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FIVE QUESTIONS

Harry Hamlin on keeping fit, staying sharp amid hectic acting life

The recent Emmy nominee credits a plant-based diet and a 'lean and mean' regimen for his good health at 61.

By Vincent Boucher

October 26, 2013

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In the last 35 years, Harry Hamlin has been in and out of the spotlight; the heartthrob, toga-clad Perseus in "Clash of the Titans" in the early 1980s reigned over prime time as hunky lead attorney Michael Kuzak on "L.A. Law" in the mid-'80s. (Equally hunky off-screen, he was People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" in 1987.)

Returning to TV in recent years, Hamlin at 61 was the Emmy-nominated devious ad boss Jim Cutler on "Mad Men."

Have you heard that someone online said you're Hollywood's most persevering actor?

I'll take that. I'm very lucky in that my career has never gotten to the point that I could sit back and rest on my laurels and buy a big boat or a plane and get fat. I've always had to stay reasonably lean and mean if I wanted to continue working.

Are there specific things you do to keep, as you put it, lean and mean?

Well, that changes from year to year. When I had to be naked for "Shameless" two years ago, the only tool that I had at the time to get my body in shape in four weeks was the Atkins diet. I had done the Atkins diet several times before, from when I first started out and I was doing "Equus" back in the '70s and that role on the stage required total nudity.

However, all along, I had been researching diet and exercise and have become familiar with what is now known as the whole-foods, plant-based diet. ... I guess some people call that vegan, but I just prefer a diet based on plants and whole foods. So I only eat that.

As an actor, how do you maintain your edge and focus?

Well, I remain in class. As far as acting goes, I've pretty much been in class since I've started. I've taken some time off. When I was doing "L.A. Law," I was so busy that I went out of class for five years. When my kids were born (he and wife Lisa Rinna have two adolescent daughters), I went out of class for a couple of years. But I'm back now.

You mentioned "Equus," and certainly, starting with "Clash of the Titans," would you say there has always been a certain physicality that has informed your acting?

I always try to stay in good shape, but that's not just for acting, that's for life.

I like to climb mountains, and every year part of my annual routine, at about this time as a matter of fact, is to go very high up in the High Sierras. I've been doing that since the '70s, and you have to be in pretty good shape to strap a 50-pound pack on your back and hike for five days at 10,000 feet.

I usually go solo, though last year I took a friend of mine who's a heart specialist, and there was a dual purpose to that because I was 60 years old and I thought, well, maybe it's time to take a defibrillator with me when I go up there. I didn't, but I took a guy who was a heart specialist. He told me I was going to be fine.

At this point, how do you make time for everything?

Not only do I have the family and the acting career, but I also have several other projects that are ongoing that I spend a lot of time on, and I write at the same time. I spend a lot of time reading now. I have no set schedule, and I find that I have plenty of time to do all of the things I need to do. And also plenty of time to relax.

There's a strong influence in this country to keep going all the time and accomplish so many things before you die, I guess. I'm not sure exactly what the point of all that is, since a lot of people wake up having done all that stuff and go, "What happened to my life?" I think I'm very blessed. How else can I put it?

health@latimes.com

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