Chyler Leigh

updated 04/14/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/14/2003 01:00AM

For the record: Chyler Leigh, 20, presents her credentials as The Practice's feisty new associate, Claire Wyatt.

Precedents: Acquitted herself nicely in Not Another Teen Movie and TV flops That '80s Show and girls club.

Plea bargain: Three days after tearfully packing up her girls club dressing room last November, Leigh got a call from creator David E. Kelley, who offered her The Practice gig. "He said, 'Don't answer now,' " she says. "As if I needed to think about it!"

Incriminating evidence: Arriving on the set last December, "it suddenly hit me that I'd never watched The Practice, so I didn't know anyone's name," Leigh recalls. "They were all like, 'Hey, Chyler,' and I was going 'Um, hey, lady,' and 'Hey, you.' "

Character Witness: "You talk to her and think, 'You're wise beyond your years,' and then realize she's still just a kid, in the best sense," says Practice costar Kelli Williams. "She has that spark and that laugh."

Cocounsel: She met her husband, Bring It On actor Nathan West, 24, during a 1999 audition for the failed TV pilot Saving Graces. "We shared our first kiss in front of 27 network executives," says West. "Sure, it was for the role, but it was still magic." They wed last July and share a two-bedroom contemporary in L.A.

Objection overruled: Leigh, whose parents (Web site designer Bob Potts, 63, and real estate agent Yvonne Norton, 59) split when she was 12, is already looking forward to her own brood. "I know we should wait because I'm only 20 and blah, blah, blah," she says. "But I want to be young with my kids. That would be awesome."

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