For All My Children's Susan Lucci, who made her Broadway debut in the hit musical Annie Get Your Gun two years ago, life is a cabaret. On Oct. 2 the actress opened a 10-day engagement at New York City's Feinstein's at the Regency, a 140-seat club where she sang old standards during an hour-long set. "This is the first time I've done something so intimate. I learned so much from Annie," says Lucci, 54. "I had the best time, and I guess I learned how to have nerves of steel." Is she ever tempted, surveying her S100-a-head audience, to calm herself with one of their cocktails? "No," she says, "but they look awfully inviting."
By Reason of Insanity
In the 1999 film Girl, Interrupted Brittany Murphy portrayed a suicidal mental patient, a part that helped her play a psychotic mental patient opposite Michael Douglas in the suspense film Don't Say a Word. "I remember walking around Toronto during the shoot," says Murphy, 23, who also voices LuAnn on FOX's animated series King of the Hill. "I had this long stringy hair, I was wearing hospital clothes, and I was in heaven. My character basically gets to freak out a lot, which was a great joy to play and is like a dream role if you want to chew the scenery. You can really sink your teeth into all the emotion. Basically playing crazy is an easy thing. I just had to be myself."
When Tisha Campbell-Martin, who plays Damon Wayans's wife on ABC's Thru Thick and Thin, learned she was expecting her first baby last spring, she hoped her pregnancy could be woven into the story line. "But we weren't able to write it in, because the episodes were being shown out of sequence last year," says Campbell-Martin, 33, who gave birth in August to her son Xen with actor husband Duane Martin. So what did they do instead? "All of a sudden I had this humongous weight gain, from a size 3 to a size 12," says the actress, who reached a pregnancy high of 197 lbs. "I went away to my [character's] mother's house for a couple of weeks, and I came back more than myself. Too much good cooking."
Easy As Pie
Australian actor Simon Baker faked an American accent long before he won the starring role in CBS's new drama The Guardian, on which he plays a disgraced lawyer turned child advocate in Pittsburgh. It's a skill he put to use the first day he arrived in the U.S. in 1996. "I was trying to order a pizza," says Baker, 32. "I said, 'I want mushroom, tomahtoe, pepperoni,' and the woman didn't understand a word I was saying. So I had to use my American accent right then." Despite plenty of practice, the actor occasionally has to struggle to get certain phrases just right. "Some days it's easier than others," says Baker. "It's sort of an aerobics of the mouth—you've got to learn a whole new exercise regime. Very cardiovascular."
Pam Grier, the Afro queen of such 70s blaxploitation flicks as Foxy Brown and Scream, Blacula, Scream, hasn't abandoned her big-haired roots. "When I want to be really bad," says the Denver-based Grier, 52, who stars opposite Snoop Doggy Dogg in Bones, opening Oct. 17, "I just put on my big 'fro wig and run around town. I look cool, but people get very upset when I sit in front of them at the movies." Still, she adds, it's worth it. "I hear, 'Is that you, Foxy Brown, under all that hair?' "
Into the Stones
Actor Troy Garity, 28, the son of Jane Fonda and her ex-husband Tom Hayden, plays Bruce Willis's cousin in the crime caper Bandits, a character he can understand. "I used to fantasize about robbing museums," says Garity, who uses his paternal grandmother's maiden name. "I was interested in gem exhibits. I don't know what a 9-year-old would do with a 5-lb. ruby. I think that desire was inspired by The Great Muppet Caper."