David Boreanaz

Saving souls from impending doom is tough work, but that didn’t stop Angel star David Boreanaz from sinking his teeth into this month’s heart-stopper Valentine. The Movies sits down with Boreanaz and listens to him expound on his career, his loves and the holiday attack of the relatives. By Elizabeth Snead

It’s a chilly night in downtown Los Angeles. A strange noise emanates from the abandoned Herald Examiner building, which is doubling as a police precinct for an episode of Angel titled “The Thin Dead Line.” It’s set to air on February 14 and the plot has something to do with zombie cops. The sound is...laughter?

In a key exchange, somber-faced David Boreanaz (the title character) and Elisabeth Rohm (the spunkily attractive detective Kate Lockley) grill an evasive, apple-chomping desk cop about strange goings-on in the City of Angels. It’s an intense, dialogue-laden scene, but at the end of each take, Boreanaz cracks a joke.

After one “Cut!,” the 6-foot-1 actor does a dead-on impersonation of Christopher Walken. After another, he stares intently at the top of the officer’s head and asks, “Do you dye your hair?” Everyone on the set, the cop included, laughs. No one seems at all surprised by Boreanaz’s antics.

“We named him Captain Non Sequitur for all the oddball comments he’d make,” says Jamie Blanks (Urban Legend), who directed Boreanaz in the romantic thriller Valentine. “Once, right before we were rolling, he looked at me with a straight face and said, ‘You know, Jamie, sometimes I wake up early in the morning and I eat salmon.’

“I just went, ‘What?’” relates Blanks. His star also kept the mood light on the set with movie quotes: everything from “Commander, tear this ship apart!” (Darth Vader in Star Wars) to “Put the bat down, Wendy,” (Jack Nicholson in The Shining). “On TV, David’s this brooding guy,” Blanks states. “But off screen, he is an absolute nut! And he’s a terrific actor with a lot of chops. I really love this guy.”

Decked out in Angel’s requisite long black coat and dark pants, Boreanaz relaxes in his trailer between scenes. He offers up the best seat in the house (an antique rocker from last season’s set, which he loved and was given for Christmas) and settles down to talk. “It’s always a long shoot,” he says without complaint. “It takes eight days for one episode. It’s like shooting mini-movies back-to-back. [Star Wars director] George Lucas is a big fan of the show and he visited the set last year. He said, ‘It’s amazing that you guys shoot this much this fast. It’s like the old days of Hollywood.’”

Like most TV studs, Boreanaz inevitably made the jump to movies. He likes the way George Clooney pulled it off. “I told George that and he said, ‘Well, don’t follow me! I don’t know what the hell I’m doing!’” Boreanaz recalls with a smile.

The actor was determined to find the perfect film role. And what kind is that? “I like angry, bitter characters,” Boreanaz confesses. He finally decided to sink his teeth into Valentine, a sexier Scream. “I don’t really have a plan of where I’m supposed to be,” Boreanaz says. “I’ll take a project if I can enjoy it and learn from it. And if I’m afraid of something, if I feel it’s a stretch, then I know it’s right.”

Valentine felt right. “It’s being marketed as a horror film, but it’s really a suspense thriller with a great twist at the end. Jamie is a kind of Hitchcockian director. He’s very much into classic horror, but he’s also very improvisational.”

The movie centers around four college coeds who play a practical joke on an awkward guy, humiliating him. Years later, the girls begin to receive morbid Valentines; then they’re systematically savaged by someone wearing a cherub mask. Is the killer seeking revenge?

In the film, Boreanaz plays Adam Carr, boyfriend of Kate Davies (Marley Shelton), one of the girls. Seems Carr once had a drinking problem complete with violent mood swings, which he overcame. Or did he?

Boreanaz won’t give away the killer’s identity, but he will talk about his favorite scene: “Toward the end, Adam and Kate are dancing and he’s holding on to her, explaining that he’s been here the whole time and he’s not the evil one. But then again, he’s at this party and he’s been drinking, which he’s not supposed to do, and she is scared. There’s a shift in personality that was really fun to play. It’s a good shock to the groin, a wild ride of a scene.”

One might think that Boreanaz’s tendency to choose dark, brooding characters says a lot about his real-life persona. Not really. “I have such a blast with David,” says his Angel co-star Rohm. “He’s like a brother. I was so lucky to have him as my first leading man. He is very homegrown U.S.A. His morals are in check and he’s really balanced.”

That stability stems from his family, who’ve been reunited with him for the holidays. “I really love having my parents here, but today my mom rearranged my sock drawer to make sure all of them matched,” he says, shaking his head and smiling. “She enjoyed doing it, but you know, once they start doing that, it’s time for them to go home.”

The Boreanaz clan has been bunking at his recently purchased Hollywood Hills home, a sprawling one-story house that was built in 1936. He’s currently landscaping it with trees, shrubs and rose bushes. “Buying a home is difficult, the stuff you have to do,” he laments. “It’s insane. You can not keep up.”

Boreanaz might not have much furniture, but he definitely has a lot of history. He was born in Buffalo, New York, but in 1978 his family moved o Philadelphia, where he was raised by his TV weatherman dad and homemaker mom. He was inspired to act at age 7, when they took him and his two older sisters, Bo (who works as a costumer on Ally McBeal) and Beth (a schoolteacher in Philadelphia), to see Yul Brynner in The King and I.

Boreanaz’s plans to be a football player were sidelined by a knee injury during an off-season track meet. After studying theater at Ithaca College in Western New York, he headed to Hollywood to take acting classes, making money by parking cars, painting houses and handing out towels at a gym.

In what sounds like a movie-star myth, he was spotted walking his black Lab in Hollywood by a manager. His real break came in 1993 when he was cast as the biker boyfriend of Kelly Bundy (Christina Applegate) on the hit show Married... With Children. Then in 1996, he was plucked to play Angel, the vampire-don’t-wannabe and love interest for Sarah Michelle Geller on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. His netherworld anti-hero was so popular with fans that he got his own show in 1999. Angel left Buffy and Sunny- dale for L.A., where he tries to become human by fighting demons and saving lost souls.

Did Boreanaz feel like a lost soul when he first arrived in L.A.? “Damn straight!” he says. “Being from the East Coast, coming from a well-grounded family to this place? I do love this city, it’s such a vibrant place. It’s just that the morality and values are so different then those in the East. People come here thinking it will happen for them, but you have to be patient and not buy into the bulls---. After all, success is measured only by happiness.”

When his family leaves, his house will be empty except for him and his two dogs: Bertha Blue, a mixed breed, and Shorise (Gaelic for freedom), a black and white Border collie he brought home from Ireland. But Boreanaz is no stranger to solitude, or heartbreak for that matter.

“In high school, I was pretty shy, very much a loner,” he says. “I only came out of my shell in college. When I was a freshman, I dated a senior who broke my heart. In my senior year, I dated a girl who was here for three months from Stockholm. I fell in love with a girl, 8, 9 years older, when I first moved here. She broke my heart, too.”

Last year, he divorced his wife of two-and-a-half years, screenwriter Ingrid Quinn. “It’s rough,” Boreanaz says. “Sometimes I wake up and realize that the strongest part of my life was my wife. There is such a difficult healing process going on right now.”

So are they becoming friends? “We are, but it’s hard because of how fresh it is,” he says. “There are a lot of things dangling, chapters that need to be closed.”

And as for a new relationship, his current work schedule leaves little time. “I’m not dating anyone. I just don’t have any interest in it right now. I’m concerned about my work and healing from this process. But you never know what will happen.”

For a 28 year old who has achieved success so swiftly, Boreanaz’s lack of pretension is refreshing. Being so level-headed is rare in Hollywood, where actors’ egos are often as big as their limos.

“I just believe what Spencer Tracy said about being an actor,” Boreanaz explains. “‘Say your lines, don’t bump into the furniture, don’t get involved and go home to your family.’”