Also Credited As:John Phillip Stamos
|John Phillip Stamos on August 19, 1963 in Cypress, California, USA|
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Born John Philip Stamotopoulos on Aug. 19, 1963, the future Tiger Beat pin-up had his parents to thank for his dark haired, light-eyed, dimpled good looks. His mother Loretta was of Irish/English descent and his Greek father Bill would have passed down the family name to his son if his father before him had not shortened it to Stamos upon immigrating to the United States. In any event, their tiny raven-haired rocker was born in Cypress, CA and grew up in the Orange County town not far from Disneyland. The actor carried his love of the self-proclaimed "Happiest Place on Earth" theme park with him throughout his life, owning a lifetime park pass and purchasing an original park sign for $30,000 on eBay. But back when his jeans were ripped by playing outdoors rather than by a wardrobe assistant, young Stamos had all the telltale signs of a future entertainer. He started learning drums at the age of four, and by 13 had started a rock band with a couple of friends, aptly called Destiny. They even got paying gigs at parties and local amusement parks. Prior to that, Stamos had enjoyed putting on puppet and magic shows, and making movies with the family movie camera. He made his acting debut in a junior high production of "Our Town," and after high school field trip to a taping of "Happy Days" (ABC, 1974-1984), decided to focus on a career in show business. He began auditioning for small TV roles and in 1982, just six months after graduating from high school, was called to audition for a five-day guest spot on the era's hottest soap opera, "General Hospital."
After a grueling three-day audition process, Stamos won the role of Blackie Parrish, a prototypical "bad boy" rocker from the wrong side of the tracks, and, in true soap opera fashion, an orphan. The hunky troublemaker with a heart of gold was a hit with execs and viewers alike, prompting producers to sign Stamos to a two-year contract. At the age of 18, he was already a certified heartthrob, and for the next two years, went on to earn two Soap Opera Digest Awards, a Daytime Emmy nomination, and to date "GH" co-stars Janine Turner and Demi Moore.
By the time Stamos left "General Hospital" (Blackie was ultimately sent to prison for manslaughter - so much for the heart of gold), he had built a firm reputation as the go-to-guy for dreamy rebel roles, with the added bonus that he could also play guitar, drums, and sing. CBS cast him in the primetime drama "Dreams" (1984), about a group of struggling young rockers. The show did not last long, but Stamos did get to write a number of songs for the fictitious band and record a soundtrack album. ABC got on the Stamos train once again by giving him a co-starring role opposite Jack Klugman on the forgettable sitcom, "You Again?" (1986-87) about a rock and roll, girl-chasing grown son moving back in with his divorced father. The show was cancelled just as the network was putting together a new family-oriented comedy about a single father, his three young daughters, and their extended family household. The show was to be loosely based on the hit film "Three Men and a Baby" (1987) which came out around the same time.
This unorthodox nuclear family was very much a "Full House," with the addition of John Stamos as Uncle Jesse Katsopolis and his sky-high black hair. Jesse's original surname in season one was Cochran, but producers acquiesced to Stamos' request that his character reflect his pride in his own Greek heritage. Stamos got to expand his repertoire with the character of Uncle Jesse, taking the leather jackets, guitars, and womanizing to a whole new level with the addition of a motorcycle and infatuation with Elvis. Jesse's torn jeans were quick to mend once he met the love of his life, Rebecca (Lori Loughlin), with the couple having twins and moving into the attic. Despite the even more domesticated storyline, Jesse kept rockin', and his band Jesse and the Rippers (not to be confused with Blackie Parrish's Blackie and the Riff Raff) enjoyed modest success with a cover of the Beach Boys song, "Forever." And like most musicians, Jesse simultaneously held down day jobs as an ad executive, a drive-time radio show host and a nightclub owner/manager. As for the Beach Boys connection, Stamos had begun a lifelong association with the group back in 1983, when he first toured as drummer of the re-formed group. For 20 years, he would join them periodically for tours, playing drums, percussion, and singing. Stamos even played conga drums in the Beach Boys' 1988 video for "Kokomo," which was a million-seller and the group's first hit since 1966. He would go on to produce an Emmy-nominated miniseries about the '60s surf pop idols in 2000, but his pink tank top from the "Kokomo" video would be more widely remembered and he would be revered by music fans as an honorary member of the legendary band.
In 1995, after the eighth season of "Full House" wrapped, ABC decided to cancel the show due to rising production costs. The fledgling WB network stepped in with an offer to take over a ninth season, but Stamos objected to changing networks and announced that he would not return. Most of the cast agreed that it was time to move onto new projects, and things fizzled out without the show receiving a proper series finale. The cancellation and lack of official closure did little to affect the show's popularity. "Full House" continued to air in syndication, up to two and four times a day on various networks. As time marched on, Uncle Jesse's rather extreme dated look (specifically, his mullet) became a popular target for the generation raised on the show but now horrified of the era they grew up in. The guy who seemed so cool to 11-year-old viewers now seemed more like someone who worked at Guitar Center and lived with his parents. Furthermore, Stamos' TV movie roles during the "Full House" years had done nothing to show his range as anything but a bad boy run amok, playing an accused murderer in USA's "The Disappearance of Christina"(1993), a kidnapper in "Captive" (ABC, 1991), and a serial killer in "Fatal Vows: The Alexandra O'Hara Story"(CBS, 1994).
Moving ahead, Stamos had his work cut out for him - to avoid anything remotely resembling Uncle Jesse. Consequently, he did a 180 degree turn and headed for musical theater. Starting at the top, he replaced Matthew Broderick on Broadway in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" while Broderick took a break to shoot a movie. A series of made-for-TV movies like "A Match Made in Heaven" (CBS, 1997) and "The Marriage Fool" (CBS, 1998) further supported his new image as a charming leading man, minus the mullet.
Onscreen, Stamos was boldly transforming into new characters, and offscreen was no different. For years, news of Stamos' rotating cast of girlfriends had been tabloid fodder (Paula Abdul, Lori Loughlin, Denise Richards, Prince sidekick Vanity), but in 1998 the real-life ladykiller finally tied the knot, wedding Sports Illustrated supermodel and up-and-coming actress, Rebecca Romijn, who immediately added his last name to her professional moniker. He was also expanding into television production, and with his first producer credit - on the ABC biopic, "The Beach Boys: An American Family" - earned an Emmy Award, which opened new studio doors for Stamos. The success of that movie led to a development deal with Warner Bros. Television and the launching of his own production company, St. Amos Productions. He struck deals to direct with the Disney Channel and the Fox Family Channel, and in 2001 acted as executive producer on "Butterflies Are Free" (CBS), an adaptation of the 1972 Goldie Hawn film, with Stamos' new model-turned-actress wife in Hawn's iconic role.
The same year, he took a chance on a starring role in a feature film - a medium which had never really embraced him - with the quirky black comedy, "Dropping Out" - a film which turned out to be a favorite on the festival circuit and put Stamos in front of a Sundance audience for the first time. His next project, the NBC drama series "Thieves" (2001) was also critically acclaimed, but was cancelled after only eight episodes. The show prompted People magazine to hail Stamos as "TV's Sexiest Comeback" in their annual "Sexiest Men Alive" issue, confirming not only that he still had appeal, but had officially achieved redemption from his Uncle Jesse days. In 2002, he returned to New York to play the emcee in "Cabaret" and stayed on to take over Antonio Banderas' role as egocentric film director Guido Contini in the Broadway revival of "Nine." The challenging dramatic role ushered in a marked change in the actor, who admitted that in his earlier days, he had perhaps relied to much on being cute and charming to win an audience. With this complex stage role, he learned to reach further into a character and portray them as honestly as he could regardless of whether the audience would like him.
In 2003, Stamos made another breakthrough with his role in the indie short, "I Am Stamos," about a character actor who suddenly begins photographing as Stamos, and is on the receiving end of the real Stamos' revenge. The premise was hilarious, but Stamos appearance in the film did wonders for him, showing that he did not take himself too seriously and was able to poke fun at his image. For the second time, Stamos was appearing at film festivals around the world.
Unfortunately, around the same time he was enjoying professional success, his love life was in the headlines again as he and Romijn-Stamos announced their break-up after seven years of marriage. The actor appeared to take the split hard. But any personal setbacks were soon on the backburner the following fall, when Stamos launched his new fast-paced comedy, "Jake in Progress" (ABC, 2004-05). The show starred Stamos as an entertainment PR executive looking to evolve beyond his womanizing habits and settle down - a kind of "Sex in the City" (HBO, 1998-2004) for men. Ironically, his real-life high-profile romances had made for perfect casting, but despite stellar reviews, the show was losing in the ratings. ABC first renewed and then eventually pulled the show, but a certain hit medical drama had been waiting quietly in the wings to land Stamos, ever since he had done a guest spot the previous year.
The long-running, highly rated - and more importantly - highly-respected medical drama, "ER" invited him to revive his role as Tony Gates and become a full cast member in 2006. The flirtatious character was a Gulf War vet-turned -medical intern, and many reviewers credited the Stamos energy for bringing new life to the veteran show. The network itself agreed that the actor's charisma - as well as chemistry with co-star Parminder Nagra - was a big draw and helped fill in the gap after series mainstay, Noah Wyle, departed in 2006. In fact, the network considered renewing the show for a 15th season, due to hearty ratings of 13.9 million. The attention and respect Stamos received for his work on "ER" energized the actor, who felt like he finally had an audience rooting for him. In 2007, he used his "ER" momentum to appear as Karl Linder in an ABC movie adaptation of the classic play "A Raisin in the Sun," alongside the Broadway revival cast including Sean Combs and Phylicia Rashad. It had been quite a journey since his original TV hospital debut more than 20 years earlier.