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Hometown Heroes: Benjamin McKenzie

Millions of teenage girls have the University to thank for Benjamin McKenzie gracing their television screens. While he is perhaps most known for his starring role as bad boy Ryan Atwood on The OC, you may not know that McKenzie began his successful acting career right here at the University, where he was a foreign affairs and economics major.

McKenzie. who graduated in 2001, was born and raised in Austin, Texas. He played wide receiver and defensive back for his high school football team before coming to Virginia and starring in drama department productions like "Measure for Measure," his first legitimate foray into acting.

After graduation, McKenzie headed to New York to pursue a career in theatre but soon moved out to Los Angeles to give Hollywood a try. Needless to say, his risk was rewarded - he soon appeared in small TV roles on The District and JAG before landing the part of Ryan on The OC, which turned out to be his big break.

While filming The OC, he had roles in feature films Junebug and 88 Minutes and starred in indie drama Johnny Got His Gun. The 33-year-old currently stars as a police officer on NBC's Southland.\nFun fact: McKenzie's original last name is Schenkkan - he changed it to avoid being confused with another actor.

-compiled by Caroline Gecker

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