Breakout faces from the ’99-00 season: Billy Campbell

'Once and Again' thesp happy with newfound popularity

It’s kind of ironic that confirmed bachelor Billy Campbell has reached new career heights playing a divorced dad on ABC’s “Once and Again.”

Previously best known for his role in Disney’s “The Rocketeer,” Campbell readily admits he enjoys the newfound popularity, especially since it comes on the heels of some projects of which he’s not particularly fond.

“I won’t pretend it’s not highly gratifying,” says Campbell from Morocco, where he’s playing Moses (“I just watched ‘The Ten Commandments’ a few weeks ago. I’ve got some pretty big sandals to fill.”) in an NBC biblical miniseries “In the Beginning,” set to air during the November sweeps. “It makes the jobs you weren’t happy with worthwhile. I’m really happy with how things are going.”

Campbell, who had a recurring role nearly 20 years ago in “Dynasty,” credits the success of “Once and Again” to creators Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick, and wasn’t sure how his character would develop during the just-completed season, other than he and co-star Sela Ward — and their respective families — would eventually become romantically involved.

“(Herskovitz and Zwick) didn’t really present the role to me in terms of explaining or deciding where the character was going to go, which is one of the most enjoyable things about working for them,” he says. “They have an improvisational style of working.”

Heading into season two, Campbell hopes that his character, Rick Sammler, isn’t so perfect and that he makes a few wrong decisions in trying to do what’s best for everyone.

“I’m hoping for a little wrinkle along the way,” he admits. “I hear some people say he’s unrealistic. I don’t believe that and I think I’m pretty close to him.”

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