In The Craft, she's queen to misfit teens

WHEN NEVE CAMPBELL WAS 17, she won her first TV role, as a member of a rock band on the Canadian drama Catwalk. Campbell's character started out sweet and demure, but, she says, the writers soon changed her into "a sex symbol sleeping with everyone in the band. All my fan mail," Campbell recalls with a laugh, "was from prisoners."

These days, Campbell, 22, has a new fan base: teenage girls. On Fox's Party of Five she plays angst-ridden Julia Salinger, and every week, she says, dozens of young women write in to "say they're going through the same things." Campbell also plays an insecure teen in The Craft—but with a difference. In the dark comedy, which opened No. 1 at the box office the first week in May, she's a witch who, says Campbell, "puts spells on people who hurt her."

Offscreen, life has been considerably more complicated for the Toronto-born actress. When she came to L.A. to be in Party in 1994, her boyfriend of five years, mid-20s Canadian actor Jeff Colt, wanted to join her—but couldn't stay without a green card. "If they didn't marry, they couldn't be together," says Michael Goorjian, who plays Campbell's boyfriend, Justin, on Party.

In April 1995, Campbell and Colt—who share a two-bedroom L.A. apartment—got hitched. But a two-career marriage has required some adjustment. Put simply, her career is in orbit, while his is just lifting off. "People call me Mr. Campbell," says Colt, who also admits being troubled by his wife's love scenes with Goorjian—though now he avoids watching them. He only worries, he manages to joke, "when she calls out 'Justin' in the middle of the night."

Campbell is realistic about marriage. "If we grow apart," she says, "that's a circumstance we'll deal with." That attitude may come from watching her own family back in Toronto. Her mother, Marnie Neve, a psychologist, and father, Gerry Campbell, a high school drama teacher, divorced when Campbell was a baby and seldom speak to each other. Even so, Campbell and her brother Christian, 24 (Teddy on Malibu Shores), learned a love of theater from their parents. "My father took me to see The Nutcracker when I was 6," she recalls. Becoming a ballet dancer "became my dream."

Campbell studied dance and academics at Toronto's National Ballet School starting at age 9, but eventually, she says, she found the competitive atmosphere "overwhelming." At 15, she quit and joined her brother at an alternative school where students chose their own hours and courses. That year she won a role in a Toronto production of Phantom of the Opera. After her season-long stint on Catwalk, she left school and headed to L.A., where she beat out 300 actresses for Party. Says Amy Lippman, the executive producer, "There's nothing we've thrown her way that she hasn't been able to handle."

One thing Campbell doesn't care to handle now is kids. "I'm too young," she says. And far too busy. After she finishes in June shooting Scream, a horror parody with Courteney Cox Arquette, the Party season starts. "I'm tired," she says. "But it's necessary to get my face out there." Colt has another explanation. "She's able to do everything," he says, "so she wants to do it all."

DAN JEWEL
ANNE-MARIE OTEY in Los Angeles

  • Contributors:
  • Anne-Marie Otey.