Driving to the L.A. studio to shoot her scenes as NYPD Blue's assistant district attorney Valerie Haywood, Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon gives herself a pep talk. "I have to gear up for her," she says. "Valerie is really tough, and I'm pretty much nonconfrontational."
She has had no trouble standing up to the trappings of stardom. Beauvais-Nilon, 38, "looks like she should be one of those diva types," says costar Dennis Franz, "but she's just an everyday gal who shows up on the set in her Levi's and T-shirt." Born in Haiti, the youngest of seven children of nurse Marie Claire and lawyer Axel, who died in 1990, she credits her mother for her lack of pretension: "I was brainwashed. She always used to say, 'Be nice.' "
As a teen Beauvais-Nilon found work modeling for designers like Calvin Klein in New York City, but after the birth of her son Oliver (with her first husband, business manager Daniel Saunders) in 1991, she moved to Hollywood. Her big break: playing vampish receptionist "Fancy" Monroe on the 1996-2001 WB comedy The Jamie Foxx Show. Blue is a welcome change. "If you ask my friends, I'm funny," she says. "But if you ask my husband, I'm dramatic." No doubt. Just two days after her May wedding to talent agent Mike Nilon, 34, Beauvais-Nilon was flying to Prague to shoot the film Bad Company with Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock. The fast pace suits her. "I am fortunate," she says. "I could be working at Hooters." She pauses. "Not that working at Hooters is a bad thing." Mom would be proud.
On Newsstands Now
- Amy Robach: 'I'm Lucky to Be Alive'
- Paul Walker: Inside His Tragic Death
- Julia Roberts: Choosing Family Over Hollywood
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine