North stars

With two top-grossing major motion pictures in theaters, actor Garrett Hedlund is having one heckuva year. And he's from Minnesota, don't you know. Hedlund, who grew up in Roseau, Minn., is part of a crop of actors, musicians, models and other ce...

'Life as we know it'
Josh Duhamel, who comes from Minot, in a scene from the movie "Life as We Know It," in which he starred with Katherine Heigl.

With two top-grossing major motion pictures in theaters, actor Garrett Hedlund is having one heckuva year. And he's from Minnesota, don't you know.

Hedlund, who grew up in Roseau, Minn., is part of a crop of actors, musicians, models and other celebrities younger than 40 who come from or who have ties to North Dakota or northwest Minnesota.

Want a list? OK, let's start with Hedlund and actor Josh Duhamel (married to Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas), who come to mind right away, don't they?

Then, there are models Nicole Linkletter and Danica Patrick and musicians such Tom Brosseau, Ashlee Hewitt and Jonny Lang. Rapper Wiz Khalifa has a somewhat tenuous tie to North Dakota -- he was born in Minot to military parents -- and a Fargo hairdresser with the unfortunate stage name Corn Fed had her 15 minutes of fame on VH1's "Real Chance of Love."

You probably didn't know, however, that a Playboy magazine model and one of Hugh Hefner's trio of blond former girlfriends, traces her family back to North Dakota, and its largest ethnic group, the Germans from Russia.


Or that two of the vocal artists on our list of under-40 stars from (or having ties to) North Dakota or northwest Minnesota are second cousins, once removed.

Garrett Hedlund

According to, Hedlund, 26, recently wrapped shooting on "On the Road," an adaptation of the literary classic by Jack Kerouac, alongside actress Kristen Stewart. In "Tron Legacy" he plays Jeff Bridges son. In "Country Strong," co-starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw and Leighton Meester, Hedlund plays a Nashville singer/songwriter.

"Country Strong" was Hedlund's second film with McGraw. The first was in the small-town Texas football movie "Friday Night Lights" in 2004, in which McGraw played his abusive father. Interesting sidebar: In both movies, McGraw punches Hedlund in the face.

Hedlund told that he grew up "in a very small Minnesota town" with only one radio station that played country music. McGraw's single, "Don't Take the Girl," was one of his favorite tunes to listen to while driving tractor, Hedlund said.

"And next, Tim's playing my father," Hedlund said. "I got up on stage and sang 'I Like It, I Love It,' with him in Austin in, like, 2004, but I wasn't a country singer (before "Country Strong") by any means. I was really familiar with all the great old men. I mean, my grandpa used to play Johnny Cash to our turkeys, and they'd start bobbing their heads to the music."

Josh Duhamel

Duhamel, 38, recently visited North Dakota as he and wife Fergie spent Christmas with Duhamel's family in Fargo. Duhamel, who graduated from Minot High School in 1991 and played football at Minot State University, is an Emmy winner for his role on the ABC soap opera "All My Children,"


According to Duhamel's IMDB bio, he was 26 and working construction when he starting modeling. He left "All My Children" after landing a role in the 2004 movie "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton" with Kate Bosworth and Topher Grace. He played opposite James Caan in the TV show "Las Vegas," and his filmography includes "Transformers," "When in Rome" and "Life as We Know It."

Bridget Marquardt

Bridget Marquardt, 37, best known from E! Networks' wildly popular reality show "The Girls Next Door," never lived in North Dakota, but her family roots are here. Finding this out took a little detective work, but there were three major clues: Her maiden name is Sandmeier, a German name; she grew up in Lodi, Calif., which has a large population of Germans from Russia; and she talked about having a German grandmother on an episode of "The Girls Next Door."

Jonathan Stone, responding to an e-mail query to Marquardt's website, wrote that Bridget has or had family in Wishek, Ashley and Beach, N.D., and her family names included Marzolf, Martel and Stockwell. Her parents were born in Aberdeen, S.D.

"She does, indeed, have family from both North Dakota and South Dakota, and her ancestors were Germans from Russia," Stone e-mailed the Herald.

Beginning in 2005, Marquardt, Holly Madison and Kendra Wilkinson were Hugh Hefner's gorgeous blond girlfriends starring in "The Girls Next Door" reality series. The show documented the goings-on inside the Playboy mansion for five seasons, making Bridget, Holly and Kendra household names.

After moving out of the Playboy mansion in January 2009, Marquardt began hosting "Bridget's Sexiest Beaches" on The Travel Channel. She has designed a signature line of watches for famed jeweler Pascal Mouawad, and is working on a pilot for a new reality series, according to her publicist.

In her personal life, Marquardt supports animal rights and active and returning military personnel. Those who watched "The Girls Next Door" may remember Marquardt's brother, Eddie, who is a veteran of five tours of duty in Iraq. Her temperamental black Persian cat Gizmo and his formidable growl were memorable, too.


Her publicist says Marquardt's hobbies and interests include party-planning, aerial trapeze, and all things paranormal or scary. She lives in Los Angeles with boyfriend Nicholas Carpenter, her miniature Pekingese Wednesday, Nick's cat Vern and, of course, Gizmo.

So, who are the artists who are second cousins once-removed? Keep reading.

Reach Tobin at (701) 780-1134; (800) 477-6572, ext. 134; or send e-mail to .

Garrett Hedlund
Roseau, Minn., native Garrett Hedlund in a scene from "Country Strong" with co-star Leighton Meester (left). Hedlund is also in theaters now in "Tron Legacy" with Jeff Bridges.

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