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UPDATED 11/02/1998 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 11/02/1998 at 01:00 AM EST

>Lisa Gay Hamilton

Don't tell anyone, but Lisa Gay Hamilton wasn't a fan of The Oprah Winfrey Show. "I'm a Donahue baby," admits Hamilton, who plays fledgling lawyer Rebecca Washington on ABC's The Practice. "That's who I grew up with."

But Hamilton, 34, came around after she took a three-episode hiatus from The Practice last year to film a supporting role opposite the talk show titan in Beloved. She plays a younger version of Sethe (Winfrey), a pregnant slave who escapes to freedom in Ohio. It's the most powerful turn yet for Hamilton, who lately has juggled a beefed-up part on The Practice with smaller gigs in Jackie Brown and next year's True Crime.

A lifelong New Yorker, the single Hamilton relocated to L.A. last year after landing The Practice. "There's this huge phone bill, but it's been a good transition for everybody," Hamilton says of leaving her parents and sister, who still help to keep her ego in check: "They're like, 'Just because you've been hanging out with Oprah, don't think you're not a knucklehead.' "

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