Molly Ringwald Teen Queen

updated 03/30/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 03/30/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

She successfully wooed heartthrob Jake in Sixteen Candles, busted out of detention in The Breakfast Club and found true love in Pretty in Pink. Molly Ringwald has had many joyous moments onscreen, but none can match her euphoria since moving back to L.A. for the first time in a decade. Ecstatic fans of the '80s teen icon's have been embracing her on the streets and in supermarkets, and she now stars in another teen drama, ABC Family's The Secret Life of the American Teenager. "I feel like the prodigal daughter returning," says Ringwald. "There's been a lot of welcoming."

And the emotional greetings are just getting started. This summer Ringwald will give birth to twins: a boy and a girl. "I'm excited and overwhelmed, but mostly excited," says Ringwald, 41, who feels the same way about getting another chance in Hollywood after spending years in Paris, doing theater in New York City and raising daughter Mathilda, 5. Now she's back where she belongs, says Secret Life creator Brenda Hampton. "The camera loves Molly. You can just tell she's supposed to be doing this."

Sitting at a picnic table on the show's Burbank set, her Raggedy Ann red hair pushed off her forehead, Ringwald admits she didn't immediately embrace playing Anne Juergens, mom of a pregnant 15-year-old. Hampton convinced her "my character wouldn't be wallpaper," she says. "I'm not good at being wallpaper."

Just check her résumé. The actress rose to stardom by playing complex, fiery adolescents in three coming-of-age films from director John Hughes (see sidebar). "At different times I like one better than the other," she says of her teen trifecta. "They blend together a bit."

Even though Ringwald's star faded in the '90s, her films have remained touchstones for adolescents everywhere. Secret Life costar Shailene Woodley, who plays Ringwald's daughter, was starstruck from the start. "I loved her movies, and I was in awe at first, but she's such a great mom," says Woodley. "When Mathilda comes to the set, both of them light up."

Prepping for the upcoming twins makes both mother and daughter even more thrilled. "Mathilda decided she'll take care of the girl and I will take care of the boy," says Ringwald, who lives in a rented home near the beach with her writer and book editor husband, Panio Gianopoulos, 33 (they wed in 2007; she divorced French writer Valéry Lameignère in 2002).

She's also getting a lot of help at work, where her pregnancy has been written into Secret Life (filming its second season; season 1's finale airs March 23). "I love having professionals on-set buying me maternity clothes," she says. "The more the better!"

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