James Van Der Beek tells EW Online that there's more to life than playing Dawson

By Liane Bonin
November 24, 1998 at 05:00 AM EST
E.J. Camp

“Dawson’s Creek” golden boy James Van Der Beek says he didn’t realize he was a teen phenom until the first day of production for his upcoming football movie, “Varsity Blues” (opening Jan. 15). Last April, on hiatus from the WB show’s first season, Van Der Beek (with his newly died black ‘do) experienced a taste of celeb-mania in the normally laid-back college town of Austin, Tex. “I had a scene in a restaurant where I was eating with these guys (fellow “Blues” actors Scott Caan, Paul Walker, Ron Lester, and Eliel Swinton), and we had to leave,” Van Der Beek tells EW Online. “There were people buzzing around, coming over, leaning over Scott to shake my hand, taking pictures, and at that point, it was like, ‘Let’s get out of here,’ so we basically rushed out. A day or two later, we finally shot that scene.”

Van Der Beek, 21, says there are similarities between his own rising popularity and that of his “Varsity” character — a second-string quarterback in a pigskin-crazed Texas town who is suddenly thrust into the limelight after an injury benches the star QB. But parallels between his football-tossing film persona and his Spielberg-loving TV alter ego, Dawson Leery, are slim. Despite having a leggy brunette love interest (Amy Stuart), there’s no hyperarticulate banter or alterna-folk soundtrack in this big-screen drama, and that’s fine by Van Der Beek. “If I were someone who could only play Dawson’s character,” he says, “that would be terrible.”

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