He says "cool," and he says "awesome." A lot. You would swear that 19 year old Jensen Ackles, the soap newcomer who plays Eric Brady on DAYS OF OUR LIVES is something of a Valley dude - he certainly looks the part. But Ackles maintains heís pure Texas. "Amen to that!" he laughs. "Iím holding on to Texas as long as I can. I have too many Texas roots. I have two roommates from Texas: theyíre both high school buddies. We have Texas flags all over the place. We have a nasty, nasty case of Texas pride."
Sitting in the famed NBC commissary on a truly hot-as-hell L.A. day, Ackles - a native of Richardson, TX (near Dallas) - isnít even close to looking uncomfortable. Pretty much the entire network, however, has been stumbling into the commissary complaining about the heat and the humidity. Ackles, meanwhile, is smiling and looking cool (sorry, itís contagious) and chatting his head off. He just laughs at all the wimps in his presence. "You think this is hot?" he says, with an ever-so-slight twang. "You havenít seen hot. This is nothing. Texas is hot.
Weíll trust Ackles on the subject of heat. Since he debuted on DAYS as Samiís errant-but-often-talked-about twin, Ackles has been getting hotter and hotter. DAYS execs predicted stardom for Ackles before he even taped his first scene, but he wasnít daunted at all. "I wasnít one of those guys who has wanted to be an actor all his life," Ackles explains, taking off his baseball cap and running his fingers through his hair. "Even after I got a few jobs, I wasnít sure. I know thatís odd. But thatís me. Iíve always been a roll-with-the-punches kind of guy. You know...whatever."
That easygoing attitude is another thing that makes him sound almost like a Valley guy. And itís his ability to be so laid-back that probably led him to Salem. He had no idea that auditioning for one of daytimeís top soaps was a potential big deal to him career-wise. Coming off the cancellation of prime-timeís MR. RHODES (an NBC sitcom from last season) he took his possible unemployment in stride. Ackles, who also appeared on the syndicated teen show SWEET VALLEY HIGH, had a quick guest-starring shot on CYBIL (playing her godson), but then nothing. "I was like, ĎOkay, now what? Iím going to stick around for a little while longer. If something comes along, great. If not, Iím not going to sit out there and bust my ass and do night.í I got the audition for DAYS a few months later. I figured, okay, cool, but I didnít hear for two weeks. I was thinking, ĎWell, thatís that. I could always go back to Texas and go to school.í"
Ackles is getting more than enough education in budding soap stardom. Heís working a lot. And heís already a fan fave. The mail and the requests for personal appearances say as much. TV Guideís Michael Logan even called him "the talent discovery of the summer." Modestly Ackles says, "Isnít that nice? My momís gonna get a kick outta that." But Ackles canít find a girlfriend to save his Texas hide since he broke up with a girl back home after moving to LA. he sighs, "The long distance thing didnít work. We tried, but it was too difficult. We couldnít be that serious this far away. We still talk all the time, but..." Unfortunately, none of the women he has met in the big city have captured his still-broken heart.
And donít expect his family to let him get a swelled head anytime soon just because he has become a daytime darling. His dad, Alan, acts and does commercials in Dallas. So he knows from show biz. Hid mom, Donna, a homemaker, was, and is, a huge ALL MY CHILDREN fan. So she knows from soaps. Ackles grew up in a tight-knit family, the middle child. he has a 22 year old brother and a 12 year old sister. "My brother is like, Ďwhoopie-do youíre on a soap,í" Ackles laughs, "and my sister, well, school has just started again, and Iím not sure itís a big deal to her, either. I havenít been home." In addition to missing his family "a lot," he is also missing real Texas cooking. Munching on a dry (yes, dry) turkey sandwich ("We never really used condiments in my house; itís like ixnay on the mayo"), Ackles is also at the same time, alternating chomping on a bag of pretzels (fat-free of course) and a peanut-butter cookie. Yuck. "I take it all in at once," he reasons. "Thatís the kinda guy I am." Talking about food gives him the chance to raise one of his complaints about L.A. life: The chili and barbecue just arenít up to snuff. "If I go to a restaurant here," he offers, "I see ĎTexas-styleí and I know itís not going to be as good as it is at home. It never is, but I still have to order it."
A lot of parents might have ordered their 18-year-old child not to go to L.A. seeking stardom - especially since he didnít know anyone in Hollywood. "My parents have always been supportive," he marvels. "They briefed me big time: Look out for this; look out for that. Mom was a little nervous and Dad was a little concerned, but they know it was something I wanted to do. So my grandmother packed up a whole lot of cookies and my dad and I packed up all my stuff and we just drove out here in my Ď88 Pathfinder." Ackles has, obviously, found that road paved with gold. His future is clearly bright. "Where do I see myself in five years?" he says, taking a bite out of the peanut-butter cookie. "Hmmm. I donít really know. Iím just kinda going to go with it. And wherever I go, Iím there." And we know his growing legion of fans wonít be too far behind. *