It seems a good chunk of America has been following Amy Brenneman into her bedroom Tuesday nights as she becomes Officer Janice Licalsi in ABC's hit cop show NYPD Blue. Every other episode or so, Brenneman, who, in what seems like another life, was a comparative-religion major at Harvard, clutches the pale, vulnerable, Catholic butt of Detective John Kelly (David Caruso) and takes prime-time television to a realm of sexuality it has never before visited. "Yeah, I think it's a bit of a gimmick," she says of the blue scenes, "but it's not like the parts I was up for when I first went to L.A.: You show up, you fuck the star, you get killed."
Officer Licalsi is a nice girl, but life is hard for her, and she's never afraid to make it harder. To help her crooked-cop father, she gets in bed with the Mafia. Then she gets in bed with Kelly, reconsiders the deal, and blows away the Mafia don. "She's so dark," Brenneman says admiringly. "She's the cool part of me." If you spend even a little time with Brenneman, any number of parts are on display. In person, she sheds the Italo-American glamour with the television makeup---the mane of hair and carnivore teeth come together in a face no less sexy for its honest, East Coast pallor. (Imagine a kibbutzim pinup.) She exudes a bopping, riffing verbal energy and a craving for human connection. "I'm a smoocher," she says. "It's that acting thing."
Combine that "openness" with Officer Licalsi's itchy trigger finger and you've got someone who's not afraid to challenge her creators, Steven Bochco and company. Says Brenneman, "They have to figure out what women on the show are doing besides the sexual-titillation thing."