You could call Jeffrey Donovan an advocate of sorts.
When he’s not chasing down bad guys on TV, the hunky Burn Notice star dedicates his time to supporting arts in South Florida.
We chatted with the actor at the Arts for Learning 10-year anniversary bash held recently at the Sagamore Hotel on South Beach. The blue-eyed hottie is friendly and articulate, and he says he owes his generous nature to his humble beginnings: ‘‘I grew up on welfare with a single mom raising three boys.’’
His mom, Nancy Matthews, inspired the star to create a high school arts scholarship program in his hometown of Amesbury, Mass. Sadly, Matthews died three months ago. But Donovan shared one of his finest accomplishments with his mother before she died, when he presented Amesbury High School with a check for $100,000. ‘‘To do that in front of her and in front of my hometown is a moment I’ll never forget.’’
Donovan says he looks up to one of his heroes, Burt Reynolds, who will guest star on Burn Notice on July 22.
‘‘He came on the show, and we talked about what he established in Florida, and I thought, ‘What a great idea,’’ Donovan said about Reynold’s Institute for Film and Theatre in Jupiter, where the Smokey and the Bandit star teaches drama classes.
Last fall, Donovan lobbied in Tallahassee for film incentives and funding for arts and theater in the Sunshine State.
‘‘This has become my home. I’m a resident now, and Miami has embraced me,’’ he says.
The 42-year-old Changeling star — who is a martial arts pro and who does most of his own stunts — says Burn Notice appeals to viewers because it’s filmed entirely in sunny South Florida. ‘‘I think fans go, ‘Where is that? It’s so nice,’’ he said. ‘‘We’re not Miami Vice. They showed the seedier part of Florida. We show the most beautiful parts with bad guys among it.’’
Already a co-producer on the hit show, Donovan made his directorial debut this season. ‘‘I will direct again next year. I loved it, and everyone’s behind me.’’ Of his work ethic, Donovan explains, ‘‘I’m not just an actor who does my lines and goes home. I believe in what I’m doing.’’
So about those shirtless scenes: Does the hunk mind being known as a sex symbol? ‘‘If people use that to talk about the show, and it gets viewers, then I don’t care. I’m very happy that people want to see more of me.’’