gratifying. And at the moment, James is experiencing all the upsides of the biz.
From movie offers to star-studded premieres and MTV specials, James has taken advantage of his newfound fame. But don't expect this boy next door to let allthe attention go to his head. He may be "Dawson," but he never forgets that the show is an ensemble project, and he is fully aware that Dawson's Creek is a once-in-a-lifetime break.
"I had seen the career path of someone like Claire Danes, who was given film opportunities because of what she'd done on television," James says. "I thoughtit might be like My So-Called Life for me...[that it might] help me get a film I wanted to do."
Beautiful blue eyes, modesty, and the maturity to look ahead.
What more could you want in a superstar?
Copyright © 1999 by 17th Street Productions