Although Hollywood attempted to embrace him as a disposable teen heartthrob, Benjamin McKenzie chose to follow the path of a serious actor instead, and his intense persona set him apart from his flashier peers. With only a handful of theater and minor television credits, McKenzie hit the Hollywood jackpot by landing the star-making role of bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold Ryan Atwood on the ultimate 21st-century glossy teen drama, "The O.C." (FOX, 2003-07). Instead of milking his teen appeal with lucrative and lightweight projects, McKenzie took a supporting role in the Southern family drama "Junebug" (2005). He jumped at the chance to work with his idol, Al Pacino, in the real-time thriller "88 Minutes" (2007) and tackled the ultra-demanding "live on stage, on film" solo piece "Johnny Got His Gun" (2008), where, completely alone, he believably channeled the spirit of a World War I soldier too physically damaged to communicate with the outside world, but whose mind remained poignantly vital. Interested more in honing his craft than in winning the fame game, McKenzie continued to make choices based on the work rather than on prestige, playing a rookie cop on the sprawling, challenging LAPD drama "Southland" (NBC, 2009; TNT, 2010-13) and appearing onstage in a 2010 revival of Tennessee Williams' classic "The Glass Menagerie." Although the career path McKenzie chose was more difficult and less glamorous than that of many of his peers, his was perhaps ultimately more rewarding.