The Ex-Moonlight Vampire Rises again with a Creepy Role on Criminal Minds
April – May 2009
by Lisa Bernhard
Not every actor’s return to TV merits a countdown clock. But check out Alex O’Loughlin’s MySpace page, where a flashing display reads: “23 days, 16 hours, 47 minutes, 38 seconds until my guest spot on Criminal Minds.”
A little over the top for a one-week gig? Not to the millions of obsessed, feverish (and mostly female) fans who hunger for the mere sight of him—the ones who swooned over his sexy vampire, PI Mick St. John, on the CBS drama Moonlight. When the show was canceled last May after just one season, they protested. Not just in e-mails and chat rooms, but also in ads in Variety and on the backs of buses.
“I had never seen a group of people fall so deeply in love with a character I’d been a part of,” says O’Loughlin. CBS didn’t revive the show, but the network still felt the love for O’Loughlin, giving him a development deal for a new series as well as the juicy guest shot on Minds.
In the episode airing April 29, the Australian actor plays a serial killer. A smart move for a sex symbol? “It’s funny you should mention that,” says O’Loughlin, 32. “This lovely lady, a fan, came up to me the other day and asked exactly that. And I said, ‘Hang on a minute—if the character has no path to redemption, then it’s difficult for me to play. But this guy, at the end, breaks through his own wall and touches another person. It’s a transition to epiphany.’ If people can’t see that, I’m not doing my job.”
From all accounts, O’Loughlin does his job well. Says Minds coexec producer Simon Mirren, “You know it’s a good [performance] when the crew starts hanging around the monitor. They came up to me and said, ‘This guy’s great.’ From my point of view, the more an actor can inhabit something that’s the opposite of him, the more producers can be surprised by it.”
That may be why O’Loughlin is following Minds with yet another sharp turn, as cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Andy Yablonski in the CBS fall pilot Three Rivers. co-starring Julia Ormond (CSI: NY), the Pittsburgh-based drama focuses on an organ transplant team, with O’Loughlin’s role inspired by real-life surgeon Dr. Gonzalo “Gonzo” Gonzales-Stawinski. “I absolutely love him,” says O’Loughlin of Gonzo. “I’ve sat in on five open-heart surgeries with him in the last few weeks. And what I realize is, I play a very, very important person. It’s completely changed my life.”
Known for taking work home with him (“I walk in the shoes of the character 24 hours a day”), O’Loughlin also takes his work to heart. While shooting Moonlight, he became a spokesperson for blood donation with the American Red Cross. For Three Rivers, he’s hoping to work with Donate Life America, an organization promoting organ and tissue donation.
Giving back comes naturally to a guy who gets so much—especially from his fans, who shower him with gifts, including a humidor loaded with expensive cigars. As for his personal life, O’Loughlin dated Aussie actress Holly Valance (Prison Break) for four years, but “we’re having a time-out,” he says. Hear that, ladies?
Another treat for fans: O’Loughlin costars in this fall’s feature film “Whiteout,” opposite Kate Beckinsale. The Antarctica-set thriller casts him as a “young, bold smart-ass.” (“Omigod, what a stretch,” he jokes.) And get this—in one scene, O’Loughlin runs across the ice, wearing only boots and a furry hat. Start the countdown clock now!