FOR THREE YEARS THIS WAS THE drill: On Fridays, Patricia Kalember wrapped Sisters—the NBC drama on which she plays über earth mom Georgie Reed Whitsig—and flew from L.A. to New York City to be with her family. She would hang out with her kids, Rebecca, 8, and Ben, 5. Have Chinese food with her husband, the very British, very "thea-tuh"-bound actor, Daniel Gerroll. Then on Sunday, she would fly back. Not that anyone in the family was complaining. Says Kalember: "We're adventurers!"

This season, though, she and Gerroll—married since 1986—finally worked their way into the same time zone when he got a gig on her show. For at least the next few months, he'll play Dr. David Caspian, a smooth, insidious shrink aiding the chronically troubled housewife to "recover" lost childhood memories. Gerroll, 42, relaxed and barefoot on the deck of their rented Bel Air house, describes life these days as pure bliss, especially now that he and his wife have adjoining trailers on the set. "It's a little sex," he says. "A little humor, lots of Oprah. A bit more sex."

And now they're pawing each other on camera too. A new plotline has the not-so-good doctor seducing the sexually reserved Georgie—a development that Kalember, 37, welcomes. "You can only do Donna Reed so long or you go bonkers!" she says, perhaps recalling her last prime-time gig—as the too-earnest Susannah on thirtysomething.

Kalember's co-Sisters say that Georgie's erotic awakening seems overdue—and quite natural, since Gerroll will serve as the human alarm clock. "They complement each other," says Sela Ward, who won an Emmy this year playing Teddy, a jaded artist. "He's roguish, very colorful. Patricia is centered. Her presence is very calming." Julianne Phillips, who plays the business-minded Frankie, puts it more bluntly: "They're so happy, it's sickening."

Call it a classic case of hands across the ocean. Kalember grew up in Louisville, Ky., with an older brother, Bob, and their parents. Bob Kalember, a General Electric service manager, and his wife, Vivian. She spent a "very middle-class" youth, she says, "dreaming about anything but where I was." A role in a high school production of Guys and Dolls suggested escape, she says, inducing her to major in theater at Indiana University. She graduated in 1978 and two years later moved to New York City—and into an unhappy stint on the soap Loving. "I was very much the actress with the capital A," she says. Feeling that soaps were beneath her, she says, "I cut all my hair off. I complained. I was begging them to fire me." After nine months they obliged.

Gerroll, meanwhile, sought his own escape. He grew up in a London suburb, a basically "despondent child," he says. His parents—Harry, a clothing designer, and Kathleen, an American-born model—shipped him to a series of prestigious but austere boarding schools, including Gordonstoun, where one of the students in his drama class was Prince Charles. The heir apparent was "a terrific actor," says Gerroll. "But we were both very shy. We'd sit for hours not talking to each other. He was, like me, escaping from the nonsense of the world by getting into the structure of a play."

Gerroll later bailed out of law school and entered London's Central School of Speech and Drama, despite a father who declared, "I can't live to see you an actor." Indeed, his father died the day he graduated from drama school, says Gerroll, adding dryly, "He had a great sense of humor." Gerroll spent much of the next decade onstage and, in 1980, after completing a small part in Chariots of Fire, he set out for New York City. It was there, in 1984, at an audition for a play, that he met Kalember. "It was ka-ching! Bang! Wow!" he says of her entrance. "I looked into her blue eyes, and I was gone."

On their first date, she says, "he told me he loved me." One week later they were roommates. They wed in 1986, just after Rebecca's birth, and quickly, between her TV pilots and his plays, became a frequent-flyer family. Their actual home is a cluttered two-bedroom apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side, though they most enjoy living elsewhere, they say, renting a stranger's house, as they do now in Bel Air—and a stranger's stuff. "Part of the fun of being an actor," says Kalember, "is being somebody else for a while. We pretend we're the people who live here."

BETSY ISRAEL
JOHN GRIFFITHS in Bel Air

  • Contributors:
  • John Griffiths.