Kate Meyers
April 12, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

”I’ the new guy,” says actor Christopher Gartin early in Tremors 2, explaining why he’s succeeding the worm hunter played by Kevin Bacon in the original sci-fi flick. But it could also explain some of the work Gartin’s been getting lately: subbing for Keanu Reeves in the CD-ROM game based on Johnny Mnemonic and replacing SNL‘s Jim Breuer as the costar of the ABC sitcom Buddies. ”I’m like a glorified stand-in,” Gartin jokes. ”That’s just the business.”

Gartin should know. The New York City native (now living in L.A.) was 14 when he debuted Off Broadway in The Buddy System, and he later played Harvey Fierstein’s son on Broadway in Torch Song Trilogy (”Harvey was like my second mother,” he says).

While Gartin, 27, has been on several TV series, he’s most recognized for his two-episode stint last season as Heather Locklear’s Peeping Tom on Melrose Place. ”People see me and say, ‘Look, honey, there’s the pervert,’ ” he laughs.

He admits his first major film role, being chased by underground monsters in Tremors 2, was no Gartin-variety task. ”I spent 12 hours a day getting bruised and beaten and laughing,” he says. Director S.S. Wilson saw him as an ideal rookie monster hunter. ”He brought a hip quality to combine with the naivete,” Wilson says. Tremors 2, however, is worlds apart from the work the actor says he’s most proud of, his role as a homeless hustler with Tourette’s syndrome in the Sundance fave Johns, an indie drama set for release this fall.

As he waits to hear if Buddies will be renewed, the avid hoops player doesn’t know whom he’ll stand in for next, but he doesn’t mind stepping in off the bench. ”I’d rather be the sixth man,” he says. ”No pressure. Just come in and be the hero.”

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