You'd think that by now, 'N Sync heartthrob Justin Timberlake would be a master at promoting himself. But when the singer was trying to land his first TV movie, he didn't exactly give producers of ABC's latest Wonderful World of Disney entry, Model Behavior, the hard sell. ''I told them from the get-go, 'Look, I've done sketch comedy. I haven't done a lot of serious acting,''' says the former Mickey Mouse Club member. After all, he says, ''It's a TV movie, it's not Shakespeare.''
Go figure, they cast him anyway. Perhaps it's because Timberlake, 19, is a bedroom-wall staple with millions of built-in Disney demographic fans. As Behavior's Jason Sharp, a supermodel who falls for a clever high school student (Party of Five's Maggie Lawson), Timberlake now climbing the charts with ''Bye Bye Bye,'' the first single from 'N Sync's new album, No Strings Attached had an arsenal of celebrity experience to draw from. ''Jason is highly sought out by the tabloids,'' says Timberlake, who costars with Kathie Lee Gifford and her 9-year-old son, Cody. ''Which I know nothing about.''
Even though the 'N Sync-er has emoted in countless videos, Timberlake wasn't blase about his tube debut. ''He was nervous,'' says exec producer Mike Karz. ''But that made him perform even better. When we were shooting the movie [in Toronto], he never went out. All he did was stay at his hotel and go to the set.'' He also chose to begin with a supporting part because, as Karz puts it, ''it's not like he's looking to do Purple Rain right now.'' Timberlake wouldn't mind, though, if Behavior led to bigger and better things. ''You hope somebody sees it that may think about you for a TV series or a feature film,'' says the singer. ''I'm just excited to do anything. Pimp me!''
Before legions of 'N Sync fans begin to hyperventilate, let us stress that Timberlake isn't saying ''Bye Bye Bye'' to his singing career just yet. ''Music has always been the center of my life,'' he says. ''I don't ever want to put anything in front of that.'' Good thing: He'll face tight competition in the acting department, what with future pinups like young Gifford in the wings. ''Cody takes me hands down,'' says Timberlake. ''All the young girls of America are now going to be into Cody.'' Let's just hope Gifford doesn't decide to form his own boy band. ''Then,'' Timberlake says, ''I'm in trouble.''