The Man Who Am

updated 05/23/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/23/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

ED JEMISON IS NOT A FAST-TALKIN', beer-lovin' bundle of chutzpah—but you'd never know it to see him on TV. Jemison, 30, is the guy in the Bud Light commercials who brazenly cons his way into a Chinese family reunion by saying, "Yes I am!" when asked by an incredulous waiter if he is a member of the Lee family—and who, incredibly, backs up his claim by responding, "Yes I am!" in flawless Chinese to a family patriarch who asks if he's Chung's son. In another spot, he claims for himself a beer-stocked limo intended for one Dr. Galazkiewicz, whose name he can't pronounce. The ads—a third has just debuted—have been phenomenally popular, yet the actor is reluctant to lake any credit. "It's the way the ads are written and edited," he insists. "How can three words be that important?" His proud mom, though, knows better. "That twinkle in the eye and that smirk—that's Eddie," says Rose, a bookkeeper. "He's got a devilish way."

Jemison, who grew up in Baton Rouge with Hose, dad Ed, an architect, and two older siblings, majored in journalism until the middle of freshman year at LSU. "I realized," he says, "I never read newspapers, I don't watch the news—what am I doing here?" He switched to drama and, a year after graduation, moved to Chicago, where he eventually caught on in commercials, going one-on-one with Michael Jordan for a 1991 Wheaties ad. He was about to leave for a long-planned trip through the South with his girlfriend, aspiring actress Martie Sanders, when he was offered the Bud Light job. "I almost didn't do it," he says, "but she persuaded me."

He still isn't sure he made the right move. "Being known because of a commercial is embarrassing," he says. "I don't want people to make me into a little comic actor—I prefer drama." So then, Mr. Jemison, you're actually a serious thespian?

Never mind. We know the answer.

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