Two years after training furiously for all those flying-off-walls and martial arts sequences in The Matrix, Laurence Fishburne is steeling himself for back-to-back sequels to the hit film. "We start training with the wire stuntmen next month," he says. "I call that time the House of Pain. And maybe since we're doing two sequels, I could change it to the Warehouse of Pain." Fishburne, 39, has good reasons to grin and bear it: The paycheck gives him the freedom to make smaller films like his new drama Once in the Life, and his Matrix role gives his kids bragging rights on the playground. "Their friends will say, 'My dad is an accountant,' " he says. "My kids can say, 'Well, my dad is Morpheus.' I'm pretty good at show-and-tell time."
Here's a question Al Gore hopes to answer on Nov. 7: Which is more fun, being Vice President or President? Tim Matheson already knows the answer. "It's good to be king," says Matheson, who plays the Veep on NBC's The West Wing but got promoted to Prez when he tackled John F. Kennedy in the miniseries Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, airing Nov. 5 and 8 on CBS. Matheson, 53, frets that viewers will think he doesn't know Jack. "I don't look a lot like him," he admits. "We did what we could with the hair and makeup. This is from the sublime to the ridiculous, but when Chevy Chase played Gerald Ford [on Saturday Night Live], he didn't do anything. And he was Gerald Ford. So if you find the inner truth, the audience will be there."
Since a TV star's real-life pregnancy can be a big deal (to hide or not to hide, that is the question), some actresses worry about breaking the news to their bosses. All that Judging Amy's Amy Brenneman had to do was look in the mirror. "It helps when you're an executive producer," says Brenneman, 36. "My mother said, 'What are they going to say?' I said, 'There is no they. I'm the man.' " Now the actress, whose baby with director husband Brad Silberling is due next year, has had to accept less control on the set—of her own body, at least. "At my stage, I can get through the day and I look pretty much the same," says the actress, whose pregnancy will not be written into the CBS drama. "And then about 10 at night, my stomach just pops out in this horrific way. We worked until 4 a.m. last night, and it was just gruesome."
Playing Post Office
, who was finishing Reindeer Games with Ben Affleck
while also filming The Legend of Bagger Vance with Matt Damon
, found herself doing double duty as a letter carrier for the Oscar-winning pals while shuttling between sets. "I'd fly to Canada with Ben and then be off to Savannah with Matt," she says. "It was strange. I was the mail girl delivering letters for the two of them. I was like, 'Who am I to you? Why are you writing these? Pick up the phone!' " The pals took the hint and relieved Theron, 25, of her duties. "Then later they didn't give me the letters. They didn't trust me," she says. "They gave them to the makeup artist."
The Invisible Friend
By her own estimate, Friends' Lisa Kudrow is, in public, the least visible of the TV sextet, "When I'm with anyone else from Friends, they get the attention," says Kudrow, 37. "I don't get as much, which is fine." Her home life with advertising exec husband Michel Stern and their son Julian, 2, keeps her out of the spotlight. Even her film shoots are decidedly unglamorous, as was the case with her new John Travolta comedy Lucky Numbers. "We filmed in Hershey, Pa.," she says. "I just worked, went back to the room, watched PBS and ate chocolate."