Wilson Bethel: On His Own at 17 and Now Heating Up “Hart Of Dixie” Sans Shirt


Shirtless or not, Wilson Bethel is tough to ignore on the CW series, Hart Of Dixie.

The CW freshman comedy/drama series Hart Of Dixie has star Rachel Bilson at its core as Dr. Zoe Hart, moving from the metropolitan streets of New York City to the small town of Bluebell, Alabama.  But the show could also be called Hot In Dixie, since there are more than a few good looking fellas circling Bilson. Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights, The Good Wife) and Cress Williams (Grey’s Anatomy) are two such pieces of eye candy on the show, but it’s difficult not to notice Wilson Bethel, who plays Dr. Hart’s charming, sexy and often shirtless and sweaty neighbor Wade Kinsella.

While it remains to be seen where the various romantic entanglements on the series will end up, viewers can expect the rest of Season One to include more light-hearted comedy, a splash of drama and, since the show is set in the deep South, a multitude of reasons to get Bethel and his male co-stars in as little clothes as possible. In fact, in one episode last fall – entitled In Havoc & In Heat Bethel was given a slow-motion walk out of a pond where the adoring camera lingered along his ripped torso. Thank you, Hart of Dixie.

There’s more good news, though, in that the friendly & well-mannered Bethel clearly has a lot more going on for him than just his striking looks. AfterElton found that out at the recent Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour when we sat down with the actor for a chat. Among other items, he shared his thoughts on playing gay and talked about his career pre-Hart of Dixie, which included getting fired from another popular prime time soap!

A welcome scene from the “In Havoc & In Heat” episode of Hart Of Dixie

AfterElton.com: Let’s first talk about your pre Hart of Dixie life, During the “Bad Ass Boys of the CW” panel, you talked about writing poetry…
WB:
Writing has always been a big part of my life. My mother’s a writer and I grew up in a household where that was something that meant a lot to me. For years, especially when my acting career wasn’t where I wanted it to be, I would tell people that I was a writer. Whether or not that meant anything to anyone is anybody’s guess. That is something I am very proud of and is a very important part of my life. I think that one thing that I am really proud of is the way that my career in my adult life has grown and expanded. You know, I’ve been on my own since I was seventeen.

AE: I didn’t know that.
WB:
And supporting myself, under some pretty gnarly circumstances, and trying to make it in the world as an artist. It’s not easy, but I think what’s cool is that, at this stage, I’m able to look back over the last ten years and look at it all as like a really pretty dynamic growth experience.

I wouldn’t have traded for anything to have been like an overnight success when I was twenty-one. And I think that it’s often like that myth of overnight stardom and stuff like that. For some people that does happen, but for many more people it’s a lot of hard work and there are a lot of ups and downs. The whole journey for me has been as much about a journey of acting as it has been about growing up and becoming an adult and figuring out who I am as an artist. And that’s all been part of the growth I guess.

Bethel’s character Wade Kinsella needs a little cooling off now and again. (with Rachel Bilson)

AE: Why have you been on your own since seventeen?
WB:
That was a decision I made when I graduated from high school. I decided I wasn’t going to college, and I got a one-way ticket to Africa. I spent a year traveling around Africa. When I came back from that I was pretty firmly in the individualist camp and decided that from that stage on I was going to make my own way and do things on my own terms.

AE: That’s really impressive to do at a young age like that.
WB:
That was kind of how I ended up in LA. From the outset it was blazing my own trail. That has been very important to me even since I was a young teenager that I was going to really make my mark in the world in my own terms and figure it out myself.

AE: Okay. Sounds like acting kind of folds in with all the creative stuff you want to do with the music and stuff, but the acting is just another extension of all that.
WB:
I grew up in a household that was very encouraging of artistic pursuit, which is one of the greatest gifts I think that anybody who is even remotely inclined toward the arts can have is support. Then it’s a matter of being really brave in the face of a lot of… well not necessarily brave… maybe dumb. Maybe like naïve, or maybe a lot of other things. You know, having a certain amount of fortitude to push on even when it seems really unlikely that you’re really going to be making any kind of reasonable life for yourself at it.

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