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WITH AN EYE ON . . . : Watch out: Amanda meets her 'Melrose' match in the hunky form of Antonio Sabato Jr.

October 08, 1995|N.F. MENDOZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Amanda gets a dose of her own medicine, thanks to a conniving scheme and turn onto "Melrose Place" by a mysterious man from her past, Jack Parezi, played by Antonio Sabato Jr. What goes around indeed comes around the next few weeks for the hot-tempered advertising executive played to the hilt by Heather Locklear.

"It's a [Aaron] Spelling thing," offers Sabato, who joins the cast for an undisclosed period (rest assured, though, you'll see his GQ-visage through November sweeps). "Melrose," Sabato says, "has a tendency to bring in some not-so-good people to make it more exciting."

His character is "very pushy. He can be nice, but mostly, he's not." Parezi traveled from Miami to L.A. following the trail of a co-worker blackmailing Amanda. The also not-too-nice Brooke (Kristin Davis) delved into Amanda's personal files at work and found out Amanda faked her death to flee the underworld clutches of her husband Jack.

That's right: Amanda's a Mrs. who assumed a new name and life in the still-fashionable-on-TV Melrose district of L.A.

But now Jack's back. He says he just wants a divorce, to get on with his life, and doesn't want to interfere with Amanda's life at all. Ha! Let the games begin.

"Ah," Sabato sighs over the phone, from his Los Angeles publicist's office. "It's good to watch people in love, but it's exciting to watch something really bad. This character's really fun. Someone to challenge Amanda."

And Sabato knows about challenges. The actor--about to take off for a three-month movie shoot in his native Italy--arrived in California 12 years ago at 11, not knowing a word of English.

"It was difficult," acknowledges the actor, who crossed the Atlantic with his parents and his sister so his Italian film-star father, the senior Sabato ("Beyond the Law") could seek a career in the United States. "I started in Beverly Hills, graduated from Palisades [High School], but took quite a few ESL [English as Second Language] classes."

Eventually, Sabato erased all traces of his accent, which, he says, "was very, very hard. I watched a lot of TV." For the Sabatos, he says, America always seemed the Promised Land. So Sabato was anxious, not only to embrace all things American, but to follow in his father's footsteps.

"My father wasn't unsupportive, but he really emphasized how difficult the business was," Sabato says. Still, roles in school plays, a UCLA student film and even Italian movies followed. He also was hired to be in Janet Jackson's 1989 video "Love Will Never Do Without You"--that's Sabato caressing her.

Then he landed the role that got him noticed--his two-year stint (from 1992-94) as Jagger Cates in ABC's "General Hospital." And just recently Sabato returned to the soap for a brief visit to tie up a story line that involes Jagger's brother's fight with AIDS.

While others decry their work on soaps, Sabato asserts, "I'm proud to tell anybody I was on the soap. I know what kind of work I've done. It was a real learning process and it was real work . That environment of the soap world, you learn a lot of stuff. It was a steady job and great working with all these actors, great people."

When he moved on to NBC's big-budget and prime-time "Earth 2" last season, Sabato was in heaven. "I really believed in and loved that show." But he acknowledges that expense and lack of focus led to its demise. "It ended up being a long nine months in Santa Fe," where the show shot.

This summer, Sabato traveled to Nashville to shoot NBC's "When Summer Comes," opposite Kellie Martin. The movie's sheduled to air in November.

Sabato has a Jack of his own, his 1-year-old son, whose mother is actress Virginia Madsen. "The best thing about being a dad is you realize you're not living for yourself anymore. You have someone who needs you and I need him, too."

The actor wants to star in a script his father penned when he returns from Italy. He hopes to write someday, but "mentally, I'm so naive, I wouldn't be able to do it now, but I have an idea. Every performer has an idea. I'll just try to do the best I can do today."

"Melrose Place" airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Fox.

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