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November 06, 1994|NANCY M. REICHARDT

Maitland Ward gives new meaning to the word "wholesome." With her long blond hair, bright blue eyes and warm, innocent smile, it seems as if the 17-year-old actress was destined to play the good girl. On "The Bold and the Beautiful," that would be Jessica Forrester.

Ward takes great delight in portraying Jessica, and "Bold and Beautiful" fans have welcomed her with open arms.

"It's nice to be playing a role model," says Ward. "I've gotten a lot of letters from people saying, 'You're a good role model for my granddaughter, or, you're a good role model for my daughter.' I've gotten mail from teen-age girls saying they wish they could be like Jessica. That makes me feel good."

Especially considering Ward is a novice to the world of show business. Although she longed to act since childhood--"I acted out everything as a little girl and even started taking classes when I was 9"--Ward didn't begin to pursue her dream, professionally, until she was 16. "Right after my braces came off," she says, flashing a perfect smile.

Destiny must have been on her side, because it only took Ward a year to turn her dream into reality. In fact, the role of Jessica Forrester was only her second professional audition. Her first was for "Saved By the Bell: The New Class." She vividly recalls her three "Bold and Beautiful" auditions.

"The first time I read for the role of Jessica was with casting director Christy Dooley," says Ward. "Then, I read opposite Ian Buchanan (James Warwick) for the show's producers. It was a Victoria Howard (Heather Tom) scene from "The Young and the Restless." I recognized it, because I watch the show occasionally. Ian played my father.

"The third time, I was supposed to screen test with Joshua Morrow," who plays Nick Newman on "The Young and the Restless" now, she continues. He was testing for the role of Dylan Shaw ("The Bold and the Beautiful"). (Dylan Neal, who ultimately landed the part, had been paired up with another actress.)

"Then, at the last minute, Dylan and I were told to switch partners. We did the scene together and both got the job."

Ward's life suddenly changed. No longer was she preparing for her senior year of high school--she was becoming a working actress. While she has made some adjustments in her life, the actress doesn't really mind.

"I still go to regular school on my days off," she says. "But when I'm working, I have a tutor that I study with at the studio. Sometimes I have to miss (school) events, because of work. But I really don't mind, because (acting) is what I really want to do. In the future I'll be glad I did 'The Bold and the Beautiful' instead of just hanging out while I was in high school. I still get to spend a lot of time with my friends on my days off."

Those days are spent going to the beach or shopping at the mall with my friends, says Ward.

Ward's favorite solo pastime, however, is photography. "I love taking pictures," she says. "I always bring my camera on ("Bold and Beautiful") location shoots. Then, I put all the pictures I take on a bulletin board in my dressing room."

"The Bold and the Beautiful" airs weekdays at 12:30 p.m. on CBS.

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