May 11, 1998 12:00 PM

He gets his surname from his paternal grandmother. “When I was born, there was still a lot of anger over my parents’ involvement in Vietnam,” says Troy Garity, 24, the only child of former antiwar activists Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden, who is now a California state senator. “They thought it would be better if I grew up with my own name.”

But with his thick dark hair, heavy-lidded eyes and fledgling film career, there’s no hiding his lineage. “I look a lot like my father when he was my age,” says the 6’2″ Garity. And he acts a lot like his mother, having snagged a lead role in an upcoming independent romantic drama, Bohemia. “He’s very handsome, but at the same time he’s quirky,” says the movie’s director, Rafael Zelinsky, who hired Garity without knowing his background. “He’s vulnerable. He doesn’t have the typical all-American pretty boy look.”

Or the typical grooming routine. Despite a fondness for washing his hair with Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap (“It smells like menthol and gives you a tingly sensation”), Garity shampoos just once a week. “The dirtier and greasier it is, the easier it is to manage,” he says. “Gel doesn’t work in my hair because it has a life of its own.” He does isometric exercises to improve his posture (“I’m tall, so I cave in sometimes, which is not good for breathing, especially if you act”), and he stays fit with frequent runs on the beach outside his Venice, Calif., apartment (“I work out, but not like I should”). But Garity doesn’t waste much time in front of a mirror. “I just get up in the morning and get dressed,” he says. “If I have a meeting, I’ll shave in the shower, but that’s about it.”

That might be because the Los Angeles native, who graduated from Manhattan’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1995, says he doesn’t see himself as a traditional leading man. “I always thought I was sort of awkward and goofy-looking,” he says. “I’m still kind of gangly. Maybe when I’m 45 I’ll feel differently, but I don’t feel like I’ve grown into my body yet.” His mother, however, thinks that he has fully evolved. “His best features are his soul and his hair,” she says. “He’s as beautiful inside as he is outside.”

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