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Actress Looks To Face ‘The Judge’

April 26, 2001

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SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) _ Arriving in a flurry, Lolita Davidovich apologizes for ``flying in so late.″

Moments later she’s talking about how having a daughter, Valentina, now 16 months, has ``settled and centered me″ and ``made me more organized.″

Then, catching the irony, she laughs and apologizes again for her tardiness.

She’s come to the Santa Monica offices of her husband, director Ron Shelton, to talk about her role in the NBC miniseries ``The Judge.″ The two-part adaptation of the legal suspense thriller airs Sunday, May 6, and Monday, May 7 (9 p.m. to 11 p.m. EDT).

She plays a former county prosecutor, Catherine Rosetti, hired to defend a judge charged with murder and to entice her former boyfriend Paul Mandriani to also join the defense team. The all-star cast includes Edward James Olmos as Judge Armando Acosta, Chris Noth as Mandriani, Sonia Braga as Acosta’s wife and Charles Durning as the judge presiding over the case.

As Rosetti, in a short red wig and serious suits, some of Davidovich’s natural lushness is hidden. Not so this day. Her own marmalade hair flies free and her striking figure is set off in a midriff-baring, green knit top, sleek blue jeans and high-heeled boots, also in a marmalade hue.

She still looks sexy in the miniseries, but that’s not really the point of the Rosetti-Mandriani relationship.

``There is romance, but it’s a past romance,″ she says. ``It’s a sexy relationship, but it doesn’t manifest itself in a formula way.″

As research for the role, Davidovich relied on anecdotes and information provided by her agent, David Brownstein, formerly a trial lawyer who represented mobsters.

She believes there’s ``an inherent arrogance″ to being a trial lawyer that an actor must capture to be convincing. ``You’ve just got to be full of yourself. ... There’s a certain pompousness that often goes with it, and a righteousness.″

Davidovich sees the art of being a lawyer as ``knowing how to use the language and how to tell a story, because laws are all interpretable and often aren’t up-to-date with society.″

``The deliciousness of language″ is what attracts her to acting.

She hankers for a return to the stage in any George Bernard Shaw play, stuffed with lengthy speeches.

Davidovich, now 39, was born in Toronto. Her father was from Belgrade, her mother from Slovenia.

``I was kind of a late bloomer in most things. I was an introvert as a child. ... I wasn’t very social and not a whole lot has changed.″

Her manner of speech is reflective, her demeanor a little dreamy, as she searches to express herself.

How did she become interested in acting?

``I think it’s probably a combination of being Slavic and being very emotional and being such a good listener. I love people so much, and their suffering, that to kind of inhabit them and vicariously live experiences and other people’s situations was probably the most creative and healthy thing to do, rather than just living, living the role.

``Does that make sense? I don’t think it came out right,″ she says.

Davidovich met her husband during the filming of 1989′s ``Blaze,″ which he directed. She played stripper Blaze Starr. Shelton has also directed 1988′s ``Bull Durham,″ 1992′s ``White Men Can’t Jump,″ and 1996′s ``Tin Cup.″

``My Serbian friends really have so embraced him as an honorary Serb by virtue of his loud voice, uncompromising methods, drinking habits _ um, not habits, but propensity,″ she says with affection, glancing at the office’s well-stocked bar.

``And his earthiness. He’s so quintessentially American,″ she says, musing about ``the big, crazy, unpredictable pioneer spirit″ she believes American and Slavic cultures share.

Although Shelton’s office is cluttered with sports photos and trinkets, ``I so have no interest in sports,″ the actress says. ``None.″

Well, there is one sport.

``Boxing. We both share a love of boxing,″ she says, referring to Shelton’s comedy about the sport, ``Play It to the Bone.″ The 1999 film starred Davidovich, Antonio Banderas and Woody Harrelson.

Not baseball?

``No. I’m willing to give it a try though. Probably we will because the little one is so athletic.″

Davidovich has been busy, filming in Canada and appearing in the play ``The Vagina Monologues″ in New York.

In Canada, besides working on ``The Judge,″ she also filmed two projects for Showtime.

In ``Snow in August,″ written by columnist Pete Hamill and inspired by his childhood, she played the mother of an Irish boy growing up in the 1940s amid the multiracial gang culture of Brooklyn. The movie will air in August. And in the cable network’s series ``Beggars & Chosers,″ she guest-starred as a seductive Parisian TV executive.

Soon she’ll play Kurt Russell’s spouse in ``The Plague Season,″ a police-and-politics drama that Shelton will film in downtown Los Angeles.

``He always writes movies in the worst locations,″ she says with a laugh. ``I say, `Can’t you write a movie set in like Prague or Brazil, does it have to be between here and Las Vegas!‴

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