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Marilyn Sudor, the gung ho high school music teacher played by Sharon Leal on FOX’s Boston Public, knows how to ferret out her students’ darkest secrets—whether it’s a boy imprisoning his abusive mother in the basement or a girl compulsively eating her own hair.

Turns out Leal herself can keep a few secrets too. Last October the actress, 29, and her boyfriend Bev Land, 24, an aspiring filmmaker and father of their then month-old son Kai, got married in an L.A. courthouse—a fact she casually let slip to her stunned castmates a month later. “My fear was that once we got married, everything would change,” Leal explains in the family’s West Hollywood bungalow. “But things stayed the same.”

A welcome rarity in Leal’s life. Her father was a military policeman in the Philippines who broke up with her pregnant mother, Angelita, in 1971. Soon after, Angelita, now 51 and a homemaker, wed Jesse Leal, an Air Force sergeant. Though they split when Sharon was 7 and both remarried, Leal says she has “stayed very close” to her adoptive dad, now 52 and a fourth-grade teacher in El Paso. Jesse cheered her acting ambitions after she graduated in 1990 from Roosevelt School of the Arts in Fresno, Calif.

After Leal’s mid-’90s stints on Guiding Light and UPN’s Legacy, the bell rang for Boston Public in 2000, the same year a friend introduced her to Land. Now Leal, who sings on the show, is cutting an R&B album with Universal Records. She also croons nightly to her son. “Kai loves it,” says Land, “when she sings ‘Old MacDonald.'” Soulfully, no doubt.