To listen to her castmates, the allure is in the sum of her parts. Greg Germann: “Great legs.” Gil Bellows: “A beautiful pair of lips.” Courtney Thorne-Smith: “Confidence and grace.” As the neurotic, insecure, fantasy-bedeviled Boston lawyer of FOX TV’s controversial hit Ally McBeal, Calista Flockhart, 33, has emerged as a kind of gen-X Mary Tyler Moore, bursting with a vulnerable optimism. Outwardly secure in miniskirts, postfeminist Ally also can blurt out such pronouncements as “I want to change the world. I just want to get married first.”
The daughter of an executive and a schoolteacher, Flockhart, who was born in Free-port, Ill., began her Broadway career in the 1994 revival of The Glass Menagerie and later played Robin Williams’s daughter-in-law-to-be in The Birdcage. But her low-maintenance look was made for McBeal. “Usually, it takes longer to get the women ready than the men,” says Germann of the Ally set. “But she’s pretty quick. What you see on the screen is what she looks like in real life.” Many admirers compare her show-stopping looks to those of Michelle Pfeiffer, wife of Ally creator David E. Kelley. “I find it hugely flattering,” Flockhart, 5’6″, told TV Guide last year, “although I don’t necessarily see it. I feel like I have to apologize to her.” She has had the opportunity: Flockhart is currently filming A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Pfeiffer and Kevin Kline.
Of course, no apology is really necessary. The single Flockhart, who lives in the Hollywood Hills with her mixed-breed terrier Webster, inhabits a different realm of radiance. “There’s this gamine side to her, and yet at the same time, she seems strong,” says Bellows. “She’s elegant, and she’s a mop-top, and all those things are pretty beautiful.” It isn’t at all ironic that Calista means “most beautiful” in Greek.
All parts considered, her best feature may be her ears. “When women are asked why a man is attractive, they’ll often answer, ‘Because he listens,’ ” says Germann. “That’s true with Calista. She’s there in the moment with you. Which makes it more fun to look at her.”