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WITH AN EYE ON . . . : The hellion of 'Herman's Head' is a sweet mom off the sitcom set

August 01, 1993|N.F. MENDOZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"My mother's parish priest pulled her aside the other day and said, 'We think it's time for Jane to be a nice girl, because what kind of example is she setting?,' " says Jane Sibbet, who plays gorgeous--and nasty--Heddy Newman on the Fox comedy "Herman's Head."

"I hope they realize," Sibbet adds with a laugh, "that Heddy, with her sleeping around and manipulating, never gets anywhere."

Heddy, she says, is a combination of several women she has known.

"Heddy's talented--we've seen that already," Sibbet says, "but she thinks she has to go through the old-fashioned route and do the men-attention things. I don't think she believes in herself enough."

Unlike the career-driven character she plays on the Fox comedy, Sibbet is the happy and proud mother of a 1-year-old daughter, Ruby, and is married to Karl Fink, a writer-producer she met on the set. Fink is now working on another pilot.

"I thought it would be funny if they incorporated my pregnancy into the show, but they didn't think that was a good idea!" she says.

"For most of the second season, I was pregnant," she says. "My coats got bigger, my skirts got shorter and I was seen behind desks and carrying a lot of files."

During her hiatus from the show, her daughter kept her busy--and out of work. But Sibbet doesn't mind.

"I went from being egocentric to Ruby-centric," she says. "My whole perspective on life has shifted."

Sibbet arrived in Los Angeles from Northern California in 1980 to attend UCLA. "I always wanted to give acting and writing a try," she says.

Her first regular series role was as a vamp who was out to divide the town's sweethearts in the soap "Santa Barbara." It was a role, she says with a laugh, that set the tone for many "bitch by day, slut by night" parts.

"I think I've gotten the parts I've done because it's really an opportunity to be angry and bad for once," says Sibbet, who attended Catholic school. "I was never allowed to be like that. My mother's motto was, 'Be sweet,' and look where it got me. I'm one of the nastiest women on TV!"

After the soap turn, Sibbet got a role in the critically acclaimed CBS series "The Famous Teddy Z" in 1989, which led to other guest-starring roles in television and on stage as well.

While she has fulfilled one of her goals--motherhood--she hopes to work on a novel, screenplay or children's book. She'd also like to play a heroine, preferably one during the frontier days.

But for now, she's having a lot of fun being Ruby's mom and playing Heddy in the large ensemble cast.

"Herman's Head" takes place in two distinctive places: at Herman's job and in Herman's head.

The "office" cast and the "brain" cast rehearse and do run-throughs separately, but the show is taped in front of a live audience in the sequence it's seen on the air.

"This will be the first season where I haven't had Ruby on the set with me in some form," Sibbet says with a tinge of sadness. "But I'm with her every other chance I get. The most fun is her exercise class. She is a little fairy creature and everyone is drawn to her. The boys are crazy about her."

Just as they are about Mom.

"Herman's Head" airs Sundays at 9:30 p.m. on Fox; beginning Aug. 12 it airs Thursdays at 9:30 p.m.

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