Right now Noelle Parker only gets stares. "Lots of looks, but not actual recognition," says the good-humored newest addition to NBC's "Sisters." Or, sometimes people tell her she looks like Alyssa Milano ("Who's the Boss"), who Parker, 26, acknowledges she resembles.
Both Parker and Milano, along with Drew Barrymore, starred in the 1992 network wars of movies based on Amy Fisher, the "Long Island Lolita." Parker starred in NBC's "Amy Fisher: My Story."
Now, Parker stirs things up on the popular NBC drama, currently in its sixth season. As Reed Halsey (a role originated by Ashley Judd), Parker plays it hard and fast. In fact, Reed was just recently busted in a Heidi Fleiss-like scandal, much to the dismay of her strait-laced mom Alex Barker (Swoosie Kurtz).
Reed--who was written out of the show for a year when Judd moved on--originally was rebellious and nonconforming, but not necessarily as flamboyant as she is now. "I think now they've really pulled out all the stops," Parker says.
Reed's not the conventional bad girl--at least not when Parker plays her. "Noelle puts spins and twists on things. She's very funny," offers executive producer Daniel Lipman. "She's a terrific actress with charm you don't get to see a lot of. She's really inspired the show's writers to write for her. She's a little dynamo!"
Parker--nominated for a Daytime Emmy for her performance in the CBS Schoolbreak Special "Different Worlds: A Story of Interracial Love"--says that Reed is similar to other roles she's played. "I think that she's like many characters I tend to play. She's someone who appears to be ... hard. And yet, she's really got a strong vulnerability. That's the thing that makes you care about her."
The youngest of three siblings grew up in Woodstock, N.Y. Older brother David is a grip and Corey is a successful actor. Discovering her love of the arts early, Parker began acting at 10 in an AT&T commerical. She attended the High School of the Performing Arts, when her family moved to Hell's Kitchen. Parker became involved with the Ensemble Studio Theater in New York, of which she's still a member. While still in high school at age 15, she landed her first TV movie, opposite Blythe Danner, "In Defense of Kids."
"It was about wayward youngsters, which I was always playing," she recalls over lunch, waving a piece of French bread. "I played the precocious, obnoxious kid." Parker says she grew up very fast and "always had a very loud mouth and related to a lot of those roles I got."
"Oh!" she suddenly recalls, "at 13, I played a child prostitute on [the soap] 'Ryan's Hope.' It was weird. I was sort of not successful, but successful. I'd work, but it didn't feel like I'd made it yet."
So after graduation, at 17 in 1986, she headed to L.A. with brother Corey, who went on to land roles in the features "Biloxi Blues," "How I Got Into College," the TV series "Eddie Dodd," "Flying Blind" and "Blue Skies."
While Corey landed roles initially, Noelle quickly followed with parts on series, TV movies and features.
"Sisters" isn't Parker's first series; she was a regular on two that were short-lived: "Monty" for Fox in 1994 and "Palace Guard" for CBS in 1991. Both lasted a month.
But landing "Amy Fisher" created an avalanche of publicity. "It happened so fast," recalls Parker, who was waitressing at a Santa Monica restaurant when she won the role. New York media jumped on the story of the competing network tales. "Our pictures were on every paper," she says, adding that she had a real career lull between the movie and "Sisters."
Will there be any rehabilitation for her character Reed--who will serve her sentence by working at an AIDS hospice? "I doubt it!" Parker says with a smile.
As for Parker, she'll look for "non-frivolous" acting work. And as people grow to recognize her, she says she'll probably think, " 'You're sure? You're sure it's me? You sure you don't want Alyssa Milano?' "
"Sisters" airs Saturdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.