Relative Ease

updated 05/22/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/22/2000 01:00AM

Nine years as The Young and the Restless's man-crazy Victoria Newman has left Heather Tom with a serious penchant for meddling in affairs of the heart. Now, in her dressing room, she's grilling brother David about his hot date the previous night. And a simple "It was great" isn't going to cut it: "How great is 'great'?" she demands. "Really great," says David. "We talked for hours. We're going out again."

Lately the Toms have been sharing a lot—and not just updates on their love lives. David joined the hit CBS soap himself last June, as rich teen Billy Abbott, and now they've netted dual Daytime Emmy nominations. (Heather has been nominated eight times and won twice, while this is David's first shot.) "A lot of young people come into this just to be stars and party," says castmate Jess Walton, who plays Jill Abbott. "But they're interested in being masters of their craft. They fit in seamlessly."

Though not jointly. The siblings Tom rarely get to cross paths at work (Y & R's Abbott and Newman families travel in different circles), which David says is probably for the best. Heather, 24, and David, 22, have been too close for comfort before. In 1989 they left Seattle for TV-pilot season in L.A. with their mother, Marie, now 58, and David's twin sister, Nicholle, also an actress. Barely able to afford the trip, the clan shoehorned themselves into their agent Michael Einfield's studio apartment. While David landed a play and Heather a guest role on Who's the Boss?, the cramped quarters took a toll. "We were living on top of each other," says Heather. "There was a lot of fighting."

The biggest battle that year was still to come: Their stockbroker father, Charles, now 56, and Marie split after 21 years of marriage. "There was sort of a role switch," says Marie, who struggled to support the children as a substitute speech therapist while pursuing her master's at night. "The kids had to be responsible." Heather, then 14, lied about her age for a $40-a-week cookie-store job that paid for her acting lessons, while David, at 12, tried to be the man of the house, snagging commercials and TV roles.

The pain of the split still lingers. Heather is finally at peace with her father after "lots of therapy" but has not reestablished contact with him, which David did last year. And the rift may have made her wary of marriage. She has been dating Royal Crown Revue guitarist James Achor, 30, for over two years, but admits, "I don't know if I'm the marrying type." Adds David of his father's departure: "I felt betrayed. It taught me to never do that to anybody."

Things were simpler back in 1981, when Marie got Heather her first job, modeling in Chicago for a department store (David and Nicholle joined her on the runway two years later). After once entertaining her own acting dreams, Marie admits, "in a way, maybe I was projecting some of what I was wanting to do through them." The kids kept landing plays and commercials when the family moved to Seattle in 1986, then on to L.A.

After moving out of Einfield's apartment, the Toms found a place in Pasadena, where all three kids began charming casting agents. Heather landed Y & R in 1991, and Nicholle played one of Fran Drescher's charges on The Nanny. Meanwhile, David won roles in Pleasantville and on Party of Five and after a failed 1994 audition—arranged by Heather—to play her onscreen sibling Nicholas, finally got his own Y & R role last year.

Now the siblings live just blocks from one another in the San Fernando Valley (he with friend Brody Olson; she by herself) and visit frequently. Next, Heather and David will be trekking to New York City for the Daytime Emmys on May 19. "If they both win," says sister Nicholle, "that will mean there are four Emmys in our family, one for each of our houses. It would be the most amazing night!"

Jason Lynch
Robyn Flans in Los Angeles

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