'An Ordinary Kid'--for a Star, That Is

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Thousand Oaks dentist Rick Bynes' 13-year-old daughter, Amanda, bounded into the house recently, flashed a beautiful, toothy grin--he's really proud of that--and gleefully announced her big news of the day: "I got an A on my history test!"

She's a typical Ventura County eighth-grader.

"Mom wakes me up at 6:20, and I make my bed, clean my room," she said. Now, as the day winds down, she'll walk the dogs, set the table for dinner and then there's all that homework, she said--making an ugh face--it goes on and on . . . .

Oh, yes. Amanda Bynes also works--she has three jobs, in fact. The newest is starring in her own Saturday night prime-time TV series, "The Amanda Show," which debuted Oct. 16 on the Nickelodeon cable network. She's also a co-star on "All That" and "Figure It Out," two other shows for kids on Nick. Since she was 10, she's been in hundreds of episodes of shows, which the network reruns daily, plus numerous specials, movies and guest spots. She's a celebrity to millions of youngsters across America--but you wouldn't know it around the house.

"The great thing about Amanda is that she doesn't have a Hollywood attitude," said brother Tom, 25, a chiropractor with an office at The Oaks mall. "She does her thing on camera, and when she's done she comes home and she's just an ordinary kid."

A youngster who has always lived in the same house in eastern Ventura County--the family asks not to say exactly where, to dissuade uninvited attention--she's come a long way since she was 9 and attracted glowing notices for her roles in community theater. And she'll go a long way from here, predicts Albie Hecht, Nickelodeon's film and TV president.

"She has an amazing star quality," Hecht said. "She has a wonderful, close family who's given her a strong point of view about life, and that's helped her to develop a great range of comedy characters. She's a little Carol Burnett."

The star quality was there from the start, said Amanda's grandmother, Anne Organ, who dropped over from next door, where she lives with Tom the chiropractor and a pair of hefty, striped cats. "Even the day she was born, she had the prettiest smile," Organ said.

"She thinks all five of her grandchildren are stars," Amanda chirped, popping in the last of a handful of Skittles before catching a wink from dad and trotting off to brush.

A dentist by trade, a stand-up comedy club performer by avocation, Bynes has encouraged all three of his offspring to try the stage. Tom Bynes said he hammed his way through drama productions at Thousand Oaks High School. Amanda's sister, Jillian, 16, is also a veteran of community theater.

"Jillian was my inspiration," Amanda said. "I saw her in 'Wait Until Dark'--she's such a great actress. It was like, I want to be like her--I just had a little more luck."

Amanda was barely 10 when her father enrolled her in a stand-up sessions for kids in Hollywood comedy clubs. Her timing and delivery doing routines about school, teachers, parents and homework wowed talent scouts, who promptly signed her for "All That."

Network executives were also wowed recently when her new show's official Web site, http://www.amandaplease.com, drew 150,000 hits, and she received 16,000 e-mail messages--the cyber-age equivalent of an avalanche of fan mail.

But interestingly enough, with the network running so many older shows and Amanda growing so fast--nearly 5 inches in the past year--fans don't always recognize her in public.

"We were in New York and a sales clerk said [to her], 'You look like that little girl on 'All That,' " Amanda's mother, Lynn, said.

That success hasn't been allowed to threaten the family, Rick Bynes said, describing how he turned down a pitch from the network to move Mom and the little starlet to Florida for five months a year to work on a project.

"The reason everybody likes Amanda is who she is," Bynes said. "And the minute you take her away from here, from her brother and sister and grandma and her house, well, you might not have Amanda anymore."

After all, this is a family in which the sisters are close friends. They swear it is true--even though Jillian enjoys the privileges of age, such as going with Dad to movies that Amanda is too young for.

"But we get along great," Amanda said. "We don't even fight and pull each other's hair anymore."

"Well, there is one thing," Jillian said. "She did get her first kiss before I did."

Dad is most certain that that was a professional kiss.

"Oh, there's a couple of guys that I'm friends with, but they're not boyfriends," Amanda insisted with a little wave and a toss of her long, brown hair. "I like boys, but not like that."

"In a year maybe," she added, bounding off to set the dinner table.

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