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David James Elliott Turns Eco Activist After ‘Avatar’-Like Trip

David James Elliott took his wife, son and daughter to the jungles of Ecuador this spring on the invitation of Amazon Watch — and has come back a changed man.

"I'm going out there again, longer this time, because I want to become more active with the cause of getting clean water into tribal areas. These giant corporations go in with their mega-projects and toss their crap into the water. It's terrible, shameful. With this going on, and what's happening with the BP catastrophe in the Gulf — the day of reckoning seems to have arrived. It's here. Do it now or we're done. Hopefully, we're not too late."

He's been talking to Trudie Styler, aka the wife of rock star Sting and co-founder of their Rainforest Foundation organization, about next steps.

The Elliotts spent two weeks in the rain forest, staying with members of a warrior culture known as the Achuar, who are looking for help as they struggle to fend off the despoiling of their land. "Taking my family there was a calculated risk," he admits. "We didn't know as much as we should. There are definitely things there that can kill you."

However, "It was the trip of a lifetime." From seeing exotic birds and monkeys to watching his son playing with tribal children, hiking through the jungle with the Achuar to sampling native delicacies including smoked rat and fermented saliva, "It was 'Avatar,' really," he acknowledges.

Elliott has the Hallmark Channel original movie "Dad's Home" coming up Saturday (6/19) in conjunction with Father's Day. His character — a widowed advertising executive who finds he is sorely lacking in domestic skills when he's downsized into stay-at-home status — couldn't be much different from Elliott himself. The actor says he enjoyed playing a part with a light comedic touch, and was drawn to "Dad's Home" because "my friend Bradford May was the director. He directed 50 episodes of 'JAG,' so it was just a gas to be with him again. Every day was fun."

His work right now is ABC's Sunday (6/20) debuting "Scoundrels" series. He came aboard literally overnight when NeAl McDonough opted out after production had begun, feeling that the show's sex scenes were in conflict with his religious beliefs.

"Was I worried about TV sex scenes?" asks Elliott with a trace of sarcasm. "No." He plays the convict dad of a family of criminals, whose wife — the inimitable Virginia Madsen — wants to go straight.

PURPLE REIGN: Syfy premieres its four-hour event movie "The Phantom" on Sunday (6/20) — with all involved in the modern reboot of the classic comic book tale anxiously awaiting viewer response, which will determine whether the dark super hero will be brought back for a full-on series.

It's an attractive if daunting prospect for 27-year-old hottie Ryan Carnes ("Desperate Housewives"), who's taken on the role of Kit Walker — actually, the son of the comic book Kit Walker — a promising law student yanked out of his life in a terrible way and confronted with a future that entails taking over the Phantom persona. "I had a great time. It was by far the most rewarding experience of my career, the biggest, the most responsibility I've had as an actor. I ate it up. I loved it," he says.

But it wasn't easy. "The three weeks we were on night shooting, about two-thirds of the way through the shoot, were the hardest for me," says Carnes. "We'd been shooting 15, 16 hour days, but when we switched to nights, I felt like I was losing myself at times. The body is not made to be up all night. Your hormones are all over the place and it's easier to get depressed. But I think it served to help in my performance. Kit was feeling exhausted, confused and unsure about what was happening in his life. I felt much the same way," he explains with a laugh.

Carnes says he and director Paolo Barzman talked at length about keeping his character grounded in reality. (This Phantom, by the way, has traded in the old Phantom's purple tights for cool-looking protective gear that has purple accents.) "Sometimes, certain liberties are taken to make these superhero characters bigger. Some, like Spiderman — they keep that character real. I wanted to find the balance between the real human being who is very unassuming at the beginning and the Phantom. By the end of the movie, he has to face himself and really become a man."

OH, BROTHER: Jonas Brothers fans can look forward to getting a good look at the youngest Jonas Brother — 9-year-old Frankie, aka the Bonus Jonas — when "Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam" debuts late this summer on The Disney Channel. "There's a part of it called the Junior Rockers," reports 20-year-old Joe Jonas. "The Junior Rockers are part of the sort-of jam-off that the two rival camps have in the story. I won't give too much away, but it's fun to see." Eldest brother Kevin will be seen as the leader of the Junior Rockers. "It kind of fell into place. It was perfect," he says. Of Frankie, he adds, "He loves doing the music, but he's a little young right now to record or be in a band. But it's something he's very interested in."

To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.


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