Sand Witch

updated 11/06/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/06/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

A PERFECTLY SCULPTED BOD, SILKY BLOND TRESSES AND CARIBBEAN-blue eyes certainly helped Gena Lee Nolin land her role as two-faced Neely Capshaw, the newest Baywatch amphibian. But even at 23, Nolin knows that an actress needs more than looks to play an evil tramp. "It's a challenge," Nolin says. So to get herself in the mood to portray a woman who blackmails and seduces key members of the cast, she says, "I'm digging up PMS days."

Baywatch executive producer and star David Hasselhoff cast Nolin from a pool of several hundred hopefuls who had to take both a swimming and a screen test. Aside from her "slam-dunk star quality," he was impressed by her enthusiasm—which is crucial, Hasselhoff says, because on his show, "the water is cold, the sand is hot, and the days are very long."

Just four years ago, Nolin was an aspiring model in L.A.—so broke, she says, that she filled up her orange VW bug with two dollars' worth of gas at a time. She was able to stop skimping when she landed a gig as a hostess on The Price Is Right in 1994 after reading about the departure of longtime hostess Dian Parkinson. Nolin called up, begged for an audition and landed the job. That resourcefulness has taken her from Duluth, Minn., where she grew up as the youngest of three children of a homemaker mother and a contractor father—who divorced when she was 11—and dreamed of heading to L.A. and meeting some stars.

Instead, she met her husband, Greg, now 34 and the owner of a video-production business, at a 1991 Las Vegas convention where she was working as a hostess. They married two years later and live in a Spanish-style house in West L.A. with their cocker spaniel Clifford and their Siamese cat Milo. It's the simple things that seem to keep Nolin happiest. "The best part about working at Baywatch," she says, "is that they gave me my own chair with my name on it."

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