When heartthrob Antonio Sabato Jr. joined the cast of ABC's soap opera General Hospital in the spring of 1992, the show jumped from seventh to third in the daytime Nielsen Ratings. The relative newcomer inspired over 300 fan letters a week, appeared on the cover of TV Guide, and landed a coveted spot in People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People issue. He has since proven to be one of the hottest commodities to come out of daytime television, nabbing a series of prime-time roles, publishing a best-selling "beefcake" calendar, and modeling in the most successful Calvin Klein Underwear campaign in the company's history.
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A leap year baby, Sabato was born in Rome, Italy, on February 29, 1972. His father, Antonio Sabato Sr., a veteran Italian actor with credits in dozens of spaghetti Westerns and his mother, Yvonne, a real estate agent, moved Sabato and his sister to Beverly Hills in 1984. Knowing very little English, Sabato spent his time watching American television and taking ESL courses. He attended Beverly Hills High, where he took acting classes as a way to practice his new language and make friends. At 16, Sabato left school and temporarily moved to New York in an effort to experience life on his own.
In 1989, after earning his G.E.D., Sabato decided to concentrate on acting. With his father's help, he secured a role in the 1990 Italian film Karate Rock. That same year, he appeared stateside as the topless hunk in Janet Jackson's video for "Love Will Never Do Without You." This led to Sabato's television debut as Jagger Cates, a good-hearted, hash-slinging boxer on General Hospital. For his performance in one of daytime's most memorable and brooding roles -- Jagger's moody leitmotif was Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" -- Sabato earned Soap Opera Digest Award nominations for Hottest Male and Outstanding Newcomer. Banking on his newfound fame, the actor began moonlighting in movies of the week, starring opposite Dallas' Linda Gray as a deadly Casanova in Moment of Truth: Why My Daughter? (1993) and Beverly Hills 90210's Shannon Dougherty as an escaped convict in Jailbreakers (1994).
Sabato shocked fans when he abruptly left General Hospital in 1994 (though they did temporarily forgive him when he returned to the show for a brief cameo a year later). He subsequently joined the cast of NBC's Earth 2, a prime-time science fiction series about a group of humans who must flee Earth when it becomes uninhabitable. Developed by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment and produced by Michael Dugan (Law & Order), Carol Flint (China Beach), and Mark Levin (The Wonder Years), the show had an impressive pedigree and was expected to be a smash hit. Yet, audiences did not buy into its futuristic premise, which featured Sabato as a rocket pilot; NBC canceled Earth 2 after only one season. Hesitant to commit himself to another series, Sabato signed on to appear as Amanda's (Heather Locklear) abusive ex-husband in six episodes of FOX's Melrose Place before starring in a succession of television films. In Her Hidden Truth (1995), he played a smitten cop who helps wrongfully convicted Kellie Martin clear her name. In If Looks Could Kill: From the Files of America's Most Wanted (1996), he portrayed real-life con artist and murderer John Hawkins. In Thrill (1996), he starred as an engineer who must put aside his fear of heights to rescue his daughter from a roller coaster that is rigged with a bomb.
Meanwhile, fashion designer Calvin Klein saw If Looks Could Kill on television and personally requested to meet with Sabato. By the summer of 1996, the actor was the spokesperson for Calvin Klein Underwear, the company's first celebrity model since Mark Wahlberg four years earlier. During his tenure with Calvin Klein, Sabato appeared in a campaign photographed by Herb Ritts and on a 90-foot billboard in the middle of Times Square.
In 1998, Sabato made his big-budget American debut opposite Wahlberg, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Bokeem Woodbine as a hired gun in The Big Hit. The following years saw Sabato headlining several low-profile television movies and independent films in the United States and Italy. He also guest starred on FOX's Ally McBeal and landed a recurring role on the WB's Charmed.
Acting and modeling are not Sabato's only claims to fame. A fitness enthusiast, he published the best-selling exercise book No Excuses: Workout for Life in 1999. Sabato also owns his own production company, NAMTAB Productions (Batman spelled backwards), and is the celebrity spokesperson for the SAP United States Grand Prix Formula One race. ~ Aubry Anne D'Arminio, Rovi