In March 2001 Regina Hall showed up as a guest star on Ally McBeal—in a scene with Robert Downey Jr. and Sting. "I was like, 'They're going to fire me,' " Hall says, " 'as soon as they see me next to the real talent.' "

Instead, Hall, 31, was so convincing as strait-laced attorney Coretta Lipp that series creator David E. Kelley made her a regular last fall. Stepping into a courtroom, however, has been less of a change than stepping into what Hall calls her character's "hot" designer suits. "I prefer jeans and T-shirts," she says. That's hardly news to Hall's costars. "Coretta," says Greg Germann, 44, who plays lawyer Richard Fish, "is a bit buttoned-down, but it's all we can do to keep Regina from dancing on the tables!"

The youngest of three children raised in Washington, D.C., by a contractor and a teacher, Hall became enamored of acting after seeing The Exorcist when she was 3. "I came home and said in this raspy voice, 'Mommy, I'm possessed!' " Hall says. But it wasn't until after she earned a 1997 master's in journalism from New York University that she decided to take drama classes. Within two years she had leaped from a McDonald's commercial to big-screen roles that ranged from a stripper in The Best Man to a terrified teen in the Scary Movie films.

But there's one role that Hall—who for the past year has been dating Damien Wayans, 22, a comedy writer for My Wife and Kids (starring his uncle Damon)—thinks she'll never play: that of a singer on the musical Ally set. "I haven't been allowed!" she says. "David [E. Kelley] must have planted a bug in my shower."