James Van Der Beek: 'Dawson's Creek' 'paid almost nothing'

Bob D'amico / ABC / Today

James Van Der Beek is finally cashing in on “Dawson’s Creek” -- a show the actor says paid “almost nothing” during its five season run.

“There was no residual money,” he told TODAY.com.  “I was 20.  It was a bad contract. I saw almost nothing from that.”

Now the newly remarried father of two is playing a fictionalized version of his post-teen heartthrob self on the new ABC comedy “Don't Trust the B— in Apartment 23.”

“I auditioned against six other James Van Der Beeks for this role,” he joked when the show was first presented for TV critics last winter. “By default, it was me.”

On the series -- premiering Wednesday -- Van Der Beek pokes fun at his WB days by seducing women with Dawson Leery’s trademark flannel shirts and Paula Cole’s tune “I Don’t Wanna Wait” (the “Dawson’s Creek” theme song).

Van Der Beek, 36, said he signed on to play the former lover and BFF of New York scam artist Chloe (Krysten Ritter) -- who terrorizes, but then befriends her new roommate June (Dreama Walker) -- “when the (‘Dawson’s Creek’) money ran out.”

But don’t feel too sorry for him: According to documents obtained by TMZ during his divorce from actress Heather McComb, the actor was still pulling in a hefty $49,343 a month (with $4,100 going to charity) as of 2010!

While Van Der Beek has continued to appear in movies, he admits it wasn’t always easy to poke fun at himself -- or the character that made him once so famous.

“You are incredibly fortunate whatever success falls on you, which is what happened with me,” he said.  “But as soon as that happens, I think there is a tendency to feel like you have something to lose. Or something to protect. That can often lead to taking yourself a little too seriously. 

“It is very easy if you have all the money in the world to just sit back and coast. But if you realized that you are going to have to start providing for yourself and for your family, it really forces you to buckle down.”

In recent years, he said, “I started saying yes to things that I had been saying no to previously. I really passed on a lot of things out of fear or ‘What are people going to think?’ or ‘Is this what I really want to do?’ You can find a million reasons to say no to something. Then I got to a point where I thought, ‘What am I doing?’ And I started saying yes to anything that sounded fun.”  

Along the way, Van Der Beek admitted he was too quick to say no to many projects.

“There were meetings for things that would have kept me a little more relevant,” he recalled.  “But I thought, ‘I don’t really want to do another horror movie, do I?’  And, of course, doing ‘Amityville Horror’ would have been a really good career move at the time!”

"Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23" premires on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on ABC.

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Sean Daly runs the blog SingersAndCritics.com, which covers reality singing-competition shows.

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