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Preview '96 | Class of '96

Most Likely to Steal a Show

September 15, 1996|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

There are a lot of famous TV faces (Michael J. Fox, Bill Cosby and Ted Danson, to name a few) returning to the small screen this fall. But there are also many new personalities making their debut. Here's an introduction to five of the most interesting newcomers.

Carey Lowell / "Law & Order"

Carey Lowell wasn't looking to do a TV series. In fact, the model-turned-actress ("Licence to Kill") was set to study documentary filmmaking this summer at New York University.

"I did a film, 'Fierce Creatures,' which hasn't come out yet, and we wrapped it last August [1995]. I hadn't gotten anything since then." So Lowell decided to go to school.

But the week before class was to start on July 1, Lowell was called in to audition for the role of the savvy assistant district attorney Jamie Ross on NBC's long-running series "Law & Order."

"I found out on the 29th of June that I had gotten the job," says Lowell, who has lived in New York since 1979. "So two days before I was supposed to start class, I took this totally different turn."

The cast of "Law & Order," Lowell says, has welcomed her with open arms. The series has gone through a revolving door of cast changes since its debut in 1990. Lowell replaces Jill Hennessey, who played assistant D.A. Claire Kincaid for three seasons.

The character of Ross, Lowell explains, is a divorced former defense attorney with a young daughter. She'll have a different relationship with her boss, Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston), than Kincaid did.

"His and Jill's relationship in the past was more of a mentor-protege type thing," she explains. "I know my stuff. I am very aggressive about trying criminals and doing as much as I can to put them away. I am pro death penalty. Our relationship is a bit contentious, but we also have a mutual respect for each other."

Lowell began modeling the summer before her senior year in high school, then moved to New York during her sophomore year in college. She made her film debut in 1986's "Club Paradise" and was the "Bond girl" in 1989's "Licence to Kill," Tom Hank's wife in "Sleepless in Seattle" and a bank teller in "Leaving Las Vegas." She also starred in the short-lived 1993 series "A League of Their Own."

Lowell, who has a 6-year-old daughter, describes her gig on "Law & Order" as "the perfect job for me. The great thing about this job is that it's half 'Law' and half 'Order.' I have a couple of days off a week."

Christine Taylor / "Party Girl"

As the perfectly perfect Marcia Brady in "The Brady Bunch Movie" and "A Very Brady Sequel," Christine Taylor plays a character stuck in a '70s time warp. But she's very much a '90s woman in the new Fox sitcom, "Party Girl," based on the 1995 independent comedy film.

Taylor's Mary is a New York party girl who takes a job as a library clerk to prove she can be responsible and still have a good time. Swoosie Kurtz plays her godmother and boss.

"What is so wonderful about Mary is that, for a girl in her early 20s, she is not just 'the daughter of' and 'the girlfriend of,' which is what you find these days," Taylor says.

"This is a self-made woman who is free-spirited and independent. People compare her to a Holly Golightly of the '90s, which is really terrific, but those are really big shoes to fill. I loved the movie, 'Breakfast at Tiffanys.' "

Taylor landed a development deal at Warner Bros. after several executives saw her in the 1995 "Brady Bunch Movie."

"It was one of those things that if I was going to do television, it was going to be with Warner Bros.," says Taylor. "It gave me the opportunity to meet with really terrific producers. I read a lot of different things and this really jumped out at me."

The actress, though, didn't see the movie, which starred Parker Posey, until after she shot the pilot. "If I saw something that she did that I liked, I didn't want to steal it," Taylor says with a laugh.

Born and raised in Allentown, Pa., Taylor was involved in community theater. While doing a community production of "Fiddler on the Roof" her sophomore year in high school, she caught the attention of a local manager who was about to open a business in New York.

"She asked if I had ever done commercials or was interested in going to New York," recalls Taylor. "My life was so full then, I figured I would just go to college."

When summer rolled around, the manager called Taylor again about auditioning for a Burger King commercial. "My mom and I went into New York, and I went in for this one-minute audition and ended up getting it. So I did this Burger King commercial, and commercials just sort of snowballed from there."

During her senior year she was cast in "Hey Dude," a Nickelodeon series set at a dude ranch in Tucson, Ariz. "I finished high school with tutors in Arizona," she says. "And I did 'Hey Dude' for 65 episodes."

Though she was set to attend New York University, she came out to Los Angeles when "Hey Dude" ended. "A roommate situation opened up and now it's 5 1/2 years later."

Shanesia Davis / "Early Edition"

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