Since she began acting at the age of 9, Helen Hunt has had a clear picture of the path she wanted her career to take, though it wasn't always the predictable, safe route.
"I turned down a lot of TV things when I wanted to get out of being a TV actress," says the 27-year-old Hunt. "I left here after I did the movie 'Project X,' even though on paper it said I should stay here and look for movies. I went to New York and did theater. I took some leaps of faith."
And Hunt took a giant leap of faith when she agreed to star in "Murder in New Hampshire: The Pamela Smart Story," premiering Tuesday on CBS. The drama is based on the sensational true story of the high school teacher who lured her teen-age lover (Chad Allen) into killing her husband.
Hunt was terrified about doing "Murder in New Hampshire" for fear it would be cheap and sensationalized. But then she changed her mind.
"In the same breath they told me what the story was, they told me Joyce Chopra ("Smooth Talk") would direct it. I felt like this story intrigued people for some reason. There was something bigger than life about this story and it seemed worth exploring."
Born in Los Angeles, Hunt hails from a show-biz family. Her father, Gordon Hunt, is a director and acting coach; her grandmother, Dorothy Fries, is a vocal coach. Hunt made her debut in the 1973 TV movie "Pioneer Woman" and has been working steadily in TV ("The Miracle of Kathy Miller" "St. Elsewhere," "China Beach" and "My Life and Times") and in such features as "Peggy Sue Got Married" and the upcoming "Waterdance" with Wesley Snipes.
But Hunt feels most at home in the theater.
"When I was a kid I saw Meryl Streep do 'Taming of the Shrew' in Central Park. Last summer, I did it there with Tracey Ullman and Morgan Freeman. That's a moment you feel grace has descended upon you--being in the theater where I literally said, 'Some day I want to do that.' "