The cast and crew of NBC’s Ed were wolfing down their last lunch of the season at the Northvale, N.J., set May 1 when costar Lesley Boone decided to rev things up. “She flicked a chickpea at our director of photography,” recalls production manager Dana Kuznetzkoff. “He threw a chicken bone at [Ed star] Tom Cavanagh, who started spraying everyone with whipped cream. It snowballed into this massive mess of food, and the whole time Lesley was sitting back with her arms folded and this huge smile on her face.”
Not that her castmates were surprised. Whether starting food fights, haunting karaoke bars or inviting pals over to watch sports on her big-screen TV, “Lesley is always the life of the party,” says costar Julie Bowen, 33. “You can’t not have a good time with her.”
In fact, the 34-year-old actress seems a perfect fit for her part as Ed‘s Molly Hudson, a Stuckeyville High science teacher and everybody’s best friend. “Molly’s a flirt,” says Boone. “Sassy, funny, gets along with everybody, says it the way it is, and I think that’s who I am too.”
The two also share a healthy attitude about their bodies. While Boone admits she would like to be thinner—she has said, “Do I love being overweight? No. Would I rather be a size 2 than a size 14? Yes, and I think anyone who says they wouldn’t is lying”—she insists that her weight has never affected her self-esteem. And Boone has pushed to play her Ed character as more than simply the plus-size pal. “I don’t want her just to be defined by what she looks like, because that’s not cool with me,” says Boone. “It’s only one little part of my life. There are so many other facets.”
Chief among them: her friends and family, to whom Boone is intensely loyal. Although her parents divorced after 25 years of marriage when Boone was 21, she remained close to both her dad, Mark, an executive for a car-stereo manufacturer, who died last month, and to her mom, Ronna, a homemaker. “I’ve always been all about my family and friends,” says Boone, who has an older brother Michael, who works in the car industry.
Born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, Boone discovered acting in ninth grade, when she scored a minor part in a class production of Oliver. In her junior year at California State at Northridge, she fudged her résumé and nabbed an agent. Within a year she was cast as shy, sensitive Marlene in the 1990-91 FOX series Babes. Although she was thrilled about her break, the show offended her from the start. “The premise was three fat girls living in an apartment in New York,” she says. “Part of me was happy when the show was canceled.”
The next job, however, was slow in coming. “For a couple of years I couldn’t get arrested,” she says. “I’d been pigeonholed.” Before she landed Ed in spring 2000, she had turned to doing voice-overs for commercials, including some as the voice for Cathy Guisewite’s cartoon creation Cathy. On the audition circuit, Boone says, she refused to play “the poor, fat, pathetic girl” because she never identified with her.
Still, she reserves the right to make improvements. When Ed‘s season wrapped last summer, she underwent surgery to reduce her breasts from a 38DD to a D-cup. “It was the best thing I ever did,” she says. “Now they’re in proportion to my body.”
This summer her plans are more recreational: a vacation with boyfriend Larry Teng, 24, Ed‘s post-production supervisor. The pair began dating last September, and Teng moved into Boone’s Manhattan apartment in April. “Everybody thought I’d move to New York and meet a nice Jewish, perhaps older man,” she says. “I didn’t think I’d meet a fantastic, younger Chinese man.” Boone says she wants children “desperately,” but there are no wedding plans yet—just a trip up the West Coast, no doubt dodging Ed fans along the way. “It’s amazing how many people stop her and tell her they love her,” says Teng. “She makes a lot of women feel more secure about themselves, and I think that’s great.”
Diane Clehane in New York City