The Nasty Girl
In the murky world of melodrama, Davis should be counting her blessings. By any strict count of commandments broken on the hit nighttime soap, her character—the perfectly manicured minx who ruthlessly stole saintly Billy (Andrew Shue) from long-suffering Alison (Courtney Thorne-Smith)—is just a small-time sinner.And she knows it. "Someone said to me, 'You're the most evil woman on Melrose,' " says Davis, who lives alone in a one-bedroom apartment in Santa Monica. "I said, 'What about Kimberly [Marcia Cross]? She killed people!' "
As it turns out, Davis couldn't have been better suited to star in a soap. Three decades ago her mother, Dorothy, then 20, became pregnant and married a fellow student, also 20, at the University of Colorado in Boulder. The marriage didn't work, and the couple divorced when Kristin was 2 years old. Dorothy fell in love with her ex's thesis adviser, Keith Davis. He adopted Kristin, while his three daughters from his first marriage—he too was divorced—stayed with his ex-wife. Says Kristin: "It was a very weird little thing."
Her adolescence was no easier. When Keith, now 59, took a job as a psychology professor at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, in 1973, Kristin, then 8, had to acclimate to the South. "The other girls curled their hair every day," says Davis. "I wore Indian shirts and bleached jeans." So she found refuge in the world of theater. "Kristin was a good student," says her mother, now 51 and a data analyst at the university's epidemiology school, "but she never let it take priority over acting."
Davis's biological father, who had lived elsewhere since the divorce, tried to contact her during her teen years, but Davis, who felt he had abandoned her mother, rebuffed him. Finally, after graduating from Rutgers University in New Jersey in 1987, she thought, "If I die and I never meet him, I'll kick myself." So she wrote him of her plans to move to Manhattan and try acting. "Can you really make your mark on the world that way?" he responded. Davis was upset. "Who was he to say that?" she says.
It took her a while to make her mark. After three years waiting on tables, she moved to L.A. in 1990 and eventually began winning small parts on TV series. Then in 1994, Melrose sent out a call for bad-girl Brooke. "Kristin smiled that smile of hers," says executive producer Frank South, "and we thought, 'It sure looks like her.' Then she started to speak, and we knew: Brooke had just walked in."
In addition to a measure of fame and a steady paycheck, Melrose has brought Davis an unexpected dividend. Last September, while visiting Toronto on a promotional tour, she decided to drop in on her biological father, a psychologist. "He was surprised to hear from me," says Davis. She got to meet her 14-year-old half sister ("I look like her!" Davis reports) and 6-year-old half brother. She also discovered that her birth dad is, she says, "an interesting man." (This only reinforced her view—gleaned from her own brief amours with a chef, a photographer and some actors—of men in general. "The interesting ones," she says, "are such a mess.")
Perhaps as a result of coming to terms with her father, Davis has recently made one important change in her own priorities. Once dead-set against marriage, she now hopes that her own future will be a walk down the aisle and children. But, she says, that's the future. For now, her concerns are Brooke and the B'-word.
When she entered show business nearly a decade ago, Davis recalls, she made her maternal grandparents a promise about her acting scenes: no smoking, no cussing, no sex. Her grandfather died two years ago, but now, each Monday night, Grandma Ruth, 88, watches her big-screen TV back home in Columbia, and Kristin says she's embarrassed recalling her promise. "Luckily," she says, grinning sheepishly, "Grandma's kinda blind. She misses stuff."
KAREN S. SCHNEIDER
JEANNE GORDON in Los Angeles