At age 12, Staci Keanan, the star of My Two Dads, already has two remarkable accomplishments under her 22-inch belt: (1) She's learned one of showbiz's toughest lessons, and (2) she's survived it. A honey-haired, 5'1" preteen who promises to be a beauty, Keanan was hired, fired and rehired for her role even before My Two Dads joined NBC's Sunday-night schedule. Welcome to Hollywood, kid.

Her adventures in La-La Land actually began in New York last March, when Keanan, a Manhattan resident, heard about My Two Dads and sought an audition. Competing with several hundred other actresses, she won the role in May after five readings. With a steady acting job apparently waiting for her, Keanan moved to Los Angeles with her sister, Pilar, 16, and her mother, Jackie.

"I picked My Two Dads out myself," she says in the living room of her family's modest new two-bedroom apartment in North Hollywood, ignoring the near bloodbath being staged in the corner by her golden retriever, Wally, and her cat, Fatty. "I picked the show because it was kind of unusual, you know?" Unusual, indeed, for broadcast TV comedy. Newly orphaned Nicole Bradford (Keanan) is inherited by a pair of her dead mother's ex-lovers (Paul Reiser and Greg Evigan), because dear departed Mom was never quite sure which guy had fathered the child.

Shooting the pilot, Keanan impressed her co-workers with her maturity. "It's damn surprising that someone who's 12 can be that together," says co-star Greg (B.J. and the Bear) Evigan. Adds executive producer Michael Jacobs: "The wonderful thing about Staci is her sense of reality."

She needed it. After the pilot was picked up by NBC, the network launched what it called a nationwide talent search for "the next Shirley Temple." Employing an L.A. law of logic, Jacobs says that Keanan was never really fired from the series because she hadn't officially been hired. "You hire the actress for the pilot," he says, "and you have an option on her services should you go to series." But by any other name, Keanan was out of a job for reasons still subject to debate. At the time, NBC reportedly thought Keanan wasn't dynamic enough. Keanan says she was told "they wanted someone younger" because NBC was nervous about the idea of a soon-to-be teen living with two men. Jacobs says that by the time the pilot was optioned, other pilots—with other young actresses—had been junked. "NBC felt that to be fair," he says, "we should see all the talent available."

While said talent was being scrutinized, did Keanan throw a titanic nutty? Not a chance. Staci spent much of the time in the small, cluttered bedroom she shares with her sister, listening to Depeche Mode, the Cure and U2 records or jabbering on the phone with friends. Other times she borrowed money from her mother (she doesn't get an allowance) and went out to hit the malls. "I didn't, like, spend my whole day thinking 'What am I going to do?' " she says. "I just went shopping."

That's Keanan. Other actors her age might be adept at juvenile prattle about art and craft, but Keanan finds the life of a child star "incredibly tiring, boring and bothersome. I mean it's fun, and it's better than if it was all school and no set, or vice versa, but...."

This is one no-sweat kid. Her parents separated when she was 3. No prob. "It doesn't really bother me at all," says Staci. "I still get to see my dad [Irv Sogorsky, a Pittsburgh car salesman]. He was out here, like, not too long ago. We went down to Venice and had sooo much fun." The long separation is amicable. Irv visits frequently, and Jackie stresses that the initial breakup happened too early to have an adverse effect on Staci.

Born in Philadelphia as Anastasia Sogorsky, Staci started modeling at the age of 5, appearing in TV spots for Burger King, Hershey's Kisses and Aim toothpaste. Putting her in front of the camera was Jackie's idea, though she says it didn't require much coaxing. "Staci would showboat and really carry on when the family went out to eat or visit friends," says Jackie, who seems to be less domineering than the Teri Shields variety of stage mother. "Staci was a natural as an entertainer."

Four years after the separation, Jackie and her two girls moved to New York City. Anastasia changed her professional name to Staci Love (the Keanan came when she was cast in My Two Dads) and, she says, began "going out for the legit stuff, you know, like acting auditions." Roles in summer stock led to her getting the part of Valerie Bertinelli's daughter in I'll Take Manhattan, the CBS miniseries that aired last February.

Not a bad résumé, but it hasn't dissuaded Keanan from being, in her own estimation, "a normal kid, going to normal public school, with, like, normal friends, living in a normal house, fighting with my sister about, you know, normal things." She's so normal, she even admits she's trying to be normal. "I put in an effort not to be Hollywood," says Staci. "I guess when kids or anybody else get conceited, they get an overbuilt self-image, so you have to think about it and not let it happen."

While Keanan was going about her blithe business, and NBC was scouring the land for Shirley Temple wannabe's, producer Jacobs was phoning Staci once a week. Her main supporter, Jacobs was amazed that Staci "never got ruffled. This would have been incredibly tough for an adult to handle," he says, "let alone a 12-year-old." One such adult was Keanan's mom. "Maybe Staci wasn't worried," says Jackie, "but I certainly was a nervous wreck."

The two-month waiting period ended one day in July, when Jacobs took Staci out for a milk shake. A suitable replacement, he told her, had failed to materialize. The network wanted her back. "I told her that what she'd gone through was just the mechanics of the business," says Jacobs. "I also told her the role was officially hers and no one could take it away."

Especially not now. Given the ratings-enviable time slot right after Family Ties, My Two Dads is a Top 20 show, and Keanan has become an integral part of the cast. "She has as many ideas about our characters as I do," says Paul Reiser, who demonstrated in Aliens and Beverly Hills Cop II that he has a few ideas about acting. Keanan feels the cast has good interaction. As she puts it, "We all seem to put the funny in all the right places."

She harbors no resentment. Getting, losing and getting the job again, she says, was part of the acting business. And if this venture into the business continues to be a success, Keanan already knows how she's going to spend the money. "I'd, like, go to the nearest fine sports-car dealer and, like, buy a black Lamborghini Countach, then I'd let my sister drive it and if she, like, did anything to it, I'd, like, decapitate her, then when I turn 16, I'd drive it." Welcome back to Hollywood, kid.