From his steamy shower scene in 1998's How Stella Got Her Groove Back
right on through his current Ally McBeal
gig as catnip to the show's sex kittens, Taye Diggs has been playing guys a gal doesn't rush right home to introduce to Mother. Yet Diggs himself is a bit of a mama's boy. Not only does the 30-year-old actor have the initials of his mother, Marcia Berry, tattooed on his left shoulder, he also admits to being in a lot of pain during the procedure. "I'm a little wuss," says Diggs. The tender spot on his arm matches the tender memories he has of his mom from his days growing up in Rochester, N.Y., the oldest of five children born to Berry, 52, and Jeffries Diggs, 60. "My mother always told me I was handsome," Diggs recalls. She said so even in the '80s, when her son sported a high-top fade haircut with a blond streak down the center ("I can't believe I did that," he says now), and especially when as an adolescent he felt very self-conscious about his dark skin. "I got called all kinds of names," explains Diggs, "like Burnt Toast and Black Dot." These days the 5'9" actor's coloring inspires sweeter sobriquets. "His skin is hot chocolate!" says Sanaa Lathan, his costar in 1999's The Best Man
. "All the girls on the set were like, 'Who's that chocolate treat?' The unattached Diggs, who lives in L.A., arouses similar backstage interest on Ally
. "We fight over him," says Sharin Helgestad, one of the show's makeup artists, who adds that even though Diggs "is such a handsome man and needs nothing" on his face, "we always try to extend his makeup sessions as long as we can." Even Diggs says he needs no help with what he considers his best feature: politeness. "I'm well-mannered, because that's the way I was raised." Oh, mama!