Kristen Baldwin
May 01, 1998 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Jason Gedrick has enjoyed a fantastically successful career as ”that guy.” Whether it’s ”Aren’t you that guy from the trial show?” (ABC’s Murder One), ”Hey, you’re that guy from the Mafia TV movie” (CBS’ The Last Don and Don II), or even ”Wait a minute — aren’t you that guy from that old Fox show about college kids?” (Class of ’96), the 32-year-old actor can’t seem to get past what’s-his-name status. Nor does he care to.

”I have a gigantic unconcern for making it right now,” says Gedrick. ”On paper I’m extremely successful, but in the business they may wonder why (a) I’m not huger or (b) extinct. I like being right in the middle.”

Before you raise a skeptical eyebrow, consider this: When approached about The Last Don II, Gedrick was loath to reprise his role as Mafia offspring Cross De Lena, even though the part would give him more exposure than a nudie photo on the Internet (of which the actor has several — stills from a shower scene in Backdraft). ”We were already compared to The Godfather. Where do you go from there?” he wondered. ”What do I get out of this other than a payday?” He reconsidered after reading a script that gave Cross some psychological demons to contend with. ”Jason plays a lot from the inside. He doesn’t do a lot of arm waving and gesturing,” says Last Don II director Graeme Clifford. ”He just has a natural charm and openness about him as a person that comes across on screen.”

Unlike Danny Aiello (who landed Dellaventura after last year’s Don), however, Gedrick has had no such series luck — his recent talks with CBS about developing a Mexican border police drama with Edward James Olmos went, well, south. But he holds no grudge against the network, which also prematurely yanked his critically acclaimed 1996 drama EZ Streets. In fact, he’s still in touch with the net about future projects.

Besides, Gedrick’s currently more interested in making independent movies. Last year he filmed the thriller Silent Cradle with Lorraine Bracco, and he’s hoping to direct and star in a short film he wrote about pool players. For now, though, he’s just trying to come to terms with being The Last Don II‘s poster boy. ”There’s billboards and bus signs, and the photo they used is really pimpy,” he complains. ”It’s wild, but it’s uncomfortable. I’m not ready for that.” Don’t sweat it, Jason. Chances are no one will pin your name to that billboard guy’s face.

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