, knows how to ferret out her students' darkest secrets—whether it's a boy imprisoning his abusive mother in the basement or a girl compulsively eating her own hair.
Turns out Leal herself can keep a few secrets too. Last October the actress, 29, and her boyfriend Bev Land, 24, an aspiring filmmaker and father of their then month-old son Kai, got married in an L.A. courthouse—a fact she casually let slip to her stunned castmates a month later. "My fear was that once we got married, everything would change," Leal explains in the family's West Hollywood bungalow. "But things stayed the same."
A welcome rarity in Leal's life. Her father was a military policeman in the Philippines who broke up with her pregnant mother, Angelita, in 1971. Soon after, Angelita, now 51 and a homemaker, wed Jesse Leal, an Air Force sergeant. Though they split when Sharon was 7 and both remarried, Leal says she has "stayed very close" to her adoptive dad, now 52 and a fourth-grade teacher in El Paso. Jesse cheered her acting ambitions after she graduated in 1990 from Roosevelt School of the Arts in Fresno, Calif.
After Leal's mid-'90s stints on Guiding Light
and UPN's Legacy
, the bell rang for Boston Public
in 2000, the same year a friend introduced her to Land. Now Leal, who sings on the show, is cutting an R&B album with Universal Records. She also croons nightly to her son. "Kai loves it," says Land, "when she sings 'Old MacDonald.'" Soulfully, no doubt.
Marilyn Sudor, the gung ho high school music teacher played by Sharon Leal on FOX's