Olympic speed-skater Dan Jansen wasn't sure he wanted his life to be a TV movie. "It's a very personal thing, but I decided to get involved so it would be accurate," says Jansen, 30, who suffered two heart wrenching falls in the 1988 Olympics after his concentration was shattered by the death of his sister Jane from leukemia. His fourth Olympics, the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway, finally brought him his gold—and provides a happy ending to The Dan Jansen Story (CBS, Feb. 14). "Ironically the movie airs on the eighth anniversary of Jane's death," says Jansen, who has two kids, Jane, 2, and Olivia, 3 months, with wife Robin. Now a commentator for CBS Sports, he resisted giving actor Matthew Keeslar, who plays him, any tips: "I didn't want to put pressure on him. He started training three weeks before shooting. You can't learn to skate in three weeks. I mean, I've been doing it for 25 years."
THE USES OF FEAR
In Mr. Holland's Opus, Richard Drey fuss plays a frustrated composer whose accidental teaching career turns into a triumph over 30 years. Dreyfuss himself worked hard to ignore Gladys Wilcox, the most feared teacher at Horace Mann elementary school, which he attended in Beverly Hills. But she wound up igniting his love of literature and drama. "She wouldn't put up with the games I played to get out of work, but that isn't the only way to be a great teacher," recalls Dreyfuss, 48. "She scared me into learning. She was humorless and ungenerous. We didn't like her; she didn't like us. Twenty years later I tracked her down in a retirement home to thank her. I called and said, 'Everything I love today, I learned from you.' She said, 'Thank you very much' and hung up. She had not changed one iota."
FOREVER YOUR LAKER GIRL
After landing small roles on episodes of The Single Guy and Cybill (scheduled to air Feb. 11), pop princess Paula Abdul
is enthralled. "I absolutely loved it!" says Abdul, 33, of her thespian debut. "I've really got the acting bug now. I feel in my soul that it's the right direction for me. It's definitely something I want to focus on now. I always wanted to be an all-around entertainer." In a comic turn on Cybill, Abdul appears as an actress hired to play Cybill—much to the star's dismay, since they look nothing alike. "Who would be better than me to play the total opposite of Cybill Shepherd?" says Abdul. "She's 5'9", I'm 5'2". She's blond, I'm brunet. She's fair-skinned, I'm medium-complexioned. She has blue eyes, I have brown. She was a beauty queen, I was a Laker Girl."
Shelley Long reprises her role as Cheers' supercilious Diane to seek advice from her former TV beau, Dr. Frasier Crane, on Frasier (Feb. 13). "I had to go back and look at a few Cheers episodes," says Long, 46, who left the series in 1987. "I watched an old rerun with Kelsey [Grammer] and me, to locate the voice and the mannerisms. Diane popped in pretty fast, though." Finding the set was easier: "Frasier's on the same stage as Cheers—Stage 25 at Paramount—so I felt nostalgic," she says of returning to the place where everybody knows your name. "There's a personality to that stage, a familiarity. There aren't the tricksters we had on Cheers. No pranks, no practical jokes. But it was fun to play with Kelsey and use our Cheers history so he could be his wonderful, bombastic self."