From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
The dashing lead of A & E's Emmy-winning nautical miniseries Horatio Hornblower offers proof that sometimes nice guys finish first. The role of the late-18th-century naval hero with an outsize heart was one that loan Grffudd bady."I had to audition for it three times," says the 1995 gradate of London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He eventually won over Delia Fine, the A& E vice. He eventually who cast him, because of his "decency and good-heartedness," she says. as much as his "intelligent and tender face and those wonderful dark eyes." The 5'11" actor makes light of his charms—"I think girls first notice my smile and my big nose"—but female costars know better. "He's lovely to work with," says Natasha Little, 32, who appeared with Gruffudd in a 1999 British film, Another Life. "He treats everyone with respect, and it's not an act."

The oldest of three children born to schoolteachers in the Weslh captical of Cardiff, Gruffudd shares a flat in north London with fellow Welsh actor Matthew Rhys. until 3 in the afternoon," he says, explaining that his idea of a good time is "socializing with my friends with a few paints" Gruffudd, who's unattached, is now on the Isle of Man filming The Gathering with Christina Ricci, but he'd die for another role:" Romeo—it's a the opportunity. "The compliment I've heard most in my life," he says. "is that I'm patient."