by Crystal Chow
Seen fleetingly for the very first time, Brian Kerwin almost inevitably calls to mind the image of other men's faces. Most people think he is the spitting image of Nick Nolte circa the days of TV's Rich Man, Poor Man. He also bears a resemblance to Robert Redford. Furthermore, now that he's let his blond locks grow unchecked for the past seven months, Brian could pass as tennis ace Bjorn Borg's twin. Yet the man who looks like so many others is now a hot star in his own right, thanks to a bravura performance in the current film Murphy's Romance. In the romantic comedy Kerwin is paired with two-time Oscar winner Sally Field. He plays her feckless ex-husband, a man of contradictory but fascinating attitudes. On one hand he's charming and sweet; on the other, he's a rapscallion with few principles. In a way, this shifting of character, of standards and focus, defines Brian Kerwin himself.
His penchant for perversity shines brightest when it comes to acting. Kerwin speaks long and convincingly about his disdain for schlock projects. Mention soap operas or series TV and watch him shudder. Even so, next to stellar credits like The Subject Was Roses and Torch Song Trilogy, Brian's resume includes dressing down to sequined Speedos for a stripper-strut on The Love Boat. He also portrayed dirt-kicking Deputy Birdwell Hawkins for two years on NBC-TV's corny Lobo. And, lest we forget, this Chicago native even did a stint once on daytime's The Young and the Restless. Or, as his then-co-star David Hasselhoff laughingly billed it, "The Hung and the Useless."
With worthwhile projects like Murphy's Romance coming his way now, Brian Kerwin can afford to swear off soap operas and sitcoms forever--or at least until the Lobo residuals run out. Instead, he commits to high-class stage shows like Torch Song Trilogy. Not long ago, Kerwin jumped at the chance to join the San Francisco and Los Angeles casts of Torch Song. That he would be portraying someone with a definite homosexual bent bothered him not at all.
"It didn't even occur to me what it could mean until afterward. Right off the bat, people said "That's some courageous part you took.' Well, I'd seen the play on Broadway, not knowing I'd ever be considered for the role. All I thought was, it was brilliant play and a wonderful part.