Guiding Sprite

updated 07/01/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/01/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

I'VE ACTUALLY RUN AWAY FROM HOME three times," confesses 11-year-old Kimberly Brown. "Once when my real mom came back, another when my dad broke his leg and once when my dad and stepmother broke up before they got married." Her TV family, that is. As the eternally turmoiled Marah Lewis on CBS's Guiding Light, Brown has a life that's an emotional roller coaster. Her real life is more like a missile shot.

The Maryland-born sixth-grader's career took off when she was enrolled at age 5 in a children's acting seminar by her mother, Diane, 35, a former freelance editor and onetime Washington Redskins cheerleader. Spotted by a theatrical agent, Brown promptly graduated to kiddie TV ads (Trix and Jell-O), then to Broadway (where she had appeared in three shows by the age of 9) and, in 1993, to the cast of GL. In April she scored an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Young Actress in a Drama Series. "She's like a ball of sunshine," says Brown's mother. "She's got so much energy."

She needs every watt. On the Manhattan set of GL by 7:30 a.m., Brown shoots her scenes, then scoots across town to Broadway, where she also appears in Showboat eight times a week. Schooling—via a Christian video correspondence course—gets done at home between her acting commitments. She has shared a two-bedroom Manhattan apartment with her mother, her father, Rick, 41, a freelance computer technician, and brothers Richard II, 6, and Roman, 6 months, since the family left Gaithersburg, Md., and followed Kimberly to New York a year ago.

Now the brood is searching for something more family-size, and Brown can't wait to start decorating a room of her own. "Richard came to me the other day saying, 'I'm going to get this and this and this for my room,' " she says, "and I was like, 'Where did you get the time for those ideas?' "

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