I went on a date with a Power Ranger... well, sort of

SEATED across from me in a cozy table inside The Establishment at The Fort, Michael Copon was talking animatedly about the things he wanted to try while in Manila, balut being one of them.

The relaxed, easy smile on his face, coupled with his playful (and sometimes flirty) one-liners, distracted me from the fact that I was talking to a real, live Power Ranger. And the same guy I had had a massive crush on during my "One Tree Hill" phase. And, oh, he's also one of People Magazine's 50 Hottest Bachelors of 2005.

It was like coming face-to-face with my teenage fantasies all at once. If only he could release me from his gaze long enough for me to wipe the silly grin off my face. Never mind that it was actually an interview, or that I was sharing my table with six other journalists. As far as my smitten self was concerned, it was definitely a date. Hey, a girl can dream.

Fil-Am hunk

He might be in town as fellow Fil-Am artist Bruno Mars' front act, but there's obviously more to Michael than meets the eye. And to think my eyes were already quite satisfied with what they're seeing. At six feet and two inches tall, the tanned and perfectly chiseled 28-year-old possesses that rugged, "ethnic" look that Hollywood casting agents are naturally drawn to like grizzly bears to honey.

Born in Chesapeake, Virginia, to a Caviteño father and a German-American mother, Michael moved to Los Angeles shortly after graduating from high school. Thanks to his moreno good looks, he soon bagged the plum role of Blue Ranger Lucas Kendall in "Power Rangers: Time Force" in 2001. "They were originally looking for a Caucasian James Dean-type of guy, but when the casting directors saw me, they said, 'Oh, you're like an ethnic James Dean.' They used 'ethnic' because they didn't know I was [Filipino]," he shared.

The then-teenage heartthrob went on to guest in Disney sitcoms like "Even Stevens" and "That's So Raven," occasionally gracing the pages of Seventeen and Teen People. But blue spandex suits and teenybopper stints aside, Michael's best known for his recurring role as Felix Taggaro, Brooke's (Sophia Bush) bad-boy love interest in season 2 of "One Tree Hill." He's also guested in "Scrubs," "Greek," "CSI Miami," "Reno 911," the remake of "Hawaii Five-O," and the original TV series "Beyond The Break." He even had a cameo as Kim Kardashian's arm candy in the first episode of "Kourtney and Kim Take New York."

Jacob, Troy and Jin... almost

Looking at him, one couldn't help but marvel at how much he resembles Taylor Lautner (and maybe a bit of Derek Ramsay). Michael had actually been tapped to play the older, brawnier Jacob Black in the "Twilight Saga" installments, but the new director decided to keep the original actor instead.

Little do people know that he also lost out to Zac Efron for the part of Troy Bolton in "High School Musical," and to John Foo for the role of Jin Kazama in "Tekken: The Movie." Is he sour about these big-screen near-misses? Not really. "Everyone has his time. Like Kellan Lutz, who's on 'Twilight' now (as Emmett Cullen), auditioned for 'One Tree Hill,' but I got the part."

"It's like, I'm this close to booking that next job and when I do book that next job, it's going to be big," he explained. "The whole thing about this business is perseverance. You can't give up." He did land several movie stints, but his meaty lead roles were in two straight-to-DVD flicks-"Bring It On: In It To Win It" as male cheerleader Penn, and "Scorpion King II: Rise Of A Warrior," where he played a younger version of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's musclebound character Mathayus.

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