Jesse Metcalfe learned the hard way; he got a huge dose of fame before he was ready. The good news is, he was given a second chance and says he is a better man for it.
Thankfully, Metcalfe grew up with values. Although born in California, he was raised in Connecticut. He came from a middle class family “bordering at times on lower middle class,” he says. “I was definitely given the gift of a great work ethic and taught the value of the dollar at a young age,” he says. “My mom worked for the state. She sacrificed a lot for me and worked incredibly hard. She had a job she didn’t particularly enjoy, so I had proper health benefits and for a time she was a single mother. I’ll be forever indebted to her. She went through a lot to make sure I was provided for.”
His stepfather, who entered the picture when Metcalfe was about 12 years old, had a landscaping business. “It’s important for every young man to have experience with manual labor because it really gives you drive.”
Metcalfe never really suffered the starving actor’s blues. Seeing the film, “The Breakfast Club” at age seven with his father impacted him greatly. “Ever since then, I’ve thought about film -- making films, telling stories, not so much being an actor,” says Metcalfe, who didn’t get involved with the performing arts in high school, but knew he wanted to attend New York University to study film.
While studying at NYU, he took a couple of acting classes that were a part of the film major curriculum. He “caught the acting bug at bit” while modeling and ended up leaving the university during his junior year, to move to Los Angeles to work on the NBC soap opera “Passions.”
“I enjoyed the experience very much. A soap is definitely a boot camp,” he says. “If you can work on that much material day in and day out, it’s a great training ground. I moved on at the right time for me and did a couple of bit parts like a little stint on ‘Smallville,’ and then came ‘Desperate Housewives.’ ”
With his hot and steamy love scenes with Eva Longoria on "Desperate Housewives," Metcalfe’s profile exploded. “Being a part of something like 'Desperate Housewives,' which really was a phenomenon, was amazing. 'Desperate Housewives' attained pop culture status pretty quickly. That storyline was iconic,” Metcalfe says. “Working with Eva Longoria was amazing. She is one of the warmest, funniest, most genuine people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. She was always incredibly good to me. We had great chemistry. We don’t speak that often, but I consider her a friend.”
Although the show brought great exposure for him as an actor, personally, the visibility and fame became too much for him. “It almost took on a life of its own and I definitely got swept up in it. Before I really had an identity as an actor, I got this job and I took the job very seriously. I enjoyed the job, it really made me a household name and it opened up a lot of doors professionally, but it also brought this level of celebrity that I didn’t anticipate and I wasn’t ready for,” he admits.
“A lot of actors sneak in through the back door. They don’t come out with such a splash and I think that enables them to find themselves as actors and develop a career without dealing with the scrutiny that comes along with that kind of celebrity. I was just riding this wave and enjoying the perks that came with it. As I became aware of a lot of public criticism, it fueled my own shortcomings, my indulgence and my partying. It really had a negative impact on what I wanted for my future, before I even knew what I wanted. It’s really important to have the right people around you, the right support group, so you can weather than initial storm, because it doesn’t last forever. Being 32, I’ve watched some young actors go through some of the same thing. It ate me up a little, but I had to grow as a person and I had to have the experiences I had in order to get to the point I’m at now. Hindsight is 20/20, but I really wouldn’t change anything because I have that experience now. And I have that wealth of experience to draw upon as far as my craft is concerned, too.”
Three people helped Metcalfe get through the hard times; his mother, of course, his on and off girlfriend of a couple of years, Cara Santana, and primarily himself. His usual gift of introspection kicked in, and as he says, “It finally ran its course. I began to long for more fulfilling and substantial things in my life. I definitely realized I was self-sabotaging. I just decided to grow up and put my energies into things that were more beneficial and more productive for me. You can’t do that kind of behavior forever; although I know some people who do, especially in Los Angeles. I think the main driving force on a personal level was that I want people to know who I really am and I want to earn the respect of my peers. I think that’s part of becoming a man. You want to be a man that people respect. You have to own up to your mistakes and your shortcomings and do something about them.”
At that point, Metcalfe had some trust re-building to do, he says. “It’s a very fine line between your professional and personal business when you’re in the entertainment industry. Sometimes people don’t want to take a chance or invest in someone they don’t think is stable or people that don’t have their lives, private or professionally, in order. I can say with 100 percent certainty, I’ve taken all the work I’ve done extremely seriously. I’ve never been the kind of person to not show up on set or not be prepared, but unfortunately my private life did bleed into my professional life. So it became a process of letting people know that, ‘Hey, I’m a different person now. I’m a mature man and I’m ready to show you what I’m capable of if you give me the opportunity.’ ”
Obviously they have because he has been working on the NBC series “Chase” as Luke Watson, the rookie of the team of U.S. Marshals solving cases, which Metcalfe says has been a lot of fun. “I’ve really been enjoying playing a sort of action hero and aging up a bit. It’s my first real adult role. It’s been fun playing the outsider of the group and having to earn the respect of the other Marshals.”
The show has been shooting in Dallas where his girlfriend Santana has been spending time with him as well. Metcalfe is grateful for all the support she has given him through the tough times. “She gently guided me in the right direction. She always supported me and I’m very thankful for it.”
It's a good thing Metcalfe has gotten a good feel for Texas since he recently landed the role of Christopher, Pam and Bobby Ewing's adopted son, on the new revamping of the beloved television show, "Dallas."
Metcalfe says he did not necessarily look for someone who was in the industry. “I’ve actually seen it be a problem in other relationships. It’s often a good idea to have a balance of one person in the industry and the other not, but the flip-side is that when both are, you both understand the hours, the travel, and a lot of the variables that come along with this profession,” says Metcalfe, who reveals he is not yet ready to tie the knot. “Right now I’m really focused on my career. I know there’s much, much more for me. This show has been a tremendous opportunity for me and I’m so thankful to NBC and Bruckheimer for this great opportunity.”