ON THE FIRST episode of "The Haves and the Have Nots," Ty Lepley appears on the TV screen bare-chested and wearing a pair of pajama pants slung so low, they could give a gal whiplash.
Jaw hanging, I asked myself, "Who is that guy?"
Turns out he's a homeboy, a former Doylestown resident who moved out to Los Angeles just two years ago.
He didn't go out there with the intention of becoming an actor. The 26-year-old Kutztown University grad was just looking for a change. Somewhere between hanging out at a gym in Santa Monica and last month's "Haves" premiere on the Oprah Winfrey Network, some smart soul spotted Lepley flexing those biceps of his and said he oughta be in pictures.
All I can say is, thank you.
Don't get it twisted, though.
Lepley's more than just caramel-colored eye candy. He proved as much during a visit to Philly last week. While in town, he stopped by the Daily News to talk about his new gig, his failed NFL dreams and his love life.
But first, let's hear more about "The Haves and the Have Nots," a Tyler Perry production that Lepley describes as an upstairs-downstairs sort of drama, full of intrigue and scandal, as the lives of a rich Georgia family intertwine with those of the people who work for them. Lepley's character, Benny Young, is the nice guy, son of a housemaid who helps keep his family together.
"The first few episodes were great," he said of the show, which airs Tuesdays at 9. "But my understanding of where these stories are about to unfold to, I really want to get into the deeper episodes, because we really all have tumultuous stories, man."
And, hopefully, more scenes where we can get a look at those washboard abs?
Growing up, Lepley had a stable but trying childhood, in part because he always felt different. His mom and stepdad are white, but he's biracial.
"I didn't see anyone that was around me that looked like me," he recalled.
Lepley's athletic prowess was on full display at Central Bucks High School West, where he played basketball and football and ran track. He won a football scholarship to Kutztown, where he was a starting running back.
By age 19, he was the classic big man on campus. Until a 2007 incident that changed everything.
Following a night of drinking, Lepley and another player got into a fight with some students, which led to the players both being arrested and eventually expelled. Lepley later fought to get himself reinstated in school, but his football career was finished. It was a crushing blow.
"My coach kicked me off the team," he said. "What a humbling experience."
He continued: "I was taught a serious lesson. I was stripped of football. I also was stripped of my schooling. Everything that I had was taken away from me."
After Kutztown agreed to let him back in school, Lepley worked hard for the next two years and graduated in 2010 with a degree in criminal justice. However, with a misdemeanor record, Lepley couldn't find a job in any criminal-justice field. He also tried and failed to get a dealer's license to work at Parx Casino.
Lepley wound up pumping gas. He worked in a sandwich shop. He did some gambling and worked as a bookie. It was a path to nowhere, and Lepley realized it.
In 2011, he moved out to Los Angeles after a friend offered him a place to stay. Once there, he became a gym rat, hanging around Iron Fitness, in Santa Monica.
That's where he met a guy who told him he might be good in movies. Initially skeptical, Lepley auditioned for the man's friend and wound up snagging a lead role in a low-budget, independent horror flick called, "Slumber Party Slaughter."
That kicked off his acting career. An agent encouraged him to get serious about his craft and take acting classes, a move he initially resisted. He thought he didn't need classes. Wasn't he getting cast without them? He could just continue doing what he was doing. Then Lepley remembered his squandered football dreams and wisely decided not to be bigheaded. He took his agent's advice.
In addition to independent films, he's been cast in an episode of CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and the CW's "90210." He plays a potential love interest of Paula Patton's in "Baggage Claim," due out this fall from Fox Searchlight.
So far, his biggest role has been in "The Haves and the Have Nots." On its May 28 debut, the show attracted the largest OWN audience yet - 1.8 million viewers.
Did I mention how fine he is? I had to find out about his love life, right?
"I'm not unable to be in a relationship right now," he told me, though he is single. "What I am is very focused on what my dream is, what my priority is, creating this dream into a reality, right?
"I'm also very aware of what a woman needs. A real woman needs real time and deserves to be her man's No. 1 priority. So I'd be lying if I would tell any woman, 'You're my No. 1 priority.' "
He's a man who has learned from his mistakes.
"I've had football taken away from me," he told me. "I'll be damned if it happens to me this time, too."