Now that the "Beverly Hills, 90210" season on Fox is over, Jamie Walters gets to concentrate on his first love. No, not Donna Martin, Tori Spelling's character. Music.
Walters, who joined the cast as blue-collar singer Ray Pruit this season, will be back in Western New York for WKSE-FM's Memorial Day bash at the Pier.
I caught up with him during his last visit here in December, when he sang at the Connecticut Street Armory and was mobbed the next day at a mall appearance.
Here it is five months later and Walters' song, "Hold On," is still in the Top 20. He sang it again at the end of Wednesday's season finale.
During a luncheon interview, Walters seemed perfectly normal, especially for a musician and an actor. He even seemed to be the kind of guy you wouldn't mind your daughter dating.
Ask producer Aaron Spelling ("90210," "Melrose Place"), who first hired Walters for his failed music series "The Heights" and then essentially hired him to date his daughter's character on "90210."
Was Walters nervous about playing opposite the boss' daughter?
"When I first started I was really nervous about that," Walters said. "First of all, it was flattering he called and asked me to be on the show. And then even more so that he had asked me to be his daughter's love interest. I felt like Aaron must think I'm an OK guy if he sets me up with his daughter."
Of course, Spelling also might have been thinking that Walters was safe enough to be set up with his daughter.
"I never thought of it that way," Walters said with a smile.
"Tori was, like, great. We went out to dinner a couple of times before we started shooting and got to know each other a little bit. She totally put me at ease, and when we started working together I think she was more nervous than I was."
Ray hasn't been a good boy for the entire season. He had a brief fling with Valerie (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen). And in Wednesday's finale, Ray grabbed Donna during an argument before she fell down some stairs and sprained her arm.
Walters, who signed a two-year deal, thinks Ray has become such a popular character because he is soooo unlike Beverly Hills.
"Ray just represents more normal upbringing, like a real person," Walters said. "He's not necessarily a bad guy. He's not an evil person. His character really has caught on because people can identify with him. He's not from Beverly Hills, he doesn't drive a BMW, he's not glamorous."
Ray also is supposed to be older than the rest of the characters on a show that star Jason Priestley (Brandon) sarcastically refers to as "Geriatric Hills, 90210." Like his character, Walters is 25.
"I'm supposed to be the oldest guy on the show and I'm really one of the youngest," Walters said.
The son of a lawyer and schoolteacher who was raised in Marblehead, Mass., Walters thinks his normal childhood has helped him deal with the ups and downs of an artist's life.
"I was never involved in the entertainment business until I was 19 or 20 years old, so my whole upbringing was very straightforward," he said. "I got a real strong work ethic, and I think that is one of my strongest attributes. It has helped me to survive in Los Angeles.
"Most of the people who have grown up in the business have kind of grown up in a little isolated bubble, not really in touch with the rest of the country or the world, for that matter. Most people don't live that way. It's unfortunate that they think of themselves as failures as people if they weren't in the entertainment business.
"There are so many other things to do in the world besides being an actor or a musician and having fame. I don't take it for granted. I love what I do, I'm so happy to be paid for what I'm wanting to do, which is acting and music and being able to combine the two. I'll enjoy it as long as it lasts."
Of course, having dual careers can be a double-edged sword for Walters.
"My history is more in music than in acting," he said. "I made a name for myself as an actor before I did as a musician. Unfortunately, people don't like to take actors seriously when they try to cross over into music.
"It is a double-edged sword. They'll know who I am from TV, but they have a hard time accepting me as a musician. So what I've been doing is going out and playing all over the place. So far the response has been great. People seem to dig the music and they are impressed I'm actually doing it. It's not Milli Vanilli up there."
The response certainly has been great in Buffalo.