Peter Horton had almost lost his passion for acting when the role of Gary Shepherd, the soul-searching professor of "thirtysomething," came along. Twice he turned down the part because he wanted to devote all his energy to directing. But producers Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz persisted. "Ed took me aside and said, 'We'll just do the best pilot anybody has ever seen. This thing will never sell,' " the tall blond actor remembers. The hit ABC series has given Horton, who says he's "30 something," a new lease on life as an actor and a fresh approach to the age question. "It has nothing to do with vanity. I just think age is meaningless. It's a system we've all agreed to that supposedly signals when we should develop, reach our peak and go downhill, as they say. It interferes with our natural growth." He admits that he and his TV alter ego are "very similar in style, much to my mother's frustration. She'd like to see less hair on my face and on my head." But the beard isn't about to go. "Every director I've ever admired has a beard," says Horton, who has directed an "ABC Afterschool Special" and two "thirtysomething" segments. He also has strong opinions about the way he dresses: "Normally, it's jeans and sweat shirts." He doesn't own a suit, never wears a tie, and his idea of shopping is a quick trip to Fred Segal, where, he says, "they throw the clothes at me." But on a recent afternoon at the St. James's Club on Sunset Boulevard, he tried on some stylish combinations--handsome, hybrid looks in menswear that might be called "dressysomething."
Grooming: Johnny Hernandez/Celestine-Cloutier; styling: Joanna Dendel