Back from the Undead

updated 12/12/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/12/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

Whack! David Boreanaz is dodging balls outside his Hollywood Hills home on a brisk November morning. "Nice shot!" he offers as his 3-year-old son, Jaden, wielding a hockey stick with impressive might, sends a ball whizzing over his shoulder. "He's 3 and he wants to hang out with Dad all the time," says a grinning Boreanaz. "It's great."

It's the sort of cheery scene among the living that Boreanaz, 36, rarely gets to portray onscreen, where he's best known for his eight-year stint as a cursed bloodsucker (first on the cult hit Buffy the Vampire Slayer and then on its spinoff Angel). These days he spends 14 hours a day communing with assorted skeletons as a dry-witted FBI agent on the set of FOX's acclaimed new crime drama Bones. "When I met him, I thought he was going to be dark and brooding," says his Bones costar Emily Deschanel. Instead he's prone to planting whoopee cushions on the set and breaking into his Christopher Walken impression. "He can also mimic every move of Michael Jackson's dancing," says Bones creator Hart Hanson. "It's hysterically funny to see David, this big jock whose shoulders are a yard wide, doing the moonwalk."

The 6'1" Boreanaz developed his athletic side—and his moonwalking chops—as a kid growing up in Buffalo, N.Y., and later in Pennsylvania, where he worked as a ball boy for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the mid-'80s. (Dad Dave Roberts, 69, is now a weatherman for the ABC affiliate in Philadelphia; mom Patti, 69, is a homemaker.) "I would go to Steeler training camp and work out with [Steeler great] Jack Lambert," he says. "It was awesome."

After a "laid-back hippie" phase, Boreanaz settled in L.A. and took bit parts before landing his Buffy break in 1997. Four years later, the actor—whose first marriage, to screenwriter Ingrid Quinn, had ended in 1999—met actress and former Playboy model Jaime Bergman, 30, at a party. "She was wearing this red fedora, and I looked up and caught her eye," says Boreanaz. "It had this smoky noir sense to it. I was done." The pair wed just seven months later, five months before Jaden's birth.

Away from the Bones set, Boreanaz is content to relax with his family, pour himself a cold glass of Guinness and watch his beloved Steelers on TV. And don't forget the nachos. "We'll have a seven-layer bean dip and hang out and enjoy the day," says Bergman. Of course nothing beats time with his budding jock. "It's beyond belief for me to be able to walk and talk with him and hang out and play," Boreanaz says of Jaden. "I'm so blessed."

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