Hoosier Times
Freddie takes pilot's seat in WC.

CENTURY CITY -- Freddie Prinze Jr. was not the high school prom king. Despite all appearances to the contrary, it's only the role that he plays in "She's All That." The 23-year-old actor and son of the late "Chico and the Man" star Freddie Prinze has only recently become teenage royalty, due to his roles in films such as "I Know What You Did Last Summer" and "The House of Yes."

"I was a dork in high school. I barely even got to go to the prom," said the dark-haired idol. "Everybody thought I was this weird guy because I had this strange imagination that nobody quite understood. I would pretend that I was a superhero, so they didn't really talk to me that much. I didn't have too many dance opportunities."

To the casual observer, it's not surprising to hear that Prinze was into comic books or video games. Hunched up in his chair and talking non-stop about all sorts of topics, Prinze's energy and youthful exuberance are impossible to miss. One rightfully assumes that Prinze still imagines himself as some sort of superhero.

"Back then, I was considered weird and a freak," said the actor. "Now, I'm considered artistic, and I do the exact same thing that I was doing back then."

The difference lies in Prinze's dedication to his craft. Coming off an unsuccessful high school experience in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Prinze decided that he would give acting a try and moved to L.A. He took lessons from two coaches, and several auditions later, earned a breakthrough role playing Parker Posey's equally dysfunctional sibling in "The House of Yes."

Prinze followed "The House of Yes" with a role as Jennifer Love Hewitt's boyfriend in the ultra-successful horror hit "I Know What You Did Last Summer," as well as last fall's sequel. Besides Hewitt, Prinze has appeared opposite Claire Danes in "To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday," and will star again with "She's All That" co-star Matthew Lillard in the upcoming "Wing Commander." All of these achievements he takes in stride, with a healthy sense of gratitude.

"This is what I did when I was a little kid. I just didn't know it was called acting," said Prinze. "Since I don't get to say thanks to everybody, I want to be a part of movies like this, because they're something that I believe in and they really speak to my generation. It's my way of saying 'thank you, this is a movie for you. This is something that I was able to be a part of because of you."

Ever the gracious actor, Prinze also compliments his cast and crew and doesn't shy away from praising their accomplishments. Although most actors hype their product because they're supposed to do it, Prinze seems to genuinely mean what he thinks and says about "She's All That."

"I've never had more fun on a movie. I'm not trying to sound egotistical, but out of the few films that I've made, this is the best one. I've never been more proud of a film," said the actor. "It wasn't about walking on eggshells. It was about making a movie that everybody believed in."

The movie, like the adolescent films of John Hughes, said Prinze, simply "works." The actor, who shares his character's tremendous likability, relates the film's success in simple terms.

"It's o.k. to not know what you want to do with your life. Everybody has felt like that," said the actor. "And everybody has looked in the mirror and maybe not liked the way they look. I know I have. That's why you're willing to believe these characters and the journey they go on."

Explaining the movie's appeal, it's easy to understand why a writer who had interviewed Prinze and his father labeled them both as "sweet." The young actor is not only open to talking about himself, but he's willing to field questions about his dad, and he talks positively about his legacy.

"A lot of people think that because of the nature of his death that I'm going to be really sensitive about it," said Prinze. "But I'm proud of my dad. I'm not going to dwell on the bad stuff. My father made a lot of people laugh, and made a lot of people love him through laughter. That's the hardest thing to do in the world, and I'm so proud of him. I have no feelings of shame or guilt. When people do talk to me about him, I listen."

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