updated 08/07/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 08/07/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Whalin, it seems, is always up. "He keeps things light on the set," says Dean Cain, who plays Superman.
His story wasn't always so pleasant. Whalin, a native of San Francisco, recalls how his father struggled to make ends meet by working odd jobs. "I grew up with this thing that I don't ever want to be poor," says Whalin. His father, Craig Whalin, and his mother, Terry Villanueva, a teacher, divorced when he was 7. "Then it was me and Mom all the time," says Whalin. When Justin was 8, Terry recalls, "he had a mad crush on this adorable girl who was taking an acting class" and he joined up too. Thus was a career launched. At 13, after winning the part of bratty Alan Quarter-maine Jr. on daytime's General Hospital, he moved with his mom to Los Angeles, where she oversaw his tutoring on the set.
Now he and Terry, 42, share a three-bedroom home, which he bought her a year ago, in the Los Feliz area of L.A. "My mom is my best friend," he says. In 1992 he helped her start a school for gifted children in La Canada Flintridge, outside L.A. He also remains close to his father, 46, a real estate appraiser in San Francisco. And—sorry, Tiger Beat readers—he has a girlfriend, Stacey Lowen, 19, a premed student at UCLA. He likes to tool around in his black Mazda RX-7—and, occasionally, speak to kids, as he recently did at the Kids on Camera acting school. "I told them," says Whalin, "that now is the time to mess up and do stupid things."