Escape from TV
Fortunately she wasn't hurt, and now, at 22, Langer is flying high indeed. After making her mark as Rayanne, the wild and promiscuous teenager in the acclaimed series My So-Called Life, she has moved on to the big screen. Starting Aug. 9, she'll be seen opposite Kurt Russell in the futuristic thriller Escape from L.A., a sequel to the 1981 cult classic Escape from New York. As Utopia, the President's daughter, Langer runs away with a gun-toting Los Angeles gangster and, she says, laughing, "becomes his queen in lingerie. Enough is implied to make my dad uncomfortable."
Langer has good cause to worry about what Dad thinks: She still lives at home, in the family's two-story house in California's San Fernando Valley. "I would be very concerned about having my daughter, at a young age, in Hollywood by herself," says her father, Gary, who sells women's formal wear for a California wholesale fashion distributor. "I think it would be tough mentally to handle the rejection. When she goes on an audition, the worst thing that happens is she comes home, she eats a meal and gets into the Jacuzzi."
Her mother, Deana, an audiologist who owns a hearing-aid distribution company, is quick to point out that acting was once only a small part of her daughter's life. A.J. was "always marching to the beat of her own drummer," she says. As an 8-year-old, Langer played Little League baseball on an otherwise all-boy team (the guys started calling her A.J. because they found "Allison" too feminine). In junior high she was a cheerleader, softball player and class president. Langer became interested in acting professionally only when a ninth-grade algebra teacher, impressed by her speaking skills, suggested she go for it. But, says Deana, referring to the countless aspiring teen actors around Los Angeles, "most of the kids in the Valley do that. It was just a normal thing."
Unlike most other kids in the Valley, however, Langer soon found steady work as an actress. In 1991 she got a part in the ill-fated Fox sitcom Drexell's Class and later that same year appeared in Wes Craven's movie The People Under the Stairs. She also did guest shots on TV's Blossom and The Wonder Years. In 1992, by then having dropped out of school (she later earned a general equivalency diploma), she landed the role of the disturbed and rebellious Rayanne opposite Claire Danes on ABC's My So-Called Life (which was recently in reruns on MTV). "I went in to the producers and it just clicked," she says of her audition. "I just picked the script up, thought of Rayanne and did it. She was always so clear to me because she's, like, my opposite."
Langer is also the opposite of many young actors. Winnie Holzman, who produced Life until it was canceled after just 19 episodes, says Langer "didn't need me to be her mom or her friend because she had all that." She also had—and still has—a boyfriend, Chris Frith-Smith, 23, a law and society major in his last year at the University of California at Santa Barbara who currently plays minor league baseball for the Sioux Falls Canaries. The two met at a postprom party in 1992, and "we've talked every day for four years," Langer says. "He's my best friend. He's really half of me in a lot of ways. I'll get married in five years, if it's him." Frith-Smith, who hopes to play professional baseball, knows it will be him. "We plan," he says, with a bit less reserve, "on being together forever." Unless, of course, Langer never leaves home at all.
MICHELE KELLER in Los Angeles