The Return of ... Lisa Bonet

updated 11/17/2008 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/17/2008 01:00AM

She practically grew up on the small screen, going from adolescence to adulthood on the '80s sitcom The Cosby Show. But in Lisa Bonet's house, a no-television rule has been strictly enforced ever since she became a mom, to daughter Zoë, now 19. "The messages [on TV] are loud and clear about what we are supposed to look like and need. I didn't want that as a distraction," says Bonet, 41. But last summer Bonet made one exception."I was obsessed with the Olympics," she says. "It's so exciting to see that level of excellence and endurance."

Endurance is something Bonet has learned about firsthand. At 16, she landed a role on The Cosby Show; three years later she starred in the spin-off, A Different World. But a sexually suggestive performance in her 1987 film debut Angel Heart and risqué photo shoots in Interview and Rolling Stone magazines quickly tarnished her sweetheart status. She made more headlines when she wed a then-unknown rocker named Lenny Kravitz, had Zoë a year later and left A Different World. By 1991 her marriage to Kravitz, whom she continues to have "a friendly relationship" with, was over. Her career seemed headed in the same direction when, in 1993, Bonet legally changed her name to Lilakoi Moon "to honor my personal life outside of this," she says.

Appearing in only a few movies over the past decade, the actress—who still goes by Lisa Bonet professionally—has instead focused on yoga, art and a second wave of motherhood. She and her boyfriend of two years, actor Jason Momoa, have a 16-month-old daughter, Lola; Bonet is now pregnant with their second child, due in January. Changing diapers in her 40s doesn't faze her. "The number itself feels irrelevant to me," she says. "I look in the mirror and I see in this face all the life that has occurred."

That life has now brought her back to where her career began, on television. Bonet has a recurring role on the ABC drama Life On Mars, where she plays Maya, the missing girlfriend of detective Sam Tyler (Jason O'Mara). "To have my face reinstated in minds and homes once a week was an intense decision," she says. "I'm a shy person. I don't know if it's in my DNA to share with the world." What helped her say yes to the role was a satisfying life at home with Lola and Momoa, 28. "Having a mate has given me that feeling of safety," she says. "Jason is the love of my life. He's everything I hoped would come."

Relaxing at a Manhattan hotel in a hooded sweatshirt and baggy pants, Bonet is still strikingly beautiful—a self-proclaimed "hippie at heart," with a laid-back appeal and a warm, throaty voice. It's clear that pregnancy agrees with her, as does motherhood. "Zoë paid me the highest compliment," Bonet says. "She told me I was born to be a mother." But Bonet wasn't thrilled when Zoë, an actress who appeared in last year's drama The Brave One, decided to follow in her mom's footsteps. "I was very resistant," says Bonet. "It was probably one of our most challenging times. We locked horns. I was able to slow it down a little but not completely." Still, she says, "Zoë is smart, and her heart is in the right place." Ideally, she'll have her mom's resilience too."My life is really good," Bonet says. "And everything that happened brought me to this place."

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