Post-teen Bryan Dattilo analyzes the menu at a Beverly Hills hangout with the worried air of a 60-year-old with clogged arteries. “I have a belly,” the dimpled actor confesses, patting his stomach with a frustrated sigh as he searches each column for a lowfat dish. Finally settling on Caesar salad-style pasta, he admits, “I have to avoid cream sauces, which is too bad, because I love them.”
This isn’t the only area of Dattilo’s young life where he conveys a keen maturity. Unlike his DAYS OF OUR LIVES alter ego, Lucas Roberts, a troubled teem who’s just beginning to flex his rebellious muscles, Dattilo’s already packed a lot of living into his 22 years. “I’ve led a pretty full life,” the young actor acknowledges.
Born in Kankakee, Illinois, Dattilo was only 2 years old when his parents split up. It was not a good divorce. “For a long time I wasn’t close to my dad because my parents were constantly taking stabs at each other through their kids,” explains Dattilo, who now enjoys great relationships with both parents.
Shortly after her marriage broke up, Dattilo’s mother, Peggy, landed a job as a secretary at the National Enquirer and moved with her three young children, first to Florida and then to a small apartment in Beverly Hills. She eventually became a reporter for the tabloid, a career move that her son feels compelled to justify, “My mom worked very hard,” Dattilo declares. “She struggled to support us and keep us in the best schools so we’d have the best opportunities.”
Unlike many 90210 kids, the Dattilo clan grew up with a profound appreciation for the value of a dollar. “I remember money always being a concern,” the actor shares. “She would talk to us about it. So even as a little kid, I’d think carefully before I’d ask for a toy.”
When Dattilo was in eighth grade, his mother was transferred back to Florida. The move was tough on the preteen, but not as tough as the return to Beverly Hills three years later and his mother quit her job to freelance as a writer/producer. “The friends I’d had grew up and changed, and so had I,” Dattilo says. The Beverly Hills High grad admits, “Junior and senior year, I messed up on a lot of things. I couldn’t pass algebra, and because of that, I got kicked off the baseball team and I couldn’t play football.”
Dattilo turned away from school and towards partying. “I was drinking every weekend,” he shares. “Yeah, it’s wrong, but you’re at a point in you life where you go, ’What else am I going to do? Sit home and watch TV?’ So I got wrapped up in that scene.”
Dattilo even moved in with his high school girlfriend. “My mother was ready to disown me,” he reveals. “I knew it was wrong, but when you feel like you don’t have anything to fall back on, you makes excuses for your life. This girl was wealthy and her family had a guesthouse, so we moved in there for three months.”
The relationship, which Dattilo describes as “unhealthy and horrible,” gradually disintegrated, and the unhappy teen finally had to admit that his life was spiraling out of control. He moved back with his mother and sought solace in the acting career he began at age 10 and later had shunted aside. For a while, Dattilo tried balancing his career with studies at Santa Monica Junior College, but acting finally won out. Dattilo was especially excited about the chance to star on DAYS. His work is his top priority right now. The show supplants his love life and the importance he used to place on playing sports.
Above all, Dattilo’s out to prove the carelessly missed opportunities of his youth are far behind him. “I want to work as hard as I can and do the best that I can on this show so I don’t think I’ve blown another opportunity,” he declares intensely. “I’ve done that a lot, but I don’t want to do it anymore. I’m really happy with where my life is right now, and I feel like I’ve come a long way….but I feel like there’s a lot more to go.”
Banking On Fame
Despite his acting resume, Bryan Dattilo has yet to feel comfortable with his sudden DAYS fame. “I was sitting in the car,” Dattilo relates, “waiting for my friend – he was in the bank – and this lady walked by. She kind of looked at me and took a big double take and said, ‘Don’t I know you?’ And I was like, ‘No, I don’t think so’ – because I’m not used to the fact that people recognize me. I just think that people know me as Bryan. She asked me what my name was and I told her, and she asked me, ‘Aren’t you on that soap opera?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, actually I am.’ And she’s like, ‘Oh, you’re trying to act like you’re not on TV and that you’re a normal person.’ And I said, ‘I am a normal person. I just happen to be on TV.”
Just The Facts
Birthdate: July 29
Height: “5-feet-8 – barely.”
One Thing He Would Change About Himself: “My height. If I were just 6 feet tall, I think I’d be real happy.”
Professional Acting Role: “I was the kid they used when they needed a kid on the comedy show NOT NECESSAIRLY THE NEWS. I played Elliot in a takeoff of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial’ I found this terrestrial, brought him to my house and put him with my stuffed animals, like they did in E.T. But the terrestrial would be drunk. It was really funny.”
Worst Trait: “My temper.”
Dream Wheels: Dodge Viper
What He Actually Drives: “A ’79 Rabbit my sister gave me.”
Other Credits: IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT and CALIFORNIA DREAMS
Celebrity Run-In: “When I was 12, I saw Clint Eastwood leaving a restaurant. I walked up to him, said, ‘Go ahead, make my day.’ And then I ran away.”
This interview originally appeared in the September 28, 1993 issue of Soap Opera Digest