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Sabato Faces a 'Moment of Truth' : Television: The 21-year-old, who has been turning heads on 'General Hospital' for about a year, makes his prime-time debut in an NBC movie.

Fast Track / Up and comers in arts and entertainment.

April 27, 1993|ROBIN RAUZI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Antonio Sabato Jr. is done for the day on the set of "General Hospital," and is hanging out watching TV. His dressing room seems more like a dorm room with posters of Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Al Pacino and a Harley Davidson motorcycle plastering the walls. The phone, for some reason, is in his closet. Reminders are taped to his mirror.

And behind the couch is a calendar with April 28 circled and the notation "Movie on NBC" written in purple marker.

It's an important day. Wednesday at 9 p.m. marks Sabato's first move from daytime to prime time with the TV movie "Moment of Truth: Why My Daughter?"

While the story appealed to Sabato, it was his sex appeal that landed him a role.

Michael O'Hara, executive producer of "Moment of Truth," said, "He's got a tremendous camera presence. When he came in to read for the part, he was a little nervous."

But when O'Hara saw the film of the audition, it was evident that "the camera just loves this guy."

Sabato's attractiveness was essential to the story, O'Hara said, "because we needed to be able to sell to the audience in a very quick way why a young woman would fall for him." In "Moment of Truth," Sabato's character seduces a young woman into leaving her family, moving in with him and eventually becoming a prostitute.

"That's one of the problems in this country," he says. "Kids walk out of their homes too young and they don't know what to do."

That isn't such a problem in Italy, where Sabato was born and spent his first 10 years, he says. There, young people aren't so rebelliously eager to get out from under their parents' thumbs. In fact, many newlywed couples move in with their family, he says.

At 21, the unmarried Sabato is living with his parents in Marina del Rey. And while he's moving out soon, he's had no problems living there. He gets a lot of support at home--especially from his father, who has acted in several films, mostly in Italy.

Rather than encourage his son to follow in his footsteps, Antonio Sabato Sr., told him, "Don't go into the business just because you have a pretty face."

That didn't stop the young man, who did his first acting in junior high school--a monologue from "West Side Story." "That's when I knew I had to learn (acting), because I was so awful," he says.

After graduating from Palisades High School, Sabato went to New York City, where he did some modeling and eventually got into acting. He acted in Italy, starring in "If I Didn't Have Love," a period piece that won a best director for foreign film award at Cannes in 1991. He moved in with his parents after returning to Los Angeles, and continues to study acting.

His father now encourages him without reservation. "I have all that experience backing me up," the younger Sabato says.

Sabato Sr., in addition to running the Italian restaurant Trilussa in Beverly Hills, is working on a script with a part for his son.

"I'd love to work with my dad someday, with him as a director, doing some of the projects we've been working on," Sabato says.

In his year playing Jagger on "General Hospital," he has been in People, Entertainment Weekly and on the cover of Soap Opera Digest.

"I didn't expect it so fast," Sabato says of his sudden success. "I didn't expect it at all."

Since he has joined "General Hospital," it has jumped from seventh to third in daytime series' ratings.

Sabato gets about 300 fan letters a week. One fan sent him a plastic, miniature Snoopy, dressed in a tux, which he carries with him.

This is me, he jokes, at the Emmys.

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