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Another lovable jerk — Actor/Utah native Matthew Davis plays bad guys you love to hate

Matthew Davis
Matthew Davis
ABC/Bob Damico

PASADENA, Calif. — So . . . what about Matthew Davis?

The Utah native — best known for his role as the bad guy in the movie "Legally Blonde" — has landed his first regular role in a TV series. He's a member of the ensemble cast of ABC's new comedy/drama "What About Brian."

"It's awesome," Davis said, sounding every bit the graduate of Woods Cross High School that he is.

Not that he was thinking about a career in acting when he was still in high school. The acting bug bit him when he began attending the University of Utah and took some theater classes.

"It was like I'd found what I really wanted to do," Davis said. "It's not something I planned on."

And it didn't take the 27-year-old long to decide he had to take a stab at acting success, if not stardom. He left the University of Utah and headed for New York City, where he appeared in several plays before landing his first movie role in "Urban Legends: Final Cut."

"Hey, I was happy to get it," Davis said. "It was a big break for me."

A lot of actors have started out in horror films. And it led to roles in other movies, including "Tigerland," "Blue Crush," "Heights," "Pearl Harbor" — and, most notably, "Legally Blonde," in which he played Reese Witherspoon's boyfriend-you-love-to-hate, the guy she went to Harvard Law School to be near.

"That's probably what most people know me from," Davis said. "And now this, I hope."

"This" is the promising new series "What About Brian" — sort of a new take on "thirtysomething" for the 21st century.

Brian (Barry Watson of "7th Heaven") is the seventh wheel in a group of friends — three couples and commitment-phobic Brian. There's his older, desperate-to-be-a-mother sister Nic (Rosanna Arquette) and her much-younger husband Angelo (Raoul Bova); Dave (Rick Gomez), Brian's partner in a video-game business; and his stay-at-home wife Deena (Amanda Detmer), whose marriage isn't as happy as it seems.

And Adam (Davis), Brian's best friend since childhood, who just got engaged to Marjorie (Sarah Lancaster). With one little complication: Brian is in love with Marjorie.

"Things definitely get interesting," Davis said. "As soon as I read the script, I knew I wanted to do this show."

Even though there are some similarities between Adam — a lawyer who's always been a ladies' man — and the character Davis played in "Legally Blonde." "They're really not that similar. This is a much different guy."

The team running the show promises that viewers are "going to root for him," said creator/executive producer Dana Stevens, even when Adam is not exactly acting like the perfect boyfriend/fiance.

"He's the most lovable jerk there is," Watson joked.

"Sometimes when we write him, we say in the script he reads like a German shepherd, but the way Matt plays him is like a golden retriever," said executive producer Jeff Judah. "And there is something just very lovable about him, and he can get away with a lot."

And, while Adam and Marjorie don't necessarily seem all that sure that they're headed for the altar, the character of Adam is designed to contrast with Brian, who doesn't know what he wants out of life.

"Brian . . . is sort of searching. Adam is very clear what he wants," Judah said. "And that's what we like about him, and that's what Matt plays very well."

And it's not easy to make a character who sometimes acts like a bad guy seem like a good guy. At least seem like someone you'd have as a friend. Or seem like someone you might want to watch on a TV show week after week for X number of years.

"It's a great role. I'm excited about all of this," Davis said. "(Weekly TV) is a new thing for me, but so far I'm loving it."

And, of course, it's a steady job. Or, at least, a steady job compared to jumping from film to film or play to play. And as steady a paycheck as actors can get. Which has got to be good news to his parents back home in Utah.

"Oh, they've always been completely supportive of me," Davis said. "When they knew I was serious about this, they were behind me all the way."

If you watch . . .

What: The new TV series "What About Brian"

Channel: ABC/Ch. 4

When: Debuts Sunday at 9 p.m.; moves to its regular time slot Monday at 9 p.m.