TV GUIDE MARCH 20-26, 2005

 

Jill Hennessy Crossing Jordan
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Jill Hennessy:
Confessions of TV's Bold, Beautiful Bad Girl

Crossing Jordan 10 PM/ET, ON NBC

In a cavernous, dingy former newspaper building in downtown Los Angeles, Crossing Jordan star Jill Hennessy sits in a chair and groans. Her character, Dr. Jordan Cavanaugh, has just been kidnapped and is sporting a nasty head injury. Her father, played by Ken Howard, Kneels on the floor in front of her hands behind his head, menaced by an unseen assailant. The atmosphere is dank, the mood dark, the rehearsal intense...

And then Marco Mastropietro, Hennessy's gorgeous 18-month-old son, reaches toward Howard, breaking the somber mood by offering the big guy a hug.

"It was the cutest thing, "Hennessy says the following afternoon as she leans up against her black SUV outside a Universal Studios sound stage "We ere trying to be serious, but everybody in the crew just started laughing."

So goes the world of Crossing Jordan, where the drama of an alternately capable and fragile Boston medical examiner is more than occasionally halted by the demands that motherhood has placed on the show's star. But after a 10-month hiatus, a move from Monday to Sunday nights and an uncertain future caused by Hennessy's pregnancy, the show is enjoying its highest ratings ever.

  Jill Hennessy as Jordan Cavanaugh

 

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"I'll go to a Jerry Bruckheimer party, and Jerry will be like, 'Whew, good numbers on Sunday night,'" says Jerry O'Connell, the Crossing Jordan costar who's also appeared in "Kangaroo Jack" for Bruckheimer, producer of films like "Top Gun" and "Armageddon," as well as Without a Trace and CSI. "When Jerry Bruckheimer is congratulating you on your numbers, it makes you feel pretty cool in front of your date." (And as tabloid pictures of the happy couple - gleefully posted around the set- will attest, that date is currently actress Rebecca Romijn, John Stamos' ex.)

Hennessy isn't the only one toting a baby around the Jordan set these days. "Our assistant director had a baby, our director of photography had a baby, [costar] Ravi Kapoor [Bug] had a kid..." says actor Steve Valentine with a laugh. "So now my wife's going, 'Weeelll, Steve?'"

Not that he's had much time to work on that. His character, Nigel Townsend - who he describes as "A biker, a doctor, a pathologist, a part-time fashion designer, an odontologist and a criminalist who may or may not be bisexual" - has been getting a lot of screen time lately. In fact, Hennessy's pregnancy caused something of a shift, bringing out other characters and occasionally moving the focus away from Jordan's attempts to solve cases and deal with the murder of her mother.

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"The ensemble-ising of the show has been a great strength for us," says creator and executive producer Tim Kring, who also admits that the network is less enamored of the technical side of medical examining than it was when shows like CSI came to prominence. "At one point the network ordered more gadgets, so we had a GPM meter for gadgets per minute," he laughs, standing on the set in a lab room dominated by such high-tech apparatuses as an AB 3100 Genetic Analyzer, a Clarus 500 Mass Spectrometer and a UVP HC-3000 HybriEycler. "It's always been sort of a balance for us, but now we're doing more on the relationship stuff and getting less tied to procedural.'

The center of the show, of course, is still Hennessy's Jordan Cavanaugh. "She has so much latitude, emotionally," says the 36-year-old actress, who left her previous role on Law & Order after three years because she was terrified of being typecast as someone who "could act within the range of A to D." Jordan by contrast, has allowed her to do what she refers to a "Crazy emotional stuff in a forensic drama. I think we're one of the only ones that allows our characters to do that."

  Jill Hennessy and Paolo Mastropietro

 

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A native of Ontario, Canada, Hennessy moved to New York City to pursue an acting career more than a dozen years ago, singing Bruce Springsteen and U2 songs on the street for spare change. Law & Order gave her a steady gig beginning in 1993. By the time she bailed out, she'd met bartender-turned-actor Paolo Mastropietro, who was born in the Bronx to Italian immigrants. The couple eloped to Italy in 2000, then were married again the following year (in a ceremony officiated by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, no less).

Coworkers and guest stars tell the same story about Hennessy, who now brings her son to the set nearly every day: She's friendly, she's bawdy, she keeps the mood light, she's like Jordan Cavanaugh without the angst. "She's such a sweetheart, and so kind to all of us and to any guest," says Kathryn Hahn, who plays the young grief counselor Lily Lebowski. "And to see her fall in love with this little boy is amazing. But she's also still a badass and hilarious, with a mouth like a truck driver- and so gorgeous it's ridiculous."

Adds O'Connell, "It really comes down to the leaders, and she's our quarterback. I would take a bullet for Jill Hennessy," He pauses. "And she'd probably let me."

But will her character ever end up between the sheets with his? The will-they-or-won't-they flirtations between Jordan and O'Connell's hunky detective Woody Hoyt have, Hennessy admits, drawn plenty of speculation. "I meet so many people of all ages," she says, "men, women, different backgrounds, and they all say the same thing: 'When are you gonna get in the sack with Woody?' These are strangers on the street! Well, I'd love to. It'd be a lot of fun. But it's always sort of the death of an on-screen relationship - as soon as the characters sleep with each other, it's just ruined..."

Jill Hennessy Jerry O'Connell
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Not that O'Connell would mind. "I'd love to get me a little Jordan," he says with a wicked chuckle. In fact, the 31-year-old charmer, who's been linked with a string of famous women, including Sarah Michelle Gellar, Estella Warren, and Geri Halliwell, admits that his initial interest in Crossing Jordan was not entirely artistic. "I was like, Jill Hennessy? I'm in I thought I was going to be making a move on her, then I get to the set and find out she's happily married."

Happily married and happily ensconced in a series that she thinks has found its footing despite never getting "that glitzy buzz: that other shows receive. Hennessy even has some ideas for sexual encounters that don't include O'Connell"I'd love to see Jordan mistakenly sleep with Bug or Nigel," she says. "She wakes up, she's groggy, you can see there's someone else under the covers... Jordan should be mixing it up a little bit."

Heading back to the sound stage for the final afternoon of shooting n an episode directed by Jordan costar and veteran actor Miguel Ferrer (Twin Peaks, "Traffic"), Hennessy spots Valentine leaving for the day. "See you later, Steve!" she yells, and then adds seductively, "Say hello to your wife, lover!" She turns away, gasps dramatically and pretends to be embarrassed as making such a slip in front of a reporter. "Oops," she says, "I guess our little secret is out."

No sooner has she stepped inside the door of the soundstage than Ferrer sidles up behind her and, well, grabs her butt. Hennessy lets out a piercing squeal, and then bursts out laughing. "Yeah," she says with a shrug. We are seriously depraved around here."

- by Steve Pond

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