Friday, 14 November 2008

Justin Bruening

What kind of a driver is Justin Bruening, star of the new ''Knight Rider''?    ''A [darn] good one,'' he says quickly.   He'd have to be. The stunt-filled action series (7 p.m. Wednesdays, NBC) has Bruening as secret agent Michael Traceur, who is behind the wheel of the world's most sophisticated automobile, KITT. A stunt driver has been teaching Bruening, primarily a soap opera actor until now, how to handle the show's vehicle for weeks.

justin bruening

''I'm learning a 'reverse 180,' how to fly the car into camera without hitting any folks,'' he says. ''It's really nerve-racking.   ''It's not that I am not comfortable behind the wheel. It's the fact that 30 people are standing behind the camera and I have to slide the car to a certain point in the stunt so I don't hurt them.''


His stunt mentor can come within 2 inches of the crew, Bruening brags. The actor, though, admits he's not quite that good yet. But ''I want to be good enough to handle a car that well,'' he says.     Of course, Bruening says he has some bad driving habits to break along the way. He listens to Metallica and other rock bands ''full blast'' as he's cruising down the highway with his wife, actress Alexa Havins, sitting next to him. But he says he's rarely been in trouble over his driving.


''I haven't had a speeding ticket since I was in college,'' he says, ''and even then I was in a speed trap.''    The 29-year-old Bruening hasn't always been in such a rush. Growing up in Nebraska, he says he's always had a yearning to stretch himself but never knew what to do about it.


''I had about 10 different majors in college but none of them seemed to fit,'' he says.    Once he got into acting, his life went full-throttle. He landed a role on ABC's ''All My Children,'' where he met his wife. After leaving the soap four years later, he tried out for prime-time parts.


He landed ''Knight Rider'' through an audition. The series has been a clear hit for NBC and was recently picked up for the entire season.    Fight stunts, Bruening can handle. Commanding his TV Mustang is another matter altogether. He's even taking his work home with him.     ''I'm really into my video games,'' he says.


His favorite?   '''Grand Theft Auto IV,''' he says with a laugh. ''It lets me work out my aggression of KITT.''

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