THOMASVILLE -- Some bill him as the next Paul Newman. If his blue eyes have anything to do with it, Matt Lanter is on his way.

Lanter, 22, is in the cast of the new ABC drama "Commander in Chief," which premieres at 9 p.m. Tuesday.

The show stars Geena Davis as Mackenzie Allen, vice president of the United States, who becomes president in the first episode. Lanter plays one of her twins, Horace.

Lead cast members also include Donald Sutherland and Harry J. Lennix.

The young actor is a son of Thomasville native Joe Lanter. His paternal grandparents are Jet Lanter and Ken Lanter, both of Thomasville.

A different actor played Horace in the series pilot, but the creator, Rod Lurie, wanted someone more like John F. Kennedy Jr.

Lurie described Lanter as "extremely dynamic, charismatic, almost like a young Paul Newman." The recasting of Horace changed the character from a poet and lover type to an athlete and lover type.

Lanter went to the ABC drama after a recurring role in the Fox drama "Point Pleasant."

"The show was pulled before the season was out," said Joe Lanter, an Atlanta resident. "It was not getting the ratings."

He played a caddy in "Bobby Jones, Stroke of Genius" last summer.

Lanter, University of Georgia sports education major, was a batboy for the Atlanta Braves during the summer of 2004.

Lanter was born in Ohio and moved to Atlanta when he was eight. While studying at UGA, he decided to move to Los Angeles to seek a career in acting.

He has appeared on ABC's "8 Simple Rules" and HBO's "Big Love," as well as modeled and made national commercials.

Lanter lives in Studio City, a Los Angeles suburb.

The actor's father realized early his son possessed talent and determination. "I've always know he had the talent to do whatever he wanted to do," the elder Lanter said.

His son, he said, felt comfortable with show business.

Pointing out that the actor was a 3.0 student at UGA, Lanter hopes he will complete his education. "He has assured me he would finish college," Lanter said.

Meanwhile, he added, "He's got the look."

Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 220.

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