- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Due in mid-March, Amy Brenneman has been playing "hide the package" for a couple of months. The deception is getting more difficult with each passing 15-hour day on the set at 20th Century Fox. Unfortunately, there was no way the star of "Judging Amy" could work her real-life pregnancy into the CBS shows story line in its second season.

"Amy Gray is a highly independent, iconoclastic person who could remain single and have the baby," says Miss Brenneman, 36, "but in the show, she is just getting used to being on her own, dating and raising a growing daughter. Adding a newborn would be crazy."

During the past seven episodes of the season, Judge Amy has been hiding behind overstuffed furniture, tall desks, lush ferns and huge refrigerators.

"Actually, I was relatively slim frontally until my eighth month, so when they shot me head-on I could get away with it in certain kinds of clothes," she explains. "They couldnt shoot my body in profile, so I started turning my head, but not my body, for some scenes. Instead of pregnant, I looked like a robot who had gained 25 pounds."

Miss Brenneman, a tough mother, plans to work until the last week of her pregnancy.

"That still means 15-hour workdays, though the writers are trying to reduce my role somewhat right now," she says with a sigh. "[The producers], at one point, talked about working six days a week to make sure we got all 22 episodes done this season, but thats where I drew the line. Instead, Ill take a few weeks off after giving birth, then come back, God willing, in April and May to finish everything. Hey, this is a bottom-line business."

Its the first child for Miss Brenneman and her husband of nearly six years, director Brad Silberling, whom she met while portraying Officer Janice Licalsi on "NYPD Blue" during the 1993-94 season.

"Everybodys pitching in to make me comfortable on the set," she says, "but I dont know how to nap or rest. All I do is get horizontal a couple of times a day. A big help is a killer chair with an 'old lady footrest that my husband gave me for Christmas."

Mr. Silberling who directed his wife in the pilot of "Judging Amy" and a handful of subsequent episodes is in Maine directing the feature film "Babys in Black" (which he also wrote) but is expected back in time for the big event. The sex of their baby will be "a huge surprise," Miss Brenneman says.

"I wanted to know, but he refused, because he knows that I cant keep secrets. Id tell everyone immediately. He just said, 'Can we have a little privacy, please?"

She says she is "totally excited" and fearless about the impending arrival, though she has asked friends and family members, including her mother, lots of questions about motherhood.

"Its impossible to know exactly what my situation will be like, but I am prepared to completely dedicate myself to the baby," Miss Brenneman says. "Several friends also advised me that my own life will go away. So be it."

When the time comes, the actress hopes to make it to the hospital without drama of any sort.

"This has been a strong, healthy, dream pregnancy all the way, and I feel very, very lucky," she says, laughing. "And I think of myself as one of those peasant farm women who drop their babies in the field while harvesting the crops. In my case, Id go behind a large prop or a painted backdrop on the set for a half-hour."

Ultimately, of course, the co-creator of "Judging Amy" (and one of the shows executive producers) can do whatever she wants whenever she wants. At the moment, that means full speed ahead for the recipient of two Emmy Award nominations during her "NYPD Blue" days. Her current series was inspired by her real-life mother, Frederica S. Brenneman, a Superior Court judge in Connecticut.

"But this show is not an autobiographical mother-daughter relationship," she says. "She also thinks that Im much harsher on the bench than she is."

When Miss Brenneman needs additional ammunition for her character a lawyer and Family Court judge in Hartford, Conn. she also can enlist the aid of her father, a prominent environmental lawyer, and her older, lawyer brother, Matthew. ("They all think the system is broken, but not the people.")

Somehow, her younger brother, Andrew, escaped the long arm of the law and became an interactive software producer.

Born and raised in New London, Conn., she started performing a few minutes after birth and never stopped. Miss Brenneman never missed a high school musical and started working with the American Repertory Theater as soon as she enrolled at Harvard University, where she majored in comparative religion.

"I loved studying drama along with religious rituals and shamanism, because they seem to feed on each other," she explains. "Some cultures put on huge masks and act out myths of creation, or you have a shaman healing a village through a catharsis its all acting."

She spent seven months in Nepal In 1985, studying sacred dances.

"It was one of the most amazing experiences in my life," Miss Brenneman says, "going to school in Katmandu while living with a Tibetan [refugee] family. Besides dance, I studied the Tibetan language. At one point, I spent six weeks trekking around the country, staying in Sherpa huts in the Himalayas at around 15,000 feet. Besides the magnificent terrain, I remember the total silence of the mountains. Except for those … yak bells."

Miss Brenneman helped found the Cornerstone Theatre Company while at Harvard, then spent five years after graduation touring small towns on the East Coast with modest productions of the classics. When the gig ended, she became a teacher in Brooklyn for a couple of years before making her screen debut in the short-lived series "Middle Ages."

Her motion picture credits include "Casper" (1995), "Heat" (1995), "Nevada" (1997), "The Suburbans" (1999) and "Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her" (2000).

"Sometimes, I cant believe my luck," she muses, laughing. "Im married to the most remarkable, supportive man. When I come home from a 15-hour day and say, 'Im just so tired, my husband says, 'Yeah, but you were tired before you were pregnant. He knows how to put my whole life into proper perspective."

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