With An Eye On. . . : Marcia Cross finds the 'Place' to be is sometimes quite bizarre


In the immortal words of Dr. Frankenstein, "She's alive! She's alive!"

Yes, as any observer of "Melrose Place" and '94 pop culture could tell you, Kimberly, who died midseason, rose from the dead. And like most TV Lazaruses, she not only came back, she came back with an agenda.

As far as villainesses go, she's new and improved. Perhaps, we dare say, one of the most complex women yet to cross the courtyard of the Spanish-tiled Melrose abodes. It's not as if any other "Melrose" woman with a bad migraine has snatched off her own hairpiece in front of a mirror to reveal a skull horribly disfigured.

This is the same Kimberly, a physician herself no less, who went from Dr. Michael Mancini's guilt-ridden lover to all-out psycho. Who, in one of her last scenes of last season, says to her lover's wife, about her lover: "Sydney, you are looking at human garbage who would have run you over as soon as look at you. When Michael's dead, God's going to do a jig."

In the highly rated season finale, it appears Kimberly and Sydney have successfully framed Michael's sweet ex, Jane, for running Michael over with Jane's convertible Cabriolet. (Remember that Kimberly "died" in a car accident herself, driven to her death after dinner at a Marina restaurant where Michael had too many cocktails).

All of these turns of the screw surprise even Marcia Cross, who plays the redheaded Kimberly on the Fox series.

"I actually had trouble with all of that," Cross says of the business about becoming so evil. "I didn't like it. I didn't mind that she was crazy or going after Michael or that it was as a result of her medication from the accident. I hated that it became so random, that she suddenly not only didn't like Jane, but was totally vicious."

Cross preferred the tormented pre-accident Kimberly, the one who changed only after her mother flew her comatose body back East and told everyone later she died. "I always played her in love with Michael. She had a conscience and felt badly that she'd fallen in love with a married man. She was a lonely woman, a professional."

The actress pleaded with the writers about the new Kimberly. "I just wanted it to be justified. I asked them, 'Why are you guys writing this? Can't we be more specific?' " Finally, Cross says she realized, "I have no control over that."

But, she says, "In many ways, they were right. What they were doing is taking her to a place of extremity that became humorous. When I saw the script for the last episode, the last three shows, I was thinking, "Is that because of the trauma to her head, and the medication? I kept trying to relate to it. I was thinking, 'This is hysterical.' "

Finally, she called executive producer Darren Star, and asked him, "Is this a comedy now?" The answer: "Yes, this is a black comedy."

That information, Cross says, was great to hear. Once she knew she had to change styles, she did so with relish.

With the show's newfound "hot" status, even Cross is asking friends why the show is so popular. "I think they just have a good time," she says of the show's fans. "People get to hoot and holler." Cross recently experienced this firsthand at a Los Angeles restaurant, aptly called Melrose Place, where she joined a gathering of hard-core fans for a season-finale party. "It's certainly made a lot of people happy for Wednesday night."

It's a role that's made the Massachusetts native and Juilliard grad happy too. It may not be exactly what she was trained for but, "I'm just having so much fun."

Since the beginning of her career, Cross balanced television parts with "classical" theater roles. "I saved the money I made in TV so I could do theater. It's always been my trade-off."

During the "Melrose" hiatus, she's currently at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, playing Viola in Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night."

Cross' first TV foray was as a "nymphomaniac paleontologist" on daytime's "The Edge of Night." That role led to a part on "One Live to Live," where she played superwoman Kate Sanders, who could speak five languages, do karate and the tango. Since Kimberly seems to be able to plot murder, seduce Michael, attend weddings and wreak constant havoc--all while on call--Kate was a good lead-in.

Next week, the new "Models Inc." takes over the "Melrose Place" time slot for eight weeks. This week's final "Melrose" repeat deals with the consequences of Michael's involvement in Kimberly's "death." While she won't go into specifics, Cross assures that Kimberly will be back next season.

But for how long? Even Cross doesn't know.

"Melrose Place" airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. on Fox. Then the show goes on hiatus for eight weeks and returns in late summer Mondays at 8 p.m.

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