Justin Bruening

Justin Bruening Headshot

Actor

Birth Date: September 24, 1979

Age: 44 years old

Birth Place: Helena, Montana

With his chiseled good looks, Justin Bruening made as big a splash as a young actor can by conquering the world of daytime soaps, living his own youthful fairy tale romance onscreen and off, and impressing showbiz suits enough to sign him to a starring role on a reboot of a classic television series. The producers of the feature "Superman Returns" (2006) passed on him for their title character, but NBC made Bruening the new face of the redux of its sci-fi/spy action show, "Knight Rider" (2008-09) - first with a two-hour movie, followed by a series revival. In many ways, Bruening's career arc ironically saw him echo the path of onetime daytime star-cum-Knight Rider, David Hasselhoff, though the young upstart was ultimately regarded with much more respect and higher expectations than his predecessor, boding well for a lengthy, dependable career in showbiz.

Born on Sept. 24, 1979, in Chadron, NE, Bruening grew up in tiny St. Helena. Too young to have caught the original "Knight Rider" (NBC, 1982-86) with any cognizance, he later claimed that he began watching "Knight Rider" in syndication. Small-town life began get to him after a time - spending a summer inseminating farm animals did little to squelch this growing itch - as he felt that he was missing out on better opportunities in life. He returned to Chadron to study biochemistry at Chadron State College, but after graduating, sought a new climate in San Diego, CA. It was at a local McDonald's that a talent agent spotted him behind the counter and recommended he enter the fashion modeling trade. Indeed, his look impressed the apparel company Abercrombie & Fitch, which cast him in one of its ads. He also made an appearance in a Britney Spears music video. Even this early into the game, Bruening was determined to be regarded as something other than a pretty face. Transplanted to New York City, he began to study acting at the Caymichael Patten Studio, and in 2003, watched as this led to his discovery by a casting agent of "All My Children" (ABC, 1970-2013).

His stint as Jamie Martin on "All My Children" did not go unnoticed. He soon developed a buzz among the swooning beefcake trackers in the media, getting himself added to sundry celebrity and teen magazines' frequent "hot" lists. Bruening made it to primetime the very next year doing two guest-shots on the ABC sitcom "Hope & Faith" (2003-06). The network decided to leverage his growing popularity with a crossover programming stunt, having his character of Jamie appear for eight episodes on another of its soaps, "One Life to Live" (1968-2013). His co-star and onscreen love interest, Alexa Havins, who portrayed Babe Carey-Chandler, garnered her own share of headlines as their coupling spilled over into a real-life love affair. After Bruening proposed to her on set, they were married in 2005. That same year, Soap Opera Digest named him "Outstanding Male Newcomer," and he received a Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Younger Actor. In his spare time, he also netted guest roles on CBS procedural crime dramas "Cold Case" (CBS, 2003-10) and "CSI: Miami" (CBS, 2002-12), as well as was in serious contention to play the ultimate superhero in director Bryan Singer's jumpstart of a movie franchise, "Superman Returns" (2006). Because Singer specifically went looking for unknowns for the role, Bruening was given serious consideration, but Brandon Routh was eventually cast as the new Man of Steel due to an uncanny resemblance to the franchise's original star, Chris Reeve.

Despite the disappointment, TV writer-producer Gary Scott Thompson took notice of the actor while casting for his new "Night Rider" retreatment. Thompson had also mined "AMC" to cast Josh Duhamel in his previous network outing, NBC's "Las Vegas," and curiously, the original "Knight Rider" - about a mysterious man "who does not exist" fighting crime with his talking car - had starred Hasselhoff, who had also been hired off the soap "The Young and the Restless" (CBS, 1973- ). Thompson scripted his protagonist as the estranged son of Hasselhoff's Michael Knight, and, in the wake of the blockbuster "Transformers" (2007) CGI frenzy, conceived the new KITT as a vehicle that could shapeshift to look like different vehicles, as well as heal itself via built-in nanotechnology. Speaking with Val Kilmer's voice, the new car would be less the ever-amenable helper like the original KITT, and more a confused, sometimes petulant new cybernetic life form with whom Bruening's character would grapple with to get the job done. While reviews were tepid, the pilot's airing drew nearly 13 million viewers, delivering NBC the ratings win for the night and all but assuring the show getting picked up for NBC's fall 2008 primetime schedule. However, the show was cancelled after one season.

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