The next Luke Perry comes from Oak Hills High School?
Adam Gregory Salling, a 2006 graduate, plays the rich bad boy on CW's new hit, "90210," similar to Perry's Dylan McKay on Fox's "Beverly Hills 90210" in the 1990s.
"I've always played the jock or the heartthrob, so to have a character with an edge or twist is fun. It's great to play something other than what you are," says the 19-year-old Green Township native.
The actor - now known as Adam Gregory - appeared in the Sept. 2 premiere as Ty Collins, the mysterious wealthy West Beverly Hills High School sophomore who drives a Bentley convertible.
As the love interest for main character Annie Wilson (Shenae Grimes), Ty took her to dinner - on his private jet to San Francisco. He asked her out to a concert last week.
"He's the mysterious, rich, extravagant bad boy - and that's what girls like about him," says Gregory by phone from Hollywood.
And his cool car. The white Bentley is a far cry from the '97 green Suzuki he drove to Oak Hills High.
"It was voted worst car in the parking lot (by students). It was like a sardine can, with no AC or heat. But I loved my little car," says the son of Dennis Salling of Cleves and Debbie Salling of Delhi Township.
On the "90210" premiere - the highest-rated premiere for adults 18-49 in CW history - Ty was rehearsing a song in a classroom. Soon viewers will see him as the lead in the school musical directed by Brenda Walsh (Shannen Doherty from the old "90210").
Gregory was asked to audition by casting directors who had seen him earlier this year for the role of Ethan, another student. The directors weren't aware Gregory had plenty of high school musical experience in "Les Miserables," "Honk!" and "Pirates of Penzance."
"They didn't know what I did. It just worked out that way," says Gregory, who got involved with theater as a freshman after a fractured foot ended his baseball career. He attended Springmeyer Elementary School and Bridgetown Middle School.
Oak Hills drama teacher Skip Badonsky says Gregory "had a great career" as an Oak Hills actor. "He has a great sense of humor, and was very strong in his dramatic roles."
When Gregory played Marius in "Les Miserables," vocal teacher June Hill said "he looked like a movie star. He's extremely handsome. He's very talented and works very hard."
Hill says she was "a little disappointed" when Gregory dropped out of Northern Kentucky University after a semester to try to make it in show business. He signed with Kat McEntee's Katalyst agency in Covington, where he was seen by Hollywood talent manger Lori Noekler Knight, a Fort Mitchell native. Knight persuaded him to come to California in January 2007.
"I never dreamed anything would come of it," Gregory says.
Now he's living the dream. Before "90210," he shot movies with two of Hollywood's hottest stars: "Seventeen Again" with Zach Efron ("High School Musical") due out in February, and "Hannah Montana: The Movie" with Miley Cyrus, due out in May.
"I'm so happy, I can't put it in words," Gregory says. "I love it to death. I wouldn't change anything for the world."
Except maybe becoming a full-time cast member, instead of a recurring character. He appears in the first six episodes, but not the seventh show - "I can't say why" - and doesn't know about the eighth.
"The script isn't written yet, so we'll see if it's continuous for me, or stops and starts. It depends on how the story lines go," he says.
"It's an honor to be on this show, which was one of the biggest shows in pop culture at one time. I'm just doing the best I can to make this show a hit."