UNDATED (USAToday.com) - Anderson Davis, better known as "The Zesty Guy," has received marriage proposals, widespread media attention and criticism for his seductive approach to selling salad dressing.
"I was just hoping that it didn't come off as corny," Davis says in an interview with USA TODAY about the Kraft ad campaign for "Zesty Italian" salad dressing, in which he portrays a mostly undressed chef.
"I really wanted to make sure that it kind of stuck that you can have a guy without his shirt on, and he can look like more than just a guy without his shirt on. He can be appealing, he can be attractive and he can be funny."
Not everyone is laughing. On Tuesday, One Million Moms, a Christian advocacy group, condemned Kraft for Davis' near-naked appearance in a magazine spread. "It is easy to see what the ad is really selling," the group says.
STORY: Conservative moms slam Kraft over naked 'Zesty Guy'
This is not the first time Davis has used his powers of seduction on the small screen.
Davis, who grew up in Northern California, started modeling and acting in athletic commercials after a rotator cuff injury ended prospects of a professional baseball career. His first commercial was a national TV ad for Sharp Aquos in 2008, where he was cast as a baseball player.
He says he started to see himself doing "sports as entertainment, and I decided this was something I wanted to pursue."
Among Davis' early gigs were a General Electric commercial for the 2008 Olympics and another for fitness company LA Boxing. Then he started using his physique to his advantage in a different way. He played one of the good-looking, black-suited men with a high credit score in the freescore.com ads. He was the second lover in the Katy Perry music video Thinking of You, where he was pictured on dates with Perry and making out with her in bed.
Davis also starred in a suggestive commercial for Sauza Tequila for a campaign that launched in mid-April. He plays a lifeguard who seductively mixes a glass of tequila and takes a shower on the beach.
Davis says the Kraft ad gave him an opportunity to create a character, which is unusual in a commercial. He enjoyed being able to add funny moments to the scripts. One ad begins with Davis slowly rubbing dough, saying "when it comes to pizza crust, I like to do things." Then he slaps the dough. He makes his pizza and stirs salad in the salad spinner, when the bar of the spinner rips his shirt off. Slapping the dough was his idea.
The criticism from One Million Moms has sparked debate about whether or not Kraft went too far by featuring Davis shirtless and nearly nude in the ads.
Kraft "will push away loyal, conservative customers with this new ad campaign," the group says. "The consumers they are attempting to attract - women and mothers - are the very ones they are driving away."
The statement spurred an outpouring of support on Twitter from fans of the ads. Some mothers defended the zesty gimmick, including one who who tweeted: "I'm a mom and loving the ads. It's about time women had some eye candy and some comedy."
Kraft said the "Let's Get Zesty" campaign is supposed to appeal to consumers, especially women, in a new way.
"We want to recognize our consumers as more than just moms but also as women and give her a campaign that has her view Kraft Salad Dressings in a whole new way," a Kraft statement says.
Davis would not comment on the controversy. The campaign, he says, is "supposed to be lighthearted, more than anything."
Davis has also appeared in TV shows CSI and The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien as the "Egyptian hot guy." He recently returned from Hong Kong, where he was shooting a Chinese drama, The Life of Rong Hong, about the first Chinese exchange student in the United States. Davis plays the antagonist who eventually befriends the exchange student.
Davis is looking to pursue more serious roles and perhaps move onto the big screen. He says he tries not to plan too far ahead but would like to find roles in action movies and comedies.
"The last four years have been a learning experience of who I am: what I will do, what I won't do, what's too far," he says.