When Will Estes stood us up for our interview last week, we were ready to write him off as just another Hollywood hunk who's more concerned with his little black book than his day planner. But after finally connecting with the 24-year-old former child star — and accepting his profuse apologies — we had to do some editing on our story. Turns out, the L.A. native is perfectly cast as American Dreams's J.J. Pryor, the endearingly earnest Vietnam-era teenager at the heart of this week's season finale (airing on NBC Sunday at 8 pm/ET). Read on, and see if you don't agree.

TV Guide Online: So, Will, how much does it suck to be you? I mean, American Dreams just got renewed, but in tomorrow's episode, your character enlists in the Marines! You've got to be worried about job security 24-7!
Will Estes:
(Laughing) Exactly. [Executive producer Jonathan Prince] has a way to kill off all of us, I think. The dad could have a heart attack. Me, I'm easy — Vietnam. The little boy — bus. Jonathan can rattle off [the causes of our deaths] with the greatest of ease.

TVGO: This may be the understatement of the year, but you look like a pretty physically fit guy. Are you glad that J.J.'s a football hero, or do you wish he was, like, a chess champ instead?
A little bit of both. I feel like I've had to rise to the challenge. I consider myself athletic, but I never played football, so from an acting standpoint, it would be a lot easier to look like I'm thinking [about my next chess move] than that I'm playing football. But a couple of my cousins really helped me out — I played as much as I could with them beforehand, which I think helped. So I can at least hold my own. And it was a stunt double for a lot of the big hits, which I'm glad about, because those guys really went through it! I don't think I'd have been able to go on and do the rest of my scenes after doing what they did!

TVGO: How do you feel about J.J.'s reunion with high school sweetheart Beth? Were you bummed that he'd be giving up making out with older woman Colleen?
Well, that's a tough one to answer! There's a lot of toes in that question to be stepped on. I consider it a win-win [situation]. I'm having a blast.

TVGO: Off screen as well as on? Seriously, you've got to be having some fun, huh, playing the heartthrob card around Hollywood?
(Chuckling) You know, I don't have a girlfriend, so I try to do that as much as I can. But I can't say that I have the connections or that I'm very good at it. I think it's going to take some work to get in on the party scene. But I'm having a good time.

TVGO: You're nobody in L.A. until you've been romantically linked to Britney Spears in the tabloids. You know that, right?
Is that it? I thought it was having a valet [parking cars] at my own birthday party.