Clarissa Cruz
June 06, 2005 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Adrian Grenier is furious. The normally laid-back actor, whose angelic face and messy mop of black curls have adorned many a lovestruck teenager’s wall, is staring at the pale, pudgy reporter before him with contempt. The journalist just asked him a very personal question about his tumultuous love life.

”This interview is over,” he snaps. ”Because you’re an a–hole!”

Grenier, blue eyes flashing, storms off the set and away from the dumbstruck fake journalist. . .and toward a real reporter watching from the sidelines. ”You let that be a lesson to you,” he grins, wagging his finger playfully before bending down to administer a kiss on the cheek. ”Now you know what kind of questions to ask.”

It’s almost too meta for words. But the actors of Entourage — HBO’s series about up-and-coming actor Vincent Chase (Grenier) and his group of high-living hangers-on (Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dillon, and Jerry Ferrara), which kicks off season 2 on June 5 at 9 p.m. — are pretty used to the life-imitating-art-imitating-life aspect of their gigs by now. The show and its insider take on Hollywood in all of its Botoxed, Mystic Tanned, Jamba Juiced glory, plays to both Americans addicted to celebrity culture and showbiz types who view the not-so-satirical Hollywood high jinks as the TV version of a blind gossip item. ”We’ve gotten calls from people [in the industry] who go, ‘This is so real, it’s like watching my life,”’ says creator-exec producer Doug Ellin. ”A lot of people in town are scared now because we pull no punches,” adds Mark Wahlberg, who pitched Entourage to HBO in 2003 as a series loosely based on his early years in Hollywood. ”[HBO was] always trying to get me to film my real-life friends and all the antics that go on. . .and of course I wouldn’t do that.”

That’s okay — the fictionalized version is juicy enough. The series was an instant critical hit when it debuted last summer, but the ratings weren’t as hip, averaging only 1.9 million viewers an episode. Appropriately, this season finds Vince struggling to stay in the spotlight: Having followed his debut action film with an indie project, he is suddenly without any offers — and his hilariously amoral agent, Ari (Jeremy Piven), wants him to star in a sellout blockbuster in order to stay relevant. Despite season 1’s low ratings, Entourage‘s sophomore year has a high glitz factor: Bono, James Cameron, and the Playboy Mansion are among the cameos. ”Everyone’s really settling into their character, getting more comfortable with the scripts,” says Piven. ”It just feels like the next level.”

One month earlier at a Sunset Strip bar, miniskirted waitresses are serving faux drinks, and a smoke machine creates an after-hours haze, even though it’s 10 a.m. on a sunny L.A. morning. The bar is standing in for Harry O’s, the legendarily scuzzy Park City, Utah, watering hole; in this episode, Vince’s indie film, Queens Boulevard, is playing at Sundance, and the guys are enjoying the festival’s extracurricular activities. Ellin — relaxing between takes with on-set shoulder massages from his assistant — recalls an encounter Grenier had at the real Sundance while shooting on location. ”This woman came up to Adrian and said, ‘My 17-year-old daughter loves you.’ Adrian goes, ‘That’s great, give her my best.’ And she’s like, ‘If you met my daughter, you’d want to give her your best.’ It makes for a lot of little moments for the show.”

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