12/14/1998 at 01:00 AM EST
Connie Britton is spending lots of time lately locking lips with her boss Michael J. Fox, the star and executive producer of the ABC sitcom Spin City. "He's a very good kisser," says Britton, whose character on the show recently became Fox's office love interest. "You see, that's where the boss thing comes in. I'd be killed if I said he wasn't a good kisser. He's an extraordinary kisser." Adds Britton, trying to avoid sounding obsequious: "You know, I should say something awful"
But why get fired now? As Nikki Faber, a man-happy accountant in the New York City mayor's office, Britton, 31, has become Spin's It girl at a time when the show is racking up its best ratings ever. "There are so many cookie-cutter women on television that don't seem real," says Spin's exec producer Bill Lawrence. "Connie is attractive and strong. We needed a strong female presence on the show and she has carried that."
She certainly talks the talk. Recently she engaged Fox in a dirty limerick contest on the set. "It became this competition to see who could be the nastiest," says Britton. Yes—but who won? "Definitely me," she insists. Britton swears by practical jokes as well. Not long ago, she rigged an on-set computer to read lurid Penthouse Forum-style letters in a synthesized monotone voice. "Connie has this cheerleader exterior," says cast-mate Michael Boatman, "but she can curse like a sailor."
Director Ed Burns noticed Brit-ton's more delicate side in 1994 when he cast her as the wife of an adulterous brother in his debut hit film, The Brothers McMullen. The then-fledgling director came to appreciate the loyalty she displayed, working without pay over eight months of haphazardly arranged shoots. (She later received $4,000 for her work.) "Connie was one of the people who said to me, 'No matter what it takes, I'll be here until the end,' " says Burns, who cast her again in his film No Looking Back. "She's a friend you can rely on."
That's a quality she learned growing up in Lynchburg, Va., with her fraternal twin, Cynthia, still one of her closest friends. Not that the two daughters of physicist Allen Womack and his wife, Linda, didn't know the meaning of sibling rivalry. "Connie always had nice long fingernails, so she would always scratch me," says Cynthia, now a defense contractor for the Department of Energy living in Alexandria, Va. "It was one of those things where we'd fight," says Connie, who recalls once smashing a ukulele over her sister's head, "but we always took care of each other."
In 1985, Britton enrolled at Dartmouth, where she majored in Asian Studies, learned Chinese, acted in student theater and dated history major John Britton. Graduating in 1989, they moved to New York City and married two years later. While he pursued investment banking, she performed in small theater productions. But her marriage ended in '95, and she's in no rush to repeat her mistakes. ("I definitely want to get married again," says Britton, who lives alone in a two-bedroom Manhattan loft and is dating a man she won't name. "But I want to do it right this time.") Britton kept on acting while working odd jobs, including one as an aerobics instructor, to pay the rent. "I was doing these Off-Off-Broadway plays," she recalls, "where there were no dressing rooms."
Her McMullen role seemed equally inauspicious until the movie began winning critical raves, and she decided to capitalize on the film's success by moving to L.A. ("I borrowed my parents' frequent-flier miles [to get there]," she says.) After hiring an agent, she made two ill-fated TV pilots and landed a small part on Ellen. In March '96, Britton read for a role on Spin, then in development, and immediately impressed the producers—not to mention Michael J. Fox, who looks up to her more than he'd like to. "They keep putting her in pumps," moans the diminutive star. "She's already 6'2" and they make her 6'5". Okay," he adds, acknowledging the hyperbole (Britton's really 5'8"). "She may not be 6'2", but you couldn't prove it by me."
Jason Lynch in New York City