You really should hate the guy. He's got a killer body, the kind of looks that make women melt, and a backstory that reads like some Hollywood classic. Here's the plot line: Starting out as an aimless SoCal skater kid, Jason Lewis stumbled into modeling, which led to some minor acting gigs, which morphed into a breakout role as Kim Cattrall's lank-haired, ab-gifted boy toy during the final season of HBO's Sex and the City. Soon came fame, fans, and an outsized portion of media attention, much of it over his steel-cut physique (liberally put on display during the series, most often body-locked with Cattrall). It was pretty much that simple.
There were more showy roles (notably as a closeted gay actor on ABC's Brothers & Sisters), boldfaced name status in the tabloids (his romance and subsequent breakup from actress Rosario Dawson was chronicled in painstaking detail), and now, a turn in the feature film version of Sex and the City, a preordained summer blockbuster certain to give the 36-year-old's career another rocket jolt. As if he needs it.
If the seemingly effortless trajectory of his success isn't enough to foster buckets of envy-fueled irritation, just peruse the images in these pages. The man doesn't just turn heads, he sends them into whiplash. Female and male. Women routinely ask him to sign body parts. Not too long ago, the celebrity rumor mill worked itself into a frenzy over a report that he and Jennifer Aniston were dating, a story based apparently on little more than the assumption that two individuals this genetically blessed (and available) should be in a relationship.
But just when you're ready to resent his very existence, Lewis takes you off script by being, well, pretty cool. He's a Californian who distrusts L.A.; a chiseled sex symbol who's nonchalant about gym commitments (OK, that's not so cool to us!); an actor whose grand plan to capitalize on this summer's media exposure is to ditch Hollywood and go snowboarding in Chile. What's to hate?
You find yourself sitting across from him at a sidewalk table outside a hip Venice Beach deli, soaking in the glorious midmorning California sun, watching as he casually flips pieces of steak to Beqa, his beloved 11-year-old Rhodesian ridgeback. Jealousy is the furthest thing from your mind. But if for only a day, you just really want to be Jason Lewis.
Our Exclusive (and Extended) Q & A
Below is the complete interview from our May 2008 issue. Click here to read our Web Exclusive Q&A.
MF: Now that the Sex and the City movie is a wrap, what are your plans for the year?
JL: Nothing. I want to sit and be less career oriented. Snowboard, dirt bike, mountain bike, surf. Just be human. To me, that's an important part of life.
That's not very Hollywood of you.
I'm wary of the whole Los Angeles scene. I'm a California kid, but there's a difference between California and Los Angeles. L.A. is urban. California is restorative.
And the California lifestyle, that's the key to your fitness?
Absolutely. One of the questions I get asked a lot is, "What do you do to stay in shape?" My glib answer is, I play. But I mean it. Sure, I go to the gym, but I don't spend my life there. Most of my activity is outdoors, whether it's basketball or mountain biking or rock climbing. On some days me and my friends will do a triple—we'll start out surfing, then go play ball, then ride dirt bikes until it gets dark.
Do you ever feel any pressure to maintain your physique?
Not really. I'm human, I fall in and out of shape. But I'm fortunate that my lifestyle keeps me fit. I don't live a life where I'm thinking about keeping my abs tight. I'm thinking about being able to pull a 30-foot hit off my snowboard this weekend.
Sex and the City put you on the map, but as a pretty-boy sex object. After the show ended what kind of roles came your way?
It was easy to get the offers for the goodlooking vapid dude. I guess that's my power alley. [Laughs]
Do you think you are stereotyped?
I have no regrets. If the show has in any way given me some sort of stigma, it's also something that gave me a huge burst of career. If that's the adversity I've got to worry about in life, big deal. I'm not digging ditches.
It's been four years since the show went off the air. When they approached you about the movie, did you think, "I've moved past that role"?
People have these ideas of what you're supposed to do to have a career, like play against type, or don't revisit a character. I'm just not that precious. It's not that big a fucking deal. Of course you'd like to do a broader range. But it's nothing I worry about. It's a role that I'm very much identified with. And it's just a job. Everyone who's holding out like they're the biggest star in Hollywood? Most of us aren't. Just enjoy it.
A lot of actors feel it's part of their job to stay fit. Do you agree?
Most people engage in exercise just like that, with this incredible sense of obligation. They turn it into this ridiculous regimen of effort and time. I go snowboarding, I'm out there for eight hours. I go surfing, I can be out there for six hours. My body's screaming to quit, but that little kid in me is going, "One more run." And when I stop it's because I'm falling down, not because I got through my hour and a half of exercise.
What did the breakup with Rosario Dawson do to you physically?
I lived this lifestyle long before I met Rosario. So it wasn't like I lost my ability to function without her. I mean, it definitely hurt my feelings. I wanted to hide my head under a pillow. But I didn't forget how to live life. I don't think any relationship should be like that. Unfortunately, a lot are. That's called codependency, isn't it?
Was it hard since all that played out so publicly?
It's not the greatest. But I tend not to read that stuff. I can't be running around trying to control every little thing. It takes too much energy. Spoiler: I'm not dating Jennifer Aniston. I never even met the girl. I told a friend it was the least complicated relationship I've ever been in.
Does stuff like that make you resentful toward the tabloids?
Now and then, but you've got to take them with a grain of salt. Who cares? People say shit about you all the time in real life.
What about the paparazzi?
I think it's a weird, fucked-up thing to do. Photography's a beautiful art, but hunting and being a vulture isn't. Yeah, we all need money, but we all make conscious decisions about how we go there. I'm not selling small children into the slave market, I'm not dealing drugs and I'm not a paparazzo.
Any crazy fan encounters?
One time a girl came up and said, "Sign my breast." Then another ran up and showed me her ass. And pretty soon it was like a reveal-the-body-parts competition. That's when I had to bail out. I said, "This is not about me, this is about you."
Still, life could be worse.
Hey, I like what I do. I'm getting to do what I want for a career and not everyone gets to say that. Might as well enjoy it.
Web Exclusive Q & A
How did the rumor about you and Jennifer Aniston got started?
I don't know. What's the point of speculating? As far as I can track, the closest I've ever been to her was at the GLAAD [Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation] Awards-we both presented there last year. But I think there were 15,000 people there. I was actually thinking, "That poor girl." I'm single now, so nobody's getting hurt by the fact that I'm "dating" Jennifer Aniston. But the paparazzi are all over her misery. The [rumor about us] is so far from the truth that it's got to be a little bit of a relief for her.
Were you trying to play against type when you took the role of an actor struggling with his sexual identity in Brothers & Sisters?
I was definitely looking for something that's interesting, demanding, and creative. With that character, the writers did a really nice job of addressing the dynamic of being in a space where you have to hide from yourself and hide from the world, and the constant energy and torture and fear associated with that. It wasn't about him being gay so much as it was about how much of a struggle it is to just be yourself.
Did you enjoy modeling?
Very much. And when I was done with it, I got out of it. It was more or less a means to an end. I always dreamed of going to Europe, and the opportunity presented itself to go to Paris and model.
Why switch to acting?
There was a ceiling with how far I could go with modeling, a ceiling with what it was asking of me in life. It was fantastic when I was young-I got to travel around the world and be exposed to different cultures. But there was nothing else growing in me. I love what I do as an actor, exploring story. You're constantly engaged and it's never the same thing.
If you were forced to choose between a life of outdoor activity or of one pursuing creative interests, which would you pick?
I'd have to live in my head, probably more so than my body. I'm 36 years old. When I fall it's not the same as when I was 20. If I keep my stuff together I've got years more out of my head. But I'm not giving up the body anytime soon. I'm looking to snowboard until I'm about 80 or 85. Then I'll start slowing down.