By People Staff
May 10, 1999 12:00 PM

We knew he was a beautiful baby, having cooed over his toothy grin and chipmunk cheeks in the 1979 film The Champ, and later in the 1982-87 sitcom Silver Spoons. But, as millions of women discovered when they tuned in to NYPD Blue in December and met Det. Danny Sorenson, little Ricky—now Rick—Schroder has matured in all the right ways. “He’s very lean and rippled and he’s got strong hands,” enthuses Michele Maika, who plays Schroder’s main squeeze on the ABC cop drama. “It’s not the little boy holding you. He’s definitely a man.”

Helping the 29-year-old actor in his bid for adult status is the sun-cured skin he acquired while working his 45,000-acre ranch in Colorado. He’s proud of every wrinkle. “I’m going to look like Robert Redford when I’m 40,” says Schroder, who waves off wife Andrea’s advice to wear sunscreen. “Very weathered and leathery. But that’s okay. You won’t see me get a face-lift.” That doesn’t mean he ignores skin care entirely. After a 14-hour workday in heavy makeup, the actor scrubs his face “pretty hard,” using a washcloth and soap. “I think I need to start adding some moisturizer,” he concedes, “because my skin gets really dry.”

Considering the father of three stars on a show where baring his backside is practically a job requirement (“The hardest part is having them put makeup on your rear end”), Schroder’s body maintenance is pretty low-key. He avoids alcohol (“It makes my face puffy”), chows down on big breakfasts of bacon and eggs or pancakes, and drinks “a lot of liquids,” he says. “Rick has no fat on his body. He eats anything he wants,” says Andrea, who praises her spouse’s “broad shoulders and nice small hips,” while envying his birdlike metabolism. Schroder also eschews the gym, preferring sports and working outdoors (“I just got done building a log cabin in Colorado”) to being a locker-room rat. He does indulge in yoga and weekly massages, but all the care in the world won’t add what Schroder really wants: vertical inches. “I wish I was taller,” says the 5’10” actor. “But at the same time, I guess I’ve come to terms with myself and what I look like. These are the cards I was dealt, so I play ’em the best I know how.” Looks like a winning hand.