That historic stroll down the aisle has propelled actress Tamara Tunie, 33, who plays Jessica, to a prominent—and controversial—role. Though fan response has been, she says, "overwhelmingly positive," there was a flurry of negative letters the first time Tunie and Michael Swan (Duncan) were shown in bed together. "Interracial relationships are a reality," says the actress, who has dated outside her race. "There are going to be people who don't accept it, and that's fine because that's life."
Growing up in Homestead, Pa., the fourth of five children, Tunie learned early not to flinch at life's realities. Her parents were both morticians, and the family's five-bedroom residence was over a funeral home. "When there was a funeral, we just had to be a little more quiet," she says. After earning a degree in drama from Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University in 1981, she headed for Broadway, making her debut as a singer-dancer in Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music in 1982. A year later she landed a brief role on As the World Turns and in 1987 rejoined the cast permanently.
In her private life, she embarked on a less lasting venture, marrying an Atlanta nightclub owner in 1988. Two years later they separated. Says the now divorced Tunie: "It was just best to move on." Of her new beau, a TV sports editor, she'll say only, "He's a really wonderful guy," adding she's in no rush for marriage. That makes sense, considering she's already juggling two on-camera husbands. There's Duncan, of course. And later this fall, while keeping her day job, Tunie leaps into prime time as the wife of Joe Morton on Fox's Tribeca.
But Tunie doesn't eschew off-camera domesticity entirely. "I like to eat," she declares, "and I can roast the hell out of a chicken."
SABRINA McFARLAND in New York City