TV's Hottest Ice Maiden
Now she's practically on another planet: Northern Exposure, the most acclaimed—and self-consciously quirky—series since that other northwestern anomaly, Twin Peaks. As tomboyishly beautiful aviatrix Maggie O'Connell, Turner roars in and out of Cicely, a sunny, enchantingly weird Alaskan town whose newest resident, a transplanted New York City doctor named Joel Fleischman, is also Maggie's tenant. The flinty but flirtatious relationship between Joel and Maggie is the fulcrum upon which the show rests—and it provides Turner with several meaty scenes each week.
"People are going to think Janine's this tough-ass backwater chick," says Rob Morrow, who plays the good doc, "and she's not." Indeed, no: Turner—a model from age 3 who at 15 moved to New York City with mom Janice as chaperon, to spend a year at the Wilhelmina Agency—is an urban animal. "I love the New York museums," says Turner (when she's not busy filming Exposure in Bellevue and Roslyn, Wash., her home is a one-bedroom high-rise apartment in Manhattan). "I love classical music—Carnegie Hall, ballet, opera."
But Turner says it was looks, not culture, that counted in suburban Fort Worth, where she grew up the restless only daughter of a Braniff airline pilot, Turner Gauntt, whose first name she took as an actress. (Turner has one brother, Tim, 32, a Dallas headhunter.) "Grooming is the forte of the southern woman," says the 5'6" actress. "You wouldn't go to the mailbox without makeup on." So Turner, who as a child had worked with local theater and ballet companies, was fully prepared for her first TV performance in 1980: She had a tiny part on Dallas, as a friend of the heavily lacquered Lucy Ewing (Charlene Tilton). The aspiring actress then left home for Los Angeles, where two years later she joined the cast of ABC's General Hospital as a "kleptomaniac, hypnotized spy" named Laura Templeton. Another newcomer, Demi Moore, played Turner's sister and shared her dressing room. "We were the new kids on the block," says Turner, "the Templeton Twosome." Turner was expected to fill the shoes of audience favorite Genie Francis, who had recently quit the show, but her year of Laura-dom was a letdown. "I just walked around," she says, "trying to be a Genie Francis look-alike."
In some departments, though, Genie Francis might have wanted to be a Janine Turner look-alike. At 20, Turner met Alec Baldwin, then 25, when she auditioned for a shortlived CBS medical drama, Cutter to Houston. "There was that look when you just kind of connect with somebody, and we fell in love," she says. After little more than a year, it was over. "The breakup was very, very painful," she says. It didn't help that, within that same period, her parents divorced, remarried and split up again. "After Alec," she says, "I was like, 'Fine! I'm never getting married. I'm going to be this modern woman and raise babies myself.' "
She isn't that modern yet, but she did get over Alec. And how she got over Alec! After moving back to New York City in 1986 to look for more serious roles, she began dating Mikhail Baryshnikov (they met at Columbus, the heavily singled Upper West Side restaurant in which he is an investor). "He's very supportive—almost parental," says the currently unattached Turner, although she isn't sure what their relationship, now a friendship, meant.
And she admits there are deeper puzzles. "Yeah, there's pain," she says of her life. "I'm in therapy, trying to figure things out." One problem she openly discusses is the compulsive dieting that obsessed her in her teens and early 20s. Because of the pressures of modeling, she says, "I almost starved myself. I would be 99 lbs., and I'd think, 'Oh, God, I can't eat a cookie, or I'll go up to 100.' "
Turner says that "tired of my stomach hurting and being a slave to the scale," she finally has that problem under control. "I haven't weighed myself in three years," she says, "and I've never felt better." In fact, she seems to be feeling like the proudly unfashionable Maggie, who wouldn't know mascara from muskrat. "Now," says the former beauty queen, with an unexpected squeal of laughter, "I go home to Dallas and wear nothing."
TOM CUNNEFF in Roslyn
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