The rangy 6’5″ actor who plays Chris, the Kierkegaard-quoting deejay on the CBS hit Northern Exposure, is less Iron John than Irony John. Blessed with a flaps-down personality, a kicked-back spirituality and a bourbon-over-ice voice, Corbett has no need to find the inner man. Plus, observes costar Janine Turner, “he has a certain freedom to look the way he wants to look, to be whoever he wants to be. He’s always changing his appearance, and that’s very appealing.”
“I have more leeway on the show than most characters,” agrees Corbett, 30. “I’ve worn long hair, headbands, glasses, beards, even a goatee.” Reinventing himself is nothing new for Corbett. In the mid-’80s he was working in a California steel factory with his father when a load of pipes fell on his back. The injury led to a hair-raising career switch—from boilermaker to bouffantmaker—as he used the insurance settlement to study cosmetology by day and acting at night. Eventually, doing scenes beat doing perms, and Corbett snagged over 50 commercials before becoming one of Northern’s half-baked Alaskans.
The Wheeling, W.Va., native now shuttles between Washington State, where the show is filmed, and L.A. “Getting married, having a family—that’s way down on the list of things I want to do right now,” says Corbett. Instead he’s content to tool around in his ’67 Porsche, play percussion in a new-age jazz band and date women based on their metaphysical fitness. “It’s just a feeling you get from someone. People put out a certain vibe that is either good or bad.” His own waves are decidedly mellow.