You might look at James Van Der Beek and think only one thing: Dawson Leery. But the dude has actually moved on—he’s 37 now! with a wife and three kids!—even if your mind hasn’t.
Since saying goodbye to Joey Potter and Pacey Witter, Van Der Beek has appeared in some 30 TV shows and movies, including How I Met Your Mother, Criminal Minds, Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23, Law & Order: SVU and Labor Day. His latest project: the upcoming CSI: Cyber, in which he plays FBI agent Elijah Mundo, a self-proclaimed action junkie and weaponry savant (naturally).
We sat down with the super-friendly and surprisingly beefy former teen heartthrob for a wide-ranging conversation that touched on everything from his new show to flu vaccinations to fitness tips. And, of course, jiu-jitsu.
“I think the best parenting advice is just embrace the chaos. People will always give you advice on how to get your kid to do this or that. But I don’t think anybody’s got it perfect, and if they say they do, they’re lying.”
Everybody in Hollywood has a nickname. It’s not Robert De Niro, it’s Bobby De Niro. Bill Macy. Bob Downey. So do your friends call you Jim Van Der Beek?
No. No, they don’t. All James, all the time. I do get referred to as The Beek, though. I’m told that’s what my representation calls me when I’m not in the room. “It’s The Beek.”
You don’t mind it?
No. Beek was always my nickname when I played sports. Nobody called me James at football practice.
I played running back and defensive back. Corner and safety.
Not until I did a movie. Then I learned how to play quarterback.
Speaking of Varsity Blues, I loved the cars.com commercial.
Oh, thank you.
Did that take convincing to do that?
No, it was kind of fun. It seemed in line with the kind of humor I was doing at the time. It seemed like something I would do for Funny or Die.
CSI: Cyber is set to debut on CBS in midseason. In the future, do you think CBS is going to be exclusively CSI and NCIS shows?
I think they’re going to just go with shows that they can boil down to letters [laughs]. I think it’s going to be all acronyms. It’s just easier that way. Plus they save money on printing and graphics.
So what can we expect on CSI: Cyber?
CSI: 2.0 is really what it is. All the crimes happen through the cyber world. And it’s also about the psychology of the people behind these crimes. Patricia Arquette plays a behavioral specialist who is also a cyber psychologist. We’re not dusting for prints, obviously, in this one, but there are so many clues that people leave behind when they commit these crimes. You look at all the details and the puzzle just comes together. And Patricia’s character is based on a real person who does this for the FBI, CIA and Interpol.
What’s your character like?
He’s former military, now with the FBI. An expert in battlefield forensics and a guy’s guy. And it’s really kind of a way to insert this action element into the cyber world because five people looking at a computer screen for an hour is not as compelling once you start doing 22 episodes. So they’ve got me chasing guys through woods with a gun, diving in a lake to save a baby, running through a subway train. It’s really… it’s fun stuff.
Did you have to get in shape specifically for this role?
I did. I had done some stunt training. I’ve been studying Krav Maga for a little while. I’ve done some jiu-jitsu. But I really wanted to get into this action world a little bit more, so I trained at a stunt gym for a while in LA with a bunch of stunt guys. Because I knew how to do some real fighting, but I learned how to tweak it for camera so you don’t hurt somebody. And so it’s been a lot of fun to put that to use. And to have a reason to have to stay in shape. Because you might be called upon to run up a hill 30 times.
Do you have maybe three amazing fitness tips for guys?
Yeah, actually. Number one, don’t lift heavy weight a few times. Lift lighter weight many times, faster. To get those fast-twitch muscles firing. And do a full-body workout as much as you can. Number two, don’t stretch cold. Especially as I get older, I realize that stretching is a lot more important. And also work against the stretch a little bit. And finally, mix it up. Never do the same workout twice.
You’ve also recently created a video that encourages people to get vaccinated for the flu. Why do you think a lot of guys underestimate the flu’s effects?
I think people think it’s just a bad cold. But it actually hospitalizes 200,000 people a year in America, and it takes you down. It’s responsible for 44 million days of lost productivity in the US and $10.4 billion dollars in medical costs.
Wow. That’s a lot.
Yeah, it puts more kids in the hospital than any other vaccine-preventable disease. So when I found that out, I partnered with FluMist Quadrivalent because they have a mist vaccine that protects against four strains of the flu. And it’s a mist. There’s no shot. There’s no needles involved. So as the father of three very little kids who really don’t like needles, I thought, wow, this is a great option.
OK, father of three young kids. What’s your No. 1 parenting tip?
I think the best advice is just embrace the chaos. People will always give you advice on how to get your kid to do this or that. And my favorite response is, “Well, no, that’s how you get your kid to sleep through the night, but how my kid sleeps through the night is different.” So, yeah, I don’t think anybody’s got it perfect, and if they say they do, they’re lying. So embrace the chaos and appreciate it because it really does go by so quickly. And if you can really show them the love that you have for them, that’s hugely important.