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Profile : 'Bob's' Begotten : Cynthia Stevenson is the daughter sitcom creators write home about

April 04, 1993|JERRY BUCK | Associated Press

Cynthia Stevenson, who plays Bob Newhart's daughter Trisha on the CBS series "Bob," was discovered in the ladies room of a Mexican restaurant.

Well, to be precise, she was seen by a casting director in a play called "The Ladies Room," which takes place entirely in a restaurant bathroom.

"Jeff Greenberg saw me and cast me in 'Cheers' as Norm's secretary," she says. Her portrayal of Doris, a woman in awe of Norm, earned her a call back for an episode devoted to Norm and Doris.

"The producers said they'd love to work with me again," she says. "I thought it was flattering, but you know how that goes. Several years passed. Then I got another call from Jeff Greenberg. He was casting the pilot of 'Bob.' I had to read six or seven times--for the producers, for Bob Newhart, for the network."

"Bob" was created by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner and Phoef Sutton, formerly producers of "Cheers."

Stevenson played the girlfriend Tim Robbins dumped in "The Player" and is in the upcoming movie "Watch It," which she describes as a story about relationships in the 1990s.

Her character Trisha in "Bob" is Newhart's first child. She's a grown woman but seems to have no desire to leave the comfort and protection of the home she shares with her father and her mother, played by Carlene Watkins.

Newhart plays Bob McKay, an artist who's lured back to revive his comic-book super-hero "Mad Dog." Trisha takes a job as a colorist in the comic-book office bullpen after a stint as a "serving wench" at a medieval-style restaurant. Stevenson admits that as a child she loved coloring books and when she has no dialogue she busies herself coloring the drawings prepared for the show by Paul Powers.

Trisha, she says, is "really a sweet, good person. She's very young, and she's lived an incredibly sheltered life. She's trying to find her own life, but she loves to be protected and sheltered.

"Trisha rebels occasionally, but she quickly crumbles. She's not the most strong-willed person."

"Bob" is taking a long break in filming and Stevenson and her husband, Tom Davies, are taking a vacation to a Caribbean island.

They return this month to film new episodes to run on Mondays in May, rather than the usual Friday time slot (now filled by the Shelley Long/Treat Williams sitcom "Good Advice").

"Bob" got a one-night tryout on Monday before Christmas and improved its ratings tremendously.

Stevenson says she doesn't know what's ahead for Trisha. "They're pretty closemouthed about the way they want to go," she says. "Which is fun because it's a surprise.

"Trisha had a boyfriend, but they get more mileage out of my blubbering and crying, so we broke up. I've dated a man from a rival comic book, and he may come back. Chad, who works in the office, keeps flirting with me."

Stevenson was born in Oakland, but grew up mostly in Vancouver, British Columbia.

"I started acting in high school because I couldn't find anything else I liked," she says. "I had a great acting teacher who let us write our own monologues. I took to doing that. It was better than doing things out of a book.

"I studied at the University of Victoria, then came to San Francisco," she says, "where I studied and worked in the theater."

When she came to Los Angeles in 1985, the first job she got was in a syndicated series called "Off the Wall." Later she starred in "My Talk Show," which became a cult favorite. In the manner of "Fernwood 2-Night" and "The Larry Sanders Show," it was a made-up talk show with real guests. She played a housewife who ran a television talk show out of her living room.

"We did six shows a week, which was unbelievably hard," she recalls. "We did 65 episodes, but I left after 51. I was exhausted."

She met her husband, an assistant director, on a movie location. They had a whirlwind courtship for seven months before they were married.

"A mutual friend had been trying to set us up and I kept saying no," she says. "Then a few months later we ended up working on the same picture. We fell in love."

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