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UPDATED 05/15/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/15/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT

>Josh Ryan Evans

On NBC's soap Passions, 3'2" Josh Ryan Evans keeps fans riveted with his spooky portrayal of Timmy, a doll brought to life by a witch's spell. But in 1997 it was actress Michelle Pfeiffer whom Evans, 18, really found spellbinding. He was about to audition for the role of Oren, the boy attorney on Ally McBeal, whose executive producer, David E. Kelley, is Pfeiffer's husband. "I was going to tell him how beautiful his wife is," says Evans. "Then I walked in and Michelle Pfeiffer was standing there. I couldn't speak." He got the part anyway.

Born in Hayward, Calif., with achondroplasia, a genetic condition that restricts cartilage growth and causes dwarfism, Evans underwent numerous childhood surgeries ("I had to have heart valves replaced"). But by age 12, Josh (who has a 6'4" brother, Jamie, now 27) was already making the audition rounds with the encouragement of his recently divorced parents, Cheryl (with whom he lives in L.A.) and Chuck. In 1994 he was cast as a dancing baby in an ice-cream commercial. This Thanksgiving he'll play the 8-year-old version of Jim Carrey's green Scrooge in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. His advice to young fans: "Dream big."

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