by Steven Travers
San Francisco, Calif.
March 12, 2001
PRINCE RICHARD COULD SNAP THE CURVE BALL
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- He grew up next to Steve Lavin in Marin, has worked the craft of acting all over the world, and now he is a heartthrob to millions of TV fans.
Bradley Cole, who grew up in Marin County and attended Redwood High School, recently won an award at the annual Soap Opera Awards in Universal City. He has found success in the wildly popular role of PrinceRichard on CBS' "A Guiding Light".
"I find it ironic," said Cole, "that I was nominated for Best Newcomer in 1999, which means, I suppose, that I'm an overnight success after 17 years as a professional actor." Before he was an actor, however,Cole was almost a professional baseball player.
This will come as a surprise to those who watch the show, because ole plays "an English nobleman, of the island Colonial variety." His accent, honed from years living in Europe, is impeccably upper-crust British, so the average fan might think his sport of choice is cricket orpolo. It is all,= literally, an act.
Cole lived in the town of Ross, north of San Francisco, where heand his rambunctious brothers, Jeff and Darren, lived next to another house full of high-strung, sports-crazy boys. The youngest of the next-door neighbors was Steve Lavin, now the head basketball coach at UCLA. "By the time I got older," recalls Lavin, "our parents had gotten together and figured out who to keep away from whom."
"Whenever I ran away from home," recalls Brad's older brother,Jeff, now an Orange County businessman, "I'd sleep in the Lavin'sbackyard."
Brad played baseball for legendary Redwood High School Coach Al Endriss, who steered the Giants' to the 1977 National Championship, and was a member of Pepperdine's 1979 Coll= ege World Series team.
"We were a bunch of cowboys," Brad recalls of the Pepperdine club. "Everybody had a three-day growth, chewed tobacco, and played the game theway it was meant to be played. We would have won the National Championship, I think, but we blew a seventh-inning lead in the semifinals. Pepperdine is a Christian school. Girls there are innocent, everybody is conservative. The baseball players were heavy partiers; we took advantage of the rules, but we were tolerated because we put the school on the map. My best pitch was the curve ball." Brad's younger brother, Darren, is a natural actor who starred inRedwood's production of "Our Town" and studied drama at U.S.C. Brad, the jock, found his pro baseball hopes dashed by an arm injury, so in 1981 he landed the role of McMurphy in Pepperdine's production of the Ken Kesey classic "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
"I had a crush on a girl who was a student actress," recalls Brad,"and I ha= d time on my hands because I was through with baseball, so I wentfor the ro= le." He memorized the baseball scene that Jack Nicholson madefamous, which was actually based on the 1963 Dodgers-Yankees World Series,landed the role= , and a star was born.
Shortly thereafter, Darren abruptly left Los Angeles for New YorkCity. Why?
"Ever heard of sibling rivalry?" asks= Brad. "Up until then, Darrenhad always been the actor in the family. I don= 't know whether New York isbig enough for the both of us."
Brad grad= uated from Pepperdine with a business degree, thenre-located to Paris, Fran= ce, where he worked as a model while writing astageplay and raising funds f= or a production in the English theatre. Stagework became television and fil= m work in France, England, Africa, America,the Caribbean, the Mediterranean= , and other exotic locales.
The actor maintained residences in Pari= s and London, had agents inthose two cities, and was a featured actor on Th= e Continent for the betterpart of 10 years. He studied Shakespeare in Londo= n, and after starring ina German production of "Killer Joe" in 1996, Cole f= inally decided to comeHollywood.
Cole moved into an oceanfront pad i= n Manhattan Beach, found anacting class in Hollywood, and waited for the ki= nd of break that he wasaccustomed to in Europe.
"Nobody wanted to he= ar about it," he says of his two years in LA.Two years in which he got virt= ually no work. He studied his craft, workedon his music (he is a singer and= guitar player with decent European CDsales), and ate humble pie.
In= 1998 he landed a role with French legend Jean-Paul Belmondo ina Parisian p= lay. When he moved back there, he and his friends thought hewould never com= e back, and the joke was that somebody would have to go toFrance on a speci= al mission called "Saving Private Cole", to paraphrasethe hit movie of that= summer.
All his life, through hard work and smarts, Cole has put hi= mselfin the right place to succeed when opportunity comes his way. Just as theBelmondo play was shutting down, Brad's LA agent landed him an auditionf= or the new Prince Richard role on "A Guiding Light". He got it, and wasan i= mmediate hit. Fans line up for his autograph now, they talk to him onIntern= et chat rooms, and go to the various Web sites that feature him andthe show= .
Cole is living large in New York City--he is single and loving i= t. When I caught up with him in Universal City he was being feted> about= town in limo style, publicist in tow, to Spago and various other points int= he Hollywood night.
Brad's brother, Darren, is also doing very well.= He produced"Killer Joe", the play Brad starred in. Darren's successful New= York runfeatured Scott Glenn and Amanda Plummer, and in 2000 he opened the= playwith Chicago's famed Steppenwolf theatre group, where David Mamet got hisstart. Still, Darren never did cast Brad, even though Brad was the first= "Killer Joe". Sibling rivalry?
For somebody with the looks and scree= n presence of Brad Cole,feature films would seem a natural. Hollywood is fu= nny about TV actorsmaking the transition, especially soap stars, but there are far too manyexceptions to call it a rule. A terrific screenplay actuall= y has beenwritten specifically for Cole. It is called "Baja California", an= d it isthe dark, edgy story of a jaded California businessman who goes to M= exicoand has a religious experience. Take the tux off him, remove the gel f= romhis hair, give him a three-day growth and a pair of cowboy boots, and Co= leis transformed into the kind of hardened anti-hero that Mickey Rourke use= dto be.
In "A Guiding Light", he is the British monarch of an island= colony who has lost his son when his ex-wife became an amnesiac. Now hehas= found the lady, who is re-married, but his struggle is to see to itthat hi= s son is allowed his place as heir within the royal family. Hislove interes= t now is a beautiful blonde named Cassie who seems to alwaysbe in danger. Brad is big now, but the prediction here is that he will get a lotbig= ger.
Screenwriter/sportswriter Steven Travers is a former pro baseball=