Campos driven to succeed -- The ''Jesse'' actor needed the role of face deportation

Some actors are motivated by pressure to pay the rent, others by the fear of anonymity. But Bruno Campos — Christina Applegate’s babelicious beau next door on Jesse — was driven to succeed by a different sort of threat: deportation.

”You’ll do anything when you have that kind of gun to your head,” says the Brazilian native, who two years ago pretty much accosted Warner Bros. TV prez Tony Jonas. ”I said, ‘In two weeks I have to go back to my country. To stay, I need a deal with a studio, and I’d rather cut off my arm than leave your office without one.”’

Impressed, Jonas inked Campos to a one-year talent contract, which not only kept him Stateside but led to roles in 1997’s The Last Don and an episode of Suddenly Susan.

The son of an international banker, Campos, 24, has always been a mover and shaker. His family relocated from Rio de Janeiro to Houston while he was still a tot, and by the time he turned 14 he’d visited 20 different countries. That year, he left for a Michigan boarding school, and in 1994 clinched his first movie role — a lead, no less — in the Oscar-nominated Brazilian film O Quatrilho while still a student at Northwestern University. Still, nothing prepared him for his Jesse audition. ”Halfway through, [a producer] stopped me and said, ‘Just go home.’ I was stunned. I said, ‘Like slit-my-wrists go home or be-proud-of-myself go home?”’

”Choosing Bruno was a no-brainer — he screamed ‘gold mine,”’ says series creator Ira Ungerleider. ”There was such a depth and maturity there.”

Not to mention a heckuva sexy mug — albeit one susceptible to the stresses of the TV biz. ”That meeting with Tony [Jonas] aged me,” says Campos, who’s dating Cupid star Paula Marshall. ”I left feeling like a man. A man with some serious gray hairs.”

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