Empire's: Santiago Cabrera
updated 07/18/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 07/18/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT
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."
"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."
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."