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Empire's: Santiago Cabrera

updated 07/18/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/18/2005 01:00AM

AGE: 27
HOMETOWN: Santiago, Chile
LATEST GIG: Octavius, Julius Caesar's smoldering nephew in ABC's miniseries Empire

•Toga To Be True:
Empire's producers picked the unknown actor for the lead role in the sword-and-sandals epic after a steamy screen test with costar Emily Blunt. "Something magical happened," says executive producer Tony Jonas. "It was a screen test, but everyone felt like they were watching the real movie."

•Acting, Schmacting:
"My English teacher always gave me scripts for plays, but I was into sports," says the son of a Chilean diplomat, who finally auditioned for a local production of Amadeus at 19. "My friend said there were small parts I could go up for, but the director gave me the part of Mozart, which was kind of the lead role. From then on I just loved it."

•His Body Wasn't Built In A Day:
To make a buck while studying at London's Drama Centre, he pulled tourists around in rickshaws. "I carried drunk people around all night; it keeps you fit," says Cabrera, who met his wife, Anna Marcea, 28, a theater director, while he was in Britain. Today he relies on yoga and running to offset his robust appetite: "I don't really watch what I eat. I love sitting around with friends and eating loads and drinking loads for hours. Maybe when I'm 40 I'll worry about my diet."

•Red-Hot Chilean
Modest wardrobe aside—"I own two or three pairs of jeans and a bunch of T-shirts"—Cabrera "is so stunningly handsome, it's ridiculous," says Brittany Murphy, his costar in the upcoming romantic comedy Love and Other Disasters. "People talk about that X Factor, and he's just got it in spades."

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