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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 Prince Richard on CBS' "A Guiding Light".


…"an overnight success after 17 years

"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 Cole 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 or polo. It is all, literally, an act.


Cole lived in the town of Ross, north of San Francisco, where he and 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's backyard."


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 College 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 the way it was meant to be played. We would have won the National Championship, I think, but we blew a seventh inning lead in the semi-finals. 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."


…"the actor in the family."

Brad's younger brother, Darren, is a natural actor who starred in Redwood's production of "Our Town" and studied drama at USC. 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 had time on my hands because I was through with baseball, so I went for the role." He memorized the baseball scene that Jack Nicholson made famous, 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 York City. Why?


"Ever heard of sibling rivalry?" asks Brad. "Up until then, Darren had always been the actor in the family. I don’t know whether New York is big enough for the both of us.”                        


Brad graduated from Pepperdine with a business degree, then re-located to Paris, France, where he worked as a model while writing a stageplay and raising funds for a production in the English theatre. Stage work became television and film work in France, England, Africa, America, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and other exotic locales. Brad maintained residences in Paris and London, had agents in those two cities, and was a popular actor on The Continent for the better part of 10 years. He studied Shakespeare in London, and after starring in a German production of "Killer Joe" in 1996, Cole finally decided to come Hollywood.


"Nobody wanted to hear about it."

Cole moved into an oceanfront pad in Manhattan Beach, found an acting class in Hollywood, and waited for the kind of break that he was accustomed to in Europe.


"Nobody wanted to hear about it," he says of his two years in LA. Two years in which he got virtually no work. He studied his craft, worked on his music (he is a singer and guitar player with decent European CD sales), and ate humble pie.


In 1998 he landed a role with French legend Jean-Paul Belmondo in a Parisian play. When he moved back there, he and his friends thought he would never come back, and the joke was that somebody would have to go to France on a special mission called "Saving Private Cole", to paraphrase the hit movie of that summer.


All his life, through hard work and smarts, Cole has put himself in the right place to succeed when opportunity comes his way. Just as the Belmondo play was shutting down, Brad's LA agent landed him an audition for the new Prince Richard role on "A Guiding Light". He got it, and was an immediate hit. Fans line up for his autograph now, they talk to him on Internet chat rooms, and go to the various web sites that feature him and the show.


Cole is living large in New York City--he is single and loving it.  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 in the 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 run featured Scott Glenn and Amanda Plummer, and in 2000 he opened the play with Chicago's famed Steppenwolf theatre group, where David Mamet got his start. Still, Darren never did cast Brad, even though Brad was the first "Killer Joe". Sibling rivalry?


"Baja California

For somebody with the looks and screen presence of Brad Cole, feature films would seem a natural. Hollywood is funny about TV actors making the transition, especially soap stars, but there are far too many exceptions to call it a rule. A terrific screenplay actually has been written specifically for Cole. It is called "Baja California", and it is the dark, edgy story of a jaded California businessman who goes to Mexico and has a religious experience. Take the tux off him, remove the gel from his hair, give him a three-day growth and a pair of cowboy boots, and Cole is transformed into the kind of hardened anti-hero that Mickey Rourke used to 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 he has found the lady, who is re-married, but his struggle is to see to it that his son is allowed his place as heir within the royal family. His love interest now is a beautiful blonde named Cassie who seems to always be in danger. 


Brad is big now, but the prediction here is that he will get a lot bigger.