When Amy Brenneman signed the "nudity clause" in her contract for the TV
series NYPD Blue, she had no inkling that producer Stephen Bochco (L.A.
Law) would exercise his option immediately. "On my second day of work, I
had to kill two people. And on the third day, I [along with costar David
Caruso] got naked," says the Emmy-nominated actress who portrayed the sexy
but tough Officer Janice Licalsi.
The attention that the duo's bare bottoms received helped propel them to
instant fame. But instead of settling in for a run, Caruso opted out of
the series for a film career. And Brenneman was informed that her
character would also be dropped: "They told me Janice was a real firebrand
- not television material. They had problems maintaining her. I was upset
Brenneman needn't have worried. Her exposure, as it were, on a major hit
series grabbed Hollywood's attention. And now, a year after leaving NYPD
Blue, she's working nonstop in movies. As for any concerns about being
typecast, she hasn't played a single tough cookie in her three
back-to-back films. The first, Bye Bye Love, which was just released,
ftnds her as Matthew Modine's ex-wife interfacing with his best friend,
played by Paul Reiser. In May, she'll be seen as an angel in a live-
action film version of the animated TV series Casper the Friendly Ghost.
And she's just finished shooting a thriller, No Fear, opposite Reese
Witherspoon and Mark Wahlberg (aka Marky Mark), the script for which she
hated on sight and is now glad she was talked into: "Thrillers are not my
thing. But the director [James Foley] won me over. In rewrites, it kept
getting better and better." What's more, the fire under Brenneman' s
career just now got even hotter when she signed on as the female lead
playing Robert De Niro's love interest in Heat, which reunites the actor
with his Godfather II costar Al Pacino.
Brunching in one of Beverly Hills' best delis, Nate 'N Al, Brenneman
reminds me of my childhood buddy's pretty older sister - accessible if not
quite attainable. She has dark, gently curled hair, a sensual smile, and
large, oval eyes that never waver as she meets every question head-on.
Which makes it all the more curious that she's so evasive when asked her
age. Even after she's been coaxed into admitting that she recently
celebrated "a big birthday," she sidesteps actually uttering the word
Born and raised in Connecticut, the youngest of three children and the
only girl, Brenneman was "the achiever" in the family, the one who went to
Harvard. But it was her more rebellious brothers who hooked onto the
button-down career track, while she spent eight months in Paris, a year in
Nepal studying religion, and almost six years on the road with the
Cornerstone Theater Company, an itinerant repertory group that adapted
classical plays to whatever small American town they were performing in.
Her eyes crinkle with happiness as she recalls the years spent making
herself a home anyplace she happened to be. "I'd take on the character of
wherever I was," she says.
But eventually, the security of living in a communal environment with her
fellow actors, whom she'd known since college, was offset by frequent
bouts of loneliness and the constant prospect of being uprooted. In 1990,
she decided to make a break and move to New York City. She was a bit
intimidated at first, she admits. But having eamed only eighty dollars a
week for several years, she was not exactly unfamiliar with struggle.
Suddenly everything happened - fast. Theater work. A failed but highly
praised TV series, The Middle Ages. And NYPD Blue. Then, as if to ice the
cake, Steven Spielberg's production company purchased the feature-film
rights to the story of the Cornerstone Theater Company. And while she
wasn't looking, she even found love - in the person of Brad Silberling, a
director on NYPD Blue (and more recently, Casper). The attraction between
them was immediate, she says, but, not wanting to get involved with
someone from work, she resisted.
Then one day, her father was visiting the set and also struck up an
instant rapport with Silberling: "Afterward, my dad said to me, `That Brad
seems like a nice guy.' So naturally, I rejected him a while longer." She
laughs. But Brenneman finally "broke down and told Brad how I felt about
him, and he said he was finishing up a relationship with someone. Still,
we went out the next day - and he came on to me." Though wedding bells are
likely to tinkle somewhere down the road, matrimony is still in the
talking stages. "We're just enjoying every stage of the relationship," she
If studying Eastern religions and meditating has taught Brenneman
anything, it's to go with the flow: "I'm happier now than I thought I'd be
at this age. I guess I didn't realize that if you keep going, things get
better. You get to be who you are a little more every day."