Travis Fimmel

For years, most people did not know Travis Fimmel's name, yet they were intimately familiar with what he looked like in his underwear. The athletic, blond farm kid from Australia turned heads when he appeared in provocative ads for Calvin Klein underwear in 2001, but he was a reluctant model who had only stripped down to his skivvies to finance acting lessons. Fimmel was well-received in his breakout role as "Tarzan" (2003-04) on the WB, but anxious fans would have a long wait to see him onscreen again, as several follow-up TV projects were short-lived and his first feature seemed destined to stay in the can. Travis Fimmel was born on July 15, 1979, in a rural area of Victoria, Australia. The future billboard underwear model was the youngest of three brothers in a dairy farming family. He played soccer and was interested in acting when he was young, but always self-consciously thought he was too skinny and assumed his future would be on the farm. When he was 18, he moved to the nearest city, Melbourne, where he studied architecture and engineering at RMIT University. He also played with the Victorian Amateur Football Association. In 1998, a broken leg put an end to sports, but an encounter at a local gym introduced an entirely new career path. A scout for Chadwick Modeling Agency spotted Fimmel and spent weeks wooing the shy 19-year-old to join the agency. He eventually did, and appeared in several ads, quitting school and moving to London, where he worked in a pub and acted as a concierge and assistant for wealthy travelers. After two and a half years in London, Fimmel took a chance and went to Los Angeles to try to become an actor. He arrived Stateside with a hundred dollars and a pillowcase containing a few t-shirts, going straight to a modeling agency. He rightly figured working as a model would help get his foot in the door and earn him enough to get set up. He was immediately signed, and for his first gigs, he appeared in music videos for Janet Jackson and Jennifer Lopez. When the agency wanted to submit him for one of the most high-profile modeling gigs that blues eyes and a six-pack can land - Calvin Klein underwear - the reluctant model was not easily sold on the idea. After some coaxing, he flew to New York, where CK execs immediately responded to his athletic body and his natural good looks. Fimmel was given a six-figure deal with Klein, and soon the 22-year-old in his "tightie-whities" would lord over Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, SoHo, and Tottenham Court Road in London - that is, until that particular billboard caused so much disruption in traffic that it was taken down. Fimmel used some of his modeling money for acting lessons, and was eventually taken under the wing of renowned Hollywood acting coach, Ivana Chubbock, who had been crucial in building careers for Brad Pitt and Halle Berry. A good boy, he also sent some money home to the farm. After several years of modeling and studying drama, Fimmel was given the starring role in the WB's updated "Tarzan," where he leapt across traffic and swung through Central Park, a young man raised in the jungle after surviving a plane crash and growing up alone in the wild. The show earned an instant cult audience - largely made up of those who enjoyed seeing the billboard underwear guy come to life - but it could not keep up in the ratings game and was cancelled after eight episodes. His obvious charisma and appeal in "Tarzan" was enough to land the promising actor in two pilots, "Rocky Point" (2005) and "Southern Comfort" (Fox, 2006), but neither was picked up for air. In 2005 Fimmel was called back to Australia where he starred in his first feature, the psychological thriller "Ravenswood," which showed no signs of being released. In addition to his onscreen work, Fimmel was known for rarely wearing shoes, appearing on talk shows and at other appearances barefooted. After several years worth of low-profile film and TV work, Fimmel returned to television as Ragnar Lothbrok, the main character of the historical drama "Vikings" (History 2013- )