If you're an actor living on the mean streets of New York while trying for that big break, 12 years of martial arts training comes in handy. Just ask Bryan Genesse, who's found out for himself.
"I've gotten into a lot of fights," says Genesse, who has black belts in tae kwan do and two styles of kung fu. "I lived in Harlem, I was a bouncer for a while. . . . I'm fortunate because I'm alive and happy."
These days, Genesse has a lot to be happy about. He just landed the lead role, opposite Carl Weathers, in the new syndicated Stephen J. Cannell series "Street Justice." The 27-year-old actor plays a crime-solving "rebel who bucks the system and doesn't want to go by the law."
Genesse's character also just happens to be a martial- arts expert--another reason why those black belts have proved valuable.
"I choreograph all the fight scenes and do all my own fights," Genesse says, but adds that his fighting abilities were more a lucky coincidence than a prerequisite for the role.
"The funny thing is, they didn't need me to do martial arts. They said they could always get someone to double them. During auditions, they asked every actor if he'd studied martial arts and, as all actors will do if they took a karate class when they were 12, everybody said yes. We were just lucky I could do that myself."
Genesse, who spent two years as streetwise Rocco on "The Bold and the Beautiful," says he's a bit worried about being typecast in martial-arts roles. "The public sometimes dictates what you do, because if you stretch too much the public won't go for it," he says.
On the other hand, you probably won't see him playing a librarian any time soon. "I've worked in my father's business doing books, but I chose to wear leather and be perceived a different way. That's part of the persona I've put forth."