Sears is one of the stars of the upcoming 24: Legacy. Rainer Hosch

Actor Teddy Sears (Com ’99)—who’s appeared on the television shows Raising the Bar, American Horror Story, Masters of Sex, The Flash and the upcoming 24: Legacy—decided early on to veer from a set path.

Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Chevy Chase, Maryland, Sears came from an athletic dynasty at the University of Maryland. He played varsity football for Maryland his freshman year, then transferred to UVA. “It’s funny, we’ve always been a Maryland family,” Sears, 39, says. My grandparents went there, my mother, my sister, both brothers. I wanted a different landscape, a different history—I wanted a difference experience, really.”

At UVA, Sears studied under the late professor Gib Aiken, who taught organizational behavior. “He was my first impression of the Comm School, this white-haired man who wore turquoise jewelry and polo shirts. He just had this great aura of a guy who marched to the beat of his own drum,” recalls Sears. “I always thought, ‘I want a little bit of what that guy has,’” he says.

At 23, Sears went to New York City to pursue a career in business, but fell into modeling. From there, he began his acting career, starting with the soap One Life to Live. “It never occurred to me that acting could be something I could do, nor was it something I wanted to do until I discovered it in New York,” he says. Acting, he says, allows him to explore characters from all walks of life. “There are so many stories to tell in so many different outlets.”

Sears, who now lives in Los Angeles, has played everything from a philandering doctor on Masters of Sex, a 1950s and ’60s period drama about human sexuality research, to several roles on The Flash, based on the DC Comics superhero: the villainous Zoom, Hunter Zolomon and Jay Garrick. “It was the chance to play wildly different characters—only this time it was on the same show,” says Sears. “There were lots of different balls to keep in the air, which made it extraordinarily fun and challenging.”

“Working with Teddy was a joy—he fit in perfectly with our cast, and his enthusiasm made each day a pleasure,” says Flash co-star Danielle Panabaker. “He also did an incredible job portraying the many sides of Hunter Zolomon; I was so impressed with his performance.”

Sears doesn’t believe he’s had a breakout role. “In my opinion, there’s really no big break. Instead, there are these little steps,” he says. “One just leads to another, which leads to another. Ideally, [the roles] keep getting bigger, meatier and more interesting. Fortunately, that’s been the case for me so far. I feel very gratified with the place I am now. I’m very lucky.”