Brenneman balances profession, pregnancy, second season

Her hit show, "Judging Amy," returns today on CBS

By James Endrst The Hartford Courant

There are many ways to measure stardom in television and one of them is the size of your trailer.

Amy Brenneman, the star of CBS' hit drama "Judging Amy," doesn't really have a trailer -- at least not the kind of cramped, air-conditioned quarters with a small fridge, a tiny couch, a desk maybe and a Greyhound bus-size bathroom. No standard-issue, function-first furniture with the world's most durable and abrasive fabric.

No, Brenneman's private digs on the Paramount lot, not far from the faux Hartford, Conn., courthouse down the street, can't be called a trailer. It's more like a split-level studio apartment on wheels.

Her couch -- draped in exotic fabrics, some of which she picked up in the south of France -- could easily accommodate four or five visitors. There's a stereo system with speakers big enough to blow the steel doors off the joint. A step or two to the right, there's a shower, and up and beyond that is a dressing room where the lights of a sizable makeup mirror are glowing.

That's what a hit show and executive-producer status -- not to mention an Emmy nomination -- can get you.

("Judging Amy" airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on CBS and KWCH, Channel 12. The show returns for its second season today.)

"Judging Amy" was the highest rated new drama of last season, but Brenneman, who at this moment is rocking girlishly on the hind legs of a chair, didn't capture the Emmy.

"I thought I'd lose to Edie Falco (of HBO's 'The Sopranos'), actually," says Brenneman.

"I was expecting to lose," she says, "but I lost to another person." (Sela Ward of "Once and Again," the ABC drama about life and love after divorce, got the award for outstanding actress in a drama series.)

In the meantime, Brenneman has an ongoing celebration -- her first pregnancy, which she confirmed just a day or two before the Emmys in September.

Beaming but not yet showing, Brenneman has kept the due date a secret to keep the tabloids at bay. But she can barely contain her enthusiasm.

Fortunately, her role as Judge Amy Gray will keep her covered behind the bench and in those long, black robes much of the time.

At this point, she says, no firm decisions have been made as to whether her character will be in the family way as well.

For now, Brenneman's thoughts are on her baby -- on the set as well as off. She's grateful that, because she doubles as a producer, she has enough power to be allowed a family life off-set.

"What can they say?" she says. "But also, the whole culture of the show is very different. Listen, man, if I had to tell Steven Bochco at 'NYPD Blue,' I'm sure he'd be nice, but children are not part of that."

Because her pregnancy has an impact on so many co-workers and a multimillion-dollar television investment, she was interested in the reaction of cast and crew.

Most people offered congratulations, though she says there were differences along gender lines.

"To the person," she says, "the women were so knocked out and so excited. And the men were real excited and then said, 'OK, what about the schedule?' "

She thinks back to something her mother once told her.

"It was one of the most poignant conversations I had with her," she says. "I was an adult, and she said, 'Look, I could be a better judge if I wasn't a mom. I could be a better mom if I wasn't a judge.' And when people asked her, 'How do you do it all?' she'd answer, 'Not very well.'"