Remember "Knight Rider," the classic 1980s show starring David Hasselhoff (as Michael Knight) and the talking car KITT?
Well, it's back in an updated fashion in a new movie, Knight Rider, which premieres Sunday, February 17, on NBC at 9/8c.
The new Knight Rider star, Justin Bruening, stopped by for a quick chat with Matt, Natalie, Al and Hoda this morning. WATCH VIDEO
Before he appeared on the show, Justin and I discussed how his life changed at a McDonald's, what to do when you're bored in Nebraska, and who's cooler: Hugh Hefner or David Hasselhoff.
Here's our conversation:
DF: First of all...I read that you were "discovered" at a McDonald's. Is that true? How does that happen?
Justin Bruening: Technically speaking, yes, I was. I was in Escondido, California. I actually worked at Blockbuster Video. I was on my way to work at about 6 in the morning. It was the night after my birthday, and there was a modeling agent in the McDonald's. Her car happened to break down so she just happened to be in there.
I was hung over and waiting for my breakfast burrito, sausage-egg McMuffin, and 50 other things I ordered. She approached me, tried to talk me into modeling. I was apprehensive at first, I didn't really want to do that. But she told me it was the best way to break into acting, which I did want to do, so I signed up.
DF: Did you think she was serious when she first approached you?
JB: No, I thought she was crazy. I thought she was stalking me, and I was trying to avoid her because I saw her staring at me across the room.
DF: So what got you to take the first step towards modeling and eventually acting?
JB: I say that acting sort of found me. It's something that I always wanted to do, ever since I was a kid. I grew up in a very small town in Nebraska, so that was kind of a pipe dream. So I decided to move to California after college, take a year off, and decide what I wanted to do.
Literally, I'm at a McDonald's, and a modeling scout found me. I had been approached before and had turned it down. But she was the only one who had mentioned the acting side of it. She said it was the best way to transition [to acting]. I met a lot of good friends...Bruce Weber was the first photographer I shot with, and he introduced me to a lot of people in this business.
DF: So you end up on "All My Children" for four years. What's the best part about being on a soap?
JB: The best part about being on a soap -- my wife's over here waving at me -- [to her] it was a general question, it wasn't about meeting my future wife on the show--
DF: Still, I think the right answer is, "Meeting my wife."
Alexa Havins: Day after Valentine's Day!
JB: Valentine's Day is over, honey. The romance is gone. No, every day with you is Valentine's Day...I'm so cheesy! Um, but besides meeting your future wife, the best thing about "All My Children" is it's consistent work.
It's a great training ground to learn being in front of the camera, blocking, finding your lights, things like that. Memorizing 50 billion lines a week and having that skill to memorize things fast. That's a great stepping-stone to doing what you want to do later, or if that's what you really enjoy, continuing.
DF: And the worst part about it?
JB: The worst part about it is having to memorize 50 billion lines a week, and basically everything I just said.
DF: Kind of a double-edged sword.
JB: Yeah, it's a bit of a double-edged sword. It's great training, but it's also really hard. I have so much respect for the people who have done it for 20 years. The guy who played my father on "All My Children," Michael Knight is his real name (which is a creepy coincidence), is my best friend on the show -- minus my wife. He's been there for 20-25 years, and I have complete respect for him, because he finds a way to make it interesting every single day, which is such a hard thing to do.
DF: Did you and your wife do anything special for Valentine's Day?
JB: We went to dinner up by where we used to live here in New York. Went to a place called Cafe Frida. Had a couple margaritas, had some wine, made some bad decisions, it was cool.
DF: You said you're from a small town in Nebraska...something like 85 people.
JB: Yeah, it's a village.
DF: So what do you do for fun in such a small town?
JB: Drive around a lot. As a kid, you kind of find inventive ways to get in trouble. A lot of outdoor stuff. We played baseball in the summer. Anything that has a motor on it, we'd drive around and tear up the dirt roads. Light things on fire.
DF: With only nine kids in your high school graduating class...did your school have a football team?
JB: Our class was just freakishly small. The other classes had about 35 kids. When I was in kindergarten there were three kids in my class, so it was just my age group. I don't think we ever got above 10 kids.
But yeah, they all become like your family. You see them every day, and it's such a small town, you end up going to kindergarten through 12th grade with them. They become your brothers and sisters, and I still have my two best friends, so it's fun.
DF: I know you were at the Playboy Mansion the other night for the Knight Rider gale premiere. How was that?
JB: I had never been there before, so it was definitely an experience. At the same time, it was a work event, so we kept it very professional...minus the girls with the sprayed-on shirts, which was odd. I have a picture in my phone which my wife made me take. But it was a lot of fun. I got to meet Hugh Hefner, and I hadn't seen our cast from Knight Rider in a while, so it's fun to see them outside of work.
DF: So who's cooler...Hef or the Hoff?
JB: I was sandwiched between them that night. The Hoff on one side, Hef on the other. I don't know...that's a tough call. They're pretty similar. They're both pimps, man, they're both great. If I had to go with one, I guess I'd have to go with the Hoff. He is my predecessor. He's the epitome of cool.
DF: Any special plans for Sunday night when Knight Rider premieres?
JB: The cast and everyone involved in the production is getting together in California. We all became pretty good friends, we're all about the same age, all about 28, so we're in the same place in our lives. We'll watch it and turn on every TV that we have to it so the ratings are nice and high.
We rented out a room in a bar in L.A. We'll watch it on the big screen, and I'll be all embarrassed and hiding out.
DF: Do you not like watching yourself?
JB: I don't. From an acting standpoint, I get very critical of myself. I'm kind of a perfectionist. I'll see one thing that I don't like, and it will ruin the entire thing for me. I've gotten better about that, but I still prefer not to watch.
But it's Knight Rider, so it's probably the coolest show on television, so I'm conflicted. Part of me thinks I shouldn't have gotten the job so I could just watch it. But no, I wouldn't trade it for the world.
DF: Last thing...what music are you listening to lately?
JB: The new Jack Johnson. Sleep Through the Static. That's how I get my day going. I mix it up with some AC/DC, throw in some Korn in case I have to wake up. Jack Johnson is a bit of a lullaby, helps you ease into things.