Scott Wolf finds a home on ''Everwood'' -- The ''Party of Five'' alum weighs in on the WB drama's new season

Scott Wolf really wants a Frappuccino. With no luck at L.A.’s Century City mall, he walks a few blocks into a business park?only to find that Starbucks closed just minutes ago. Trekking a few more blocks, down two flights of stairs, and into a basement, Wolf’s quest is finally rewarded: This Starbucks is open for another half hour.

That endearing optimism has served Wolf well in his two best-known, and deliciously contradictory, TV roles. He’s lovable even as he sinks into destructive alcoholism, as he did during his six years as Bailey Salinger on Fox’s weeper Party of Five, or comes between two meant-to-be lovers, as he’s doing now during his second season as Dr. Jake Hartman on The WB’s engaging-but-edgy Everwood (Thursdays, 9 p.m.).

Wolf’s stint as Jake also marks a fresh start for the actor?five years after Party signed off, he’s put Bailey to rest. ”There’s a grace period of ‘We still see you as that character…and now we don’t,”’ says the boyish-looking 37-year-old. ”To have made an impression that has lasted is a rare opportunity.”

He snagged his Party break after graduating from George Washington University and heading west to pursue acting. After landing some steady commercial work, he won the role of Bailey at age 24. During the show’s run, Wolf squeezed in a few film gigs, including a memorable turn as a gay drug informant in 1999’s Go — but kept a low profile after the Party ended, dabbling in theater, TV movies, and voice work.

Then last year he shot a pilot called Cat Plus One. It failed, but Cat‘s creators, Greg Berlanti and Mickey Liddell, liked Wolf enough to create a role for him on their other show, the critically acclaimed Everwood. ”Jake just has this positively glowing thing about him that makes [fellow doctors] Andy and Abbott sick, which is awesome,” exec producer Rina Mimoun says. ”He’s the nicest guy in the world. He’s just like Scott Wolf.”

Now, like his character, Wolf finds his Everwoodian existence a relief from the chaos of Hollywood. Though not sure if he’ll stay with the show past this season, he and his wife of a year and a half, Kelley Limp (The Real World: New Orleans), nevertheless bought a house near the set in Park City, Utah. ”To have the chance to just hide out and do our marital bonding has been great,” he explains.

Wolf is also settling into meatier story lines: Jake will dabble again in cosmetic surgery, wrestle with guilt over the pill-prescribing scandal that drove him from California, and, of course, vie with Dr. Andy Brown (Treat Williams) for Nina (Stephanie Niznik). ”The beauty of Everwood is they could’ve put a complete jerk in there,” he says. ”But Jake’s not a bad guy. He clearly has his heart in the right place.”

Who better to portray him than this beaming ball of positive energy? Case in point: When the barista who got Wolf his hard-won Frappuccino informs him the half hour is up, the actor turns to you and says, ”We’re going to be rewarded for all of this ‘no.’ We’re going to get a big ‘yes’ soon. Somebody’s going to give us a big hug.” Only there’s no one around to do that — so, naturally, the earnest Wolf offers up that hug himself.