updated 05/17/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/17/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

"I've gotten 25 offers in the last couple of years, but it's hard to top China Beach," says Marg Helgenberger, who has been choosy about her TV projects since finishing up a four-season run as prostitute K.C. on the ABC war drama in 1991. But being transformed into a pod person in Stephen King's The Tommyknockers, which airs on ABC this Sunday and Monday (May 9 and 10), apparently fit her criteria. "I have a 2½-year-old boy, Hughie," says Helgenberger, 34, who is married to actor Alan Rosenberg (Civil Wars). "I don't want to do anything that Hughie will ever be embarrassed about. Right now, he loves what I do. I've got a tape of myself morphing into an alien in Tommyknockers, and that's all he wants to watch."

Where was Morgan Freeman when most of us were in high school? While in Washington late last month to accept an award from the Shakespeare Theatre for his continuing commitment to the Bard, he held an acting workshop with 30 high school students to teach them about Shakespeare's naughty bits. "Schools are loath to teach the role of sex in classics like Romeo and Juliet," says Freeman, 55. "They ought to level. His themes are timeless." Just how timeless Freeman proved when one 17-year-old had difficulty warming to his role as Romeo. Have you ever been in love?" Freeman asked him. "No, just lust, sir," the student replied. "Do you think Romeo was in love with Juliet? He was in lust," Freeman advised the student.

Sometimes ignorance leads to bliss, as Leonardo DiCaprio. 18, discovered when he auditioned for the role of Toby in This Boy's Life, the movie based on Tobias Wolff's memoir of growing up with an abusive stepfather. The film pits Toby against the stepfather. played with tyrannical gusto by Robert lie Niro. "I got the part by just going in and doing it, no mumbo-jumbo," says DiCaprio, who has appeared on the TV sitcoms Parenthood and Growing Pains. "I didn't worry what De Niro thought. I went in, looked him in the eye and got the part. I was confident, even though I'd never done anything like it before. Now I realize it was ignorant confidence. I had no idea."

"Wild Palms is exciting because it won't appeal to everyone," says Kim Cat-trail, who plays an enigmatic femme fatale in the Oliver Stone-produced four-night miniseries, which airs this Sunday through Wednesday (May 16-19) mi ABC. Palms imagines Los Angeles in the year 2007. "It's a social satire of where things are in L.A.—which is thinking the future is going to be better," says Cattrall, 36, who has decided, after 15 years of living there, to spend much of her own future in New York City. "I was really naive when I moved to L.A., thinking, 'Oh, this is Hollywood, where everybody will love you and make you feel at home!' It's definitely been a fight. Sometimes the lowest common denominator, just surviving, is essential to living there. Being a survivor of planet Hollywood gave me great preparation for the Wild Palms role."

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