From St. Pete to Old West

St. Petersburg-raised Bobby Campo plays an abandoned son on TV movie Love’s Christmas Journey.

Associated Press

St. Petersburg-raised Bobby Campo plays an abandoned son on TV movie Love’s Christmas Journey.

He's in a TV movie with Oscar-winner Ernest Borgnine and Academy Award-nominated Lord of the Rings co-star Sean Astin.

But ask St. Petersburg-raised Bobby Campo what he remembers most about filming the Hallmark Channel movie Love's Christmas Journey (airing at 8 tonight), and he answers simply: the horse riding.

"I got to spend a month riding a horse on the set where they shot (HBO's western drama) Deadwood," said Campo, 28. "It was only for one scene, but I kept telling them I needed to practice."

Riding horses on the Melody Ranch, a sprawling space in the Santa Clarita Valley once owned by western star Gene Autry, is just one of many cool memories Campo is racking up as an up-and-coming actor in Hollywood.

Fresh from watching a performance of pal Kevin Spacey's play Richard III in San Francisco, he's earned his first producer's credit on a new movie and is addicted to learning more about the craft.

"Jack Lemmon was (Spacey's) mentor, and he always talked about 'sending the elevator back down,' " said Campo, explaining why Spacey has mentored him. "If you ever get to the top, you send the elevator back down."

Around St. Petersburg, friends knew him as Bobby Camposecco, a Seminole High School graduate and product of the Performers' Studio Workshop in Tampa. He grew to love acting so much, mother Donna was hardly surprised when he moved to Los Angeles in 2005.

"I think I learned (in Florida) how much I really liked acting, but also how challenging it was," he said, noting that workshop leader Kathy Laughlin presented a famously intense experience. "She said 'You have no idea what you're doing ... so join my class and you'll make more money.' "

Campo had a similar experience when a successful audition earned him a key role in 2009's Final Destination 4.

"I did that movie, and I had no idea what was going on," he said, laughing. "When (I auditioned), I didn't even know they had made a third Final Destination. All of a sudden, I'm the lead in a $50 million (3-D) movie where the cameras cost $7 million. I spent the next two years learning how to act."

Tonight, viewers will see Campo playing the abandoned son of an Old West outlaw wrongly accused of burning down a barn — quite a long way from his days modeling for Tampa Bay area car dealership ads.

"You're always looking for an opportunity to learn," Campo said. "That's how you keep your perspective; just keep saying 'I want to be as good as I can.' "

From St. Pete to Old West 11/04/11 [Last modified: Friday, November 4, 2011 6:39pm]

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