When actor David Starzyk visited a Chinese restaurant in his hometown of Springfield, Mass. recently, a fan who recognized him from the Chase Sapphire commercials asked him where his wife was. "Over there," he said, pointing to the woman he's been married to for 19 years.
"No," the fan insisted, "your wife."
Starzyk is getting used to these odd exchanges. He and Molly Culver, the actress who plays his spouse on the popular Chase Sapphire credit card spots, project such genuine chemistry that it might fool some viewers. The banter and bedroom looks they trade as they redeem their never-to-expire points for a dress and ski and pool vacations definitely hint at off-camera sizzle. "It's really like we are husband and wife," Culver said.
Starzyk, 49, and Culver 43, do have a past but it's not what you might think. Starzyk played Culver's ex-husband whose life was in danger on an episode of V.I.P., the action series (1998-2002) in which Culver co-starred with Pamela Anderson. Culver and Starzyk then stayed in touch over the years at various auditions. Culver describes them both as chatterboxes. "We were always fond of each other," Starzyk said.
They finally got a chance to show off their connection at a tryout for the Chase Sapphire credit card. As often happens in ads for couples, a gaggle of actors are mixed and matched as the ad agency searches for the right rapport. Starzyk and Culver were so locked in conversation while waiting that the agency interjected, "Are we interrupting?" The two then nailed their scene. "We just took our chemistry and ran with it," Starzyk said.
The pair gets a kick out of all the gooey talk. Hopefully it sells the product, Culver said. In real life, Starzyk and actress Kim Fitzgerald have 10- and 13-year-old sons. Culver is married to stuntman Clay Cullen, and they have a 4-year-old boy.
Well, there was the matter of a romantic triangle they had to sort out on the commercial called "Dress." A fantasy sequence has Starzyk at the helm of a boat as he coos to Culver what they could do with all their points. Dreamy, right? Except Culver's husband was hunkered down on the floor of the boat as the stunt safety coordinator. Culver said Clay joked of the staged lovey-dovey moment on the water, "That's a little too real, Molly."
Culver believes the attention from press and public is getting her foot in some doors. A steadily working Bay Area native who has drawn physical comparisons to Julia Roberts and Cindy Crawford ("I'll take it," she said), she will next appear as the host of HGTV's All-American Handyman series in September.
Starzyk said the Sapphire spots gave him a break from playing a host of jerks in a list of credits, including soap opera arcs and guest appearances on prime-time series, that runs to 79 on IMDB.com. He recently portrayed Valerie Bertinelli's boyfriend on the new TV Land series Hot in Cleveland.
The fact that both Culver and Starzyk are reaching new heights of popularity well into their 40s has not been lost on viewers either. As the ads convey, Culver said, "We're the baby boomers. We have it all, don't we?"
Even if their show-business fortunes should turn, Culver and Starzyk will always have each other. On camera, at least.
"I don't know what happened," Culver said. "David and I just clicked."
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