He speaks four languages—English, German, French and Spanish—but when Soul Food
's Boris Kodjoe meets fans of the Showtime series, they often can't speak at all. "I've seen people stutter when they talk to him," says costar Nicole Parker of the 6'3" onetime model for Ralph Lauren and the Gap. "He calms them with his looming, peaceful presence." Born in Vienna and raised in Germany, the former teenage tennis champ—in 1988 the world's seventh-ranked junior player—found his five postcollegiate years on the catwalk "a very comedic world. People take themselves way too seriously." Not Boris, says his mom, Ursula, 56: "He is warm and generous; he loves life." At his homes in Toronto (where Soul Food
tapes) and L.A., healthy habits prevail for the 29-year-old—five workouts a week, along with basketball, yoga and no junk food (besides Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Swiss Almond). "It's all part of the mind-body-soul connection," says the currently single Kodjoe. "I look my best when I feel my best."