Rachel Ticotin seems to be everywhere this month.
Not only does the 34-year-old actress have a juicy supporting role in the controversial Michael Douglas film "Falling Down," Ticotin also stars in the new NBC detective series "Crime and Punishment," which premieres its first of six episodes Wednesday at 10 p.m.
"I keep saying everyone will be so sick of me," jokes Ticotin, who made her film debut as Paul Newman's drug-addicted lover in 1981's "Fort Apache, the Bronx." "My mother is even going to get sick of me."
Ticotin's career has been either feast or famine. Though she made a big splash in "Fort Apache," she didn't work for another three years. "There are some years when it is just one job," says Ticotin, who also co-starred in "Total Recall" and "FX2."
"The most jobs I have ever done in one year is three jobs," Ticotin says. "Acting is a rough existence. If an actor gets into the business because they want to be the star, that is a dangerous position to put yourself in. Because if you don't become the center of attention and you don't become the star, what is going to happen?"
The Bronx-born Ticotin, of Puerto Rican and Russian heritage, was originally a professional dancer. At 12, she joined the Ballet Hispanico of New York and attended the city's High School of Music and Art and the Professional Children's School. She was always interested in acting, however, and after knee and back injuries sidelined her dancing career, Ticotin seized the opportunity to switch careers.
Ticotin maintains that stardom and the size of her roles have been the least of her career concerns.
"It's always been the opportunities and the people you are working with and the kind of characters," she explains. "The reason I wanted to become an actor was because at the very young age of 9 I saw 'Hamlet.' I remember thinking I have no idea what this play is about, but I really liked it. So I always loved what the arts can do."
But she says her acting choices have been limited. "My first film was the female lead in a film opposite a major star," she says. "But there wasn't as much available for me to play where they would allow somebody who looked like me--I am darker skinned--to play various characters, even though there was no cultural background explained."
She believes more roles are becoming available for minorities. "The media is reflecting more and more the people that it is serving," Ticotin says. "Things are changing (which is evident) because I have gotten more work."
In fact, she initially had to turn down her role in "Crime and Punishment" as a Los Angeles police detective so she could star as a Los Angeles police detective in "Falling Down."
The decision was difficult because she wanted to do both roles, but Ticotin couldn't pass up the opportunity to play the caring, ex-partner of Oscar-winning actor Robert Duvall in "Falling Down."
"I told them, 'Guys, it's \o7 Robert Duvall\f7 . How can I say no?' "
Luckily for Ticotin, the start date for "Crime and Punishment" was delayed and when she finished "Falling Down" she segued right into the series.
Dick Wolf, the creator and producer of "Crime and Punishment" (which also airs this week at 10 p.m. Thursday) describes Ticotin as the "perfect" actress. "The thing that separates the really great actors from the bulk membership of (the Screen Actors Guild) is truthfulness," he says. "You look at her on film and it is real emotion there. She is giving you something that you can't manufacture."
"Rachel is always totally prepared," says "Falling Down" producer Arnold Kopelson. "She gets into the role as if she is that person."
Both men believe Ticotin is on the verge of major stardom. "I think no matter what happens to ("Crime & Punishment"), I cannot conceive that anybody will look at this and take anything away negative about Rachel," Wolf says. "If the show works, she will be a major TV star."
"Everything depends on the script," Kopelson adds. "She certainly has the capacity to achieve stardom. If she is selective in the roles she is offered, she can be one of the top female stars in our business."
As for Ticotin, she's just waiting to see if NBC picks up the series for next fall. In the meantime, she's trying to keep herself occupied. "I just started a drawing class and I have been taking tennis lessons and I bumped up my workout schedule," she says. "I guess I try to stay creative and happy."