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Disney 'Teen' Writer Revealed as 32-Year-Old

TV: 'Felicity' phenom Riley Weston apparently lied about age to succeed in a youth-oriented industry.

October 15, 1998|BRIAN LOWRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 19-year-old writing phenom recently signed by the Walt Disney Co. to a six-figure television producing deal has been unmasked as a 32-year-old actress, leaving many of those associated with her during the last year feeling duped.

Riley Weston, recently named by Entertainment Weekly as one of the 100 most creative people in the business, could not be reached for comment. She apparently pretended to be a teenager to give her an edge in youth-obsessed Hollywood.

The trade paper Daily Variety reported two weeks ago that Weston, a 19-year-old staff writer on the new WB network teenage drama "Felicity," had signed an agreement to develop and produce TV programs through Disney's Touchstone Television for about $500,000 over two years.

This week Weston acknowledged to her talent representatives that she is a 32-year-old actress who appeared in the movie "Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit." She told her agent she had legally changed her name several years ago.

Weston is currently represented by United Talent Agency, which claims to not have been aware of her real age. "We signed her six months ago, when we heard 'Felicity' had hired an 18-year-old staff writer," said Chris Harbert, the co-head of the agency's television department.

According to the agency, Weston maintains that she carried out the deception because of her inability to get work as an actress. After having apparently misled Disney officials, her status at the studio is unclear, sources say.

The ruse was exposed when the TV show "Entertainment Tonight" was tipped off while producing a piece about Weston, who both wrote and appears in the episode of "Felicity" filming this week.

One source said the teenage persona was the idea of Weston and Brad Sexton, her manager and ex-husband, who could not be reached for comment. She was featured recently on Entertainment Weekly's "It" list, cataloging "the 100 most creative people in entertainment."

"In many ways, I am Felicity," Weston told the magazine, referring to the show's 18-year-old protagonist. "So I hope I portray this generation in a realistic light."

Sources say that in her dealings with agents and producers, Weston represented herself as a home-schooled teenager who came to Los Angeles at the age of 16, pursuing an acting career before she began writing scripts.

Her representatives characterize the youthful-looking actress' rationale as based on age discrimination, pointing out that many performers and writers are reluctant to discuss their age because of Hollywood's obsession with youth.

"There are a million people who change their names and ages to get work in this town," Harbert noted.

The producers of "Felicity" declined comment. A Touchstone spokeswoman said, "We're looking into the situation."

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