For a man who plays a character named Profit on a show about unmitigated greed, Adrian Pasdar doesn't seem to care a whole lot about money. If he did, the world might know him better as a brooding hunk on Melrose Place. The dark-haired actor, you see, turned down an invitation to producer Aaron Spelling's mansion to discuss playing Melrose's Jake. In retrospect, ''I would have made a fortune, but artistically I didn't feel compelled,'' says Pasdar, oh so diplomatically. ''I'd be lost on a show like that.''
Instead, Pasdar finds himself in Profit, a wry, cerebral (at least for TV) drama that premieres on Fox April 8 at 8 p.m., before occupying its regular time slot following guess what? Melrose Place. ''Isn't life funny?'' he sighs. His character a wicked, velvet-voiced corporate whiz kid who once set his father on fire and now has nookie with his stepmom gives new life to bad. ''The show is a tremendous litmus test,'' says Pasdar, 30. ''Because if this doesn't work out, I don't belong on TV. It doesn't get any better than this.''
And that's from someone who is very tight with praise especially when it comes to his own projects. Aside from an occasional high point (his debut in Top Gun and the lead in the cult horror flick Near Dark), Pasdar dismisses much of his movie work with words like disaster and boring. ''I didn't want anything to do with the publicity,'' he says of such films as Made in the U.S.A. and Vital Signs. ''I didn't find any of these films worth promoting.''
In fact, the Philadelphia native grew so disenchanted with the schmooze-heavy Hollywood scene, he exiled himself from it twice. Inspired by the Wim Wenders film Wings of Desire, Pasdar moved to Berlin in 1989 and spent a year working on a book and several screenplays. He eventually returned to Los Angeles, only to drop out again in 1992, choosing to sell his Hollywood Hills home at ''a huge loss,'' move into a friend's extra room in New York City, and take a $4-an-hour job flipping and serving burgers at the Van Dam Diner. ''This was an honest living,'' says Pasdar, who insists his detour waiting tables wasn't forced by a lack of job offers. ''It was just what I needed.''
But when he read Profit whose writing he calls ''captivating'' Pasdar asked a diner coworker to cover his shift while he met with executive producer David Greenwalt. ''He got it like nobody else,'' says Greenwalt. ''He could play this character with all the depth of his dark side and all the charm of his charismatic side.'' Just imagine what he could have done with Jake.