With his tanned face and shaggy blond hair, Collin Bernsen looks more like a California surfer than an L.A. Law-yer. But that hasn't stopped anyone from confusing the actor with his older brother. "Everybody calls me Corbin," he says with a shrug. "As long as they send me his checks, I don't mind."

Still, with his first role in a major film in the just released Mr. Destiny, a romantic comedy loosely based on the Frank Capra classic It's a Wonderful Life, the younger Bernsen is hoping to prove he's not just riding Arnie Becker's designer coattails. "Sure he's opened doors for me," says Collin, 32, who plays a philandering husband. "However, once you get in the door, you better know what you're doing."

But how could he not know? His father, Harry, is a talent agent turned producer, and his mother, Jeanne Cooper, is longtime star of the soap The Young and the Restless. Along with Corbin, 36, and sister Karen, 30, Collin grew up in Beverly Hills, where Mom always encouraged free expression. "As a kid, I always wanted my mother to wear tennis outfits, go to PTA meetings and drive a station wagon," Collin says. "I hated that she was a loud, rowdy woman who spoke her mind, but I don't think I would be an actor if she wasn't that thing that I hated."

The young Collin considered becoming a doctor, a teacher, a furniture maker—virtually everything but an actor. He dropped out of college, began a modeling career and moved to Europe, where he met his wife, Cheryl Horton, while both were filming a commercial atop a mountain in Italy in 1983. "A helicopter flew us up, and the photographer had us hug and kiss," he says. "That was it."

In 1985, Collin finally surrendered to the family business. His mom finagled him a three-week job on her soap; he liked it so much he followed up with a month-long stint on General Hospital. Now with Mr. Destiny in theaters, Collin has teamed up with brother Corbin to create an ensemble medical drama for television and spends his free time making furniture in his Los Angeles home and getting used to being a father. (Weston Cooper was born in March.) "I come home to washing baby bottles and cleaning litter boxes," he says. But Collin isn't complaining. "I'm a pretty happy guy. What I'm doing right now is what I'm going to be doing for 40 or 50 years. I love it."