52.9 million viewers watch Shields play the off-kilter beauty obsessed with Joey Tribbiani (left, with Matt LeBlanc) on NBC's Friends. It remains the most-watched episode of the hit series, and shows a new audience and the network heads that Shields is adept at comedy. NBC quickly offers Shields her own show.
NBC's Suddenly Susan stars Shields as Susan Keane (right, with costar Judd Nelson), a newly single writer in San Francisco. "Brooke was showcasing comedic ability no one knew she had, just as Candice Bergen did," executive producer Gary Dontzig tells PEOPLE. The show gleans top Nielsen ratings and earns Shields two Golden Globe nods for Best Actress. But tragedy strikes in 1999 when costar David Strickland commits suicide in a Las Vegas hotel. The stunned cast and crew film a tribute episode in the third season.
Wearing an ivory Heidi Weisel gown and a 16-foot-long antique lace veil, Shields marries Agassi at a California resort. More than 150 guests – including Judd Nelson, Nastassja Kinski and Chris O'Donnell – watch as Shields and Agassi tearfully exchange their vows. The marriage lasts less than two years, with the couple eventually getting an annulment. "We have the utmost love and respect for each other," they say in a statement, "and will remain the best of friends."
Shields begins dating TV writer Chris Henchy (left), whose proposal she accepts in July 2000. Eight months later, in a surprise ceremony on Catalina Island, the couple weds. After exchanging vows, they throw a bigger wedding in front of 75 guests the following month. "It all fell into place at the last minute," Shields tells PEOPLE. "It was absolutely perfect."
After seven in vitro fertilization attempts – and one miscarriage – Shields, 37, and Henchy, 38, finally welcome a daughter, Rowan Francis. Three months later, in an interview with PEOPLE, she says the experience helped her "understand the difference between wanting to have a baby and truly wanting to be a mother." Unknown to anyone but her husband, Shields is harboring a secret that she isn't ready to share: she is being treated for postpartum depression.
After a successful run in the Broadway play Wonderful Town, Shields joins the production of Chicago on London's West End. Her performance as Roxie Hart (left) is well-received, and the star reprises the role on Broadway for seven weeks. TV also beckons Shields, who appears on everything from Hannah Montana to Nip/Tuck before getting her own show in 2007, NBC's Lipstick Jungle.
Shields writes Down Came The Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression, which is a candid look at the struggles she faced after the birth of Rowan. "During what was becoming one of the darkest points in my life, I sat holding my newborn and could not avoid the image of her flying through the air and hitting the wall in front of me," she writes. In the book, Shields claims that the antidepressant Paxil helped her recover from the depression.
In an interview with Access Hollywood, Scientologist movie star Tom Cruise blasts Shields for using Paxil to combat her postpartum depression. He suggests that women instead take "vitamins and exercise," and warns that Shields' advice is "irresponsible." In an editorial for the New York Times, Shields fires back: "I'm going to take a wild guess and say that Mr. Cruise has never suffered from postpartum depression. Comments like those made by Tom Cruise are a disservice to mothers everywhere." After the well-publicized debacle, Cruise apologizes, and they become friends.
Shields and Henchy welcome their second daughter, Grier Hammond, on the same day and in the same hospital where Katie Holmes welcomes Suri Cruise. Although Shields is prepared to take antidepressants, she soon discovers that she has no postpartum depression. "This was nothing like the first one," she tells PEOPLE. "It's as close to Norman Rockwell as possible."
Shields plays Wendy, a movie executive juggling work and family in a killer designer wardrobe, in NBC's Lipstick Jungle. The new series – similar to Lucy Liu's ABC show, Cashmere Mafia – is created and based on the book by Sex and the City author, Candace Bushnell. "It's about not apologizing for being able to be successful, and not apologizing for wanting as much as you can," the 42-year-old actress told the AP of her show, which costars Lindsay Price and Kim Raver (left). The show is canceled after two seasons.
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