Janice Berman Staff Writer
WHEN A TV series like "NYPD Blue" becomes the
most-talked-about show of the season, audiences notice
more than just the stars.
David Caruso, as Det. John Kelly, and Dennis Franz, as
Det. Andy Sipowicz dominate the precinct house, but
there's room inside for others.
That's especially so now, as the ABC drama prepares to
air the final two episodes of its initial season.
Tonight (at 10 on Ch. 7) and next Tuesday, viewers will
see important storylines focusing on three of the female
supporting characters, whose air time has grown as the
ratings have built: Det. Janice Licalsi (Amy Brenneman),
civilian assistant Donna Abandando (Gail O'Grady) and
Assistant District Attorney Sylvia Costas (Sharon
Throughout the season, these women have had their
romantic entanglements with the cops, have bared their
bodies and in some cases, their souls, as they cope with
life in the testosterone-charged atmosphere of the 15th
precinct. "NYPD Blue" may not be "Cagney & Lacey," yet
its women are strong characters and influential forces -
and the relatively unknown actresses playing them are
beginning to receive the attention given their male
AMY BRENNEMAN Walking into a Bochco Productions
office on the 20th-Century Fox lot, near the set of "NYPD
Blue" Amy Brenneman looks like a college kid - all that
tousled curly hair, well-worn jeans, sandals, plaid shirt
with sunglasses hooked at the neckline and a bright,
Despite her sunny appearance, she has the darkest of the
Newly promoted Det. Janice Licalsi is a cop's daughter
whose father committed suicide just as he was indicted
for corruption. In an early episode that has resonated all
season, she killed a mobster (and his chauffeur) who was
shaking her down. She got away with it when another
hood copped to the murders as part of a pleabargain.
Licalsi is "not a character who has been happily received
by women cops," said executive producer David Milch,
"because she did a wrong thing."
It probably won't make those cops any happier to learn
that the actress who plays the wrongdoer has a Harvard
degree. In religion.
Moreover, the 29-year-old Connecticut native is the
daughter of a mother who's a judge. Her father is an
environmental lawyer. Not exactly on-the-job training for
playing a blue-collar cop, but that's why she's an actress.
"I have this thing that comes out. I become much more
brazen," said Brenneman, a self-described "tomboy" who
grew up with two brothers. "I walk on the set and sort of
swagger and curse," she said, talking out of the corner of
her mouth to illustrate, but breaking into a big grin.
"Sometimes I come home and say, what was that? And
sometimes it's a very instinctive thing, not to want to be
treated like The Girl."
She also earned the distinction of being the show's first
female character to doff her clothes, during her romance
with Kelly (now on the rocks).
The scene could have felt awkward, she said, but she and
Caruso are friends and she likes his touch. "We're giving
each other hugs forever." (Off camera, both have their
own love lives; Brenneman's boyfriend is Brad Silberlin,
whom she met when he directed an episode.)
Brenneman's background is in theater. While at Harvard,
she and some friends formed Cornerstone Theater, a
collective company that brought classic plays to small
towns. After some small roles in New York, she headed
west, where her work included a part on the short-lived,
but well-received CBS series "Middle Ages." She is only
being half-facetious when she describes the difference
between New York and West Coast actors as "taking
acting classes versus working out."
Nevertheless, Brenneman's most notable moment came
from something not taught in drama school, and it gave
viewers everywhere plenty to talk about the next day. So
what was her mother-the-judge's verdict when her child
bared it all on prime-time TV?
"That I was too skinny," laughed Brenneman.