SHE MAY PLAY A RICH BELLE ON THE MAGNOLIA-SOAKED SAVANNAH
but offscreen, Shannon Sturges, 28, has little interest in material things. "I'm too frugal to spend a lot of money on cosmetics," she says. "My most attractive feature is my brain." Ray Wise, who plays her father on the WB show, also looks beyond her golden hair and green eyes. "What you see is only the beginning," he says. "She has a keen intelligence and wacky sense of the absurd." Shannon's attitudes are underlined by ironies. "People assume I was a rich brat," she says. After all, her paternal grandfather was famed writer-director Preston Sturges (Sullivan's Travels, The Lady Eve
). But, she notes, "we didn't have much." Preston died nearly broke in 1959. Shannon's mother, Colette, was killed in a car crash when she was a baby, and Shannon was raised on a fixed income in Ventura, Calif., by her grandmother Louise, Preston's third wife. "I went to visit Grandma for a night and stayed," says Sturges, who put herself through three years of UCLA before quitting to turn heads in Hollywood. She married one admirer, commercial director Michael Kelley, in 1993 but remains skeptical of the business. "I have an overbite," she says. "But I learned that it's others' perceptions that matter." Her own perceptions remain nonchalant. "If someone compliments my hair," she says, "I say, 'Thanks, I grew it myself.' "