Last summer, Anne Heche was marveling at how she had actually achieved her “five-year plan”—a pact she had made with husband Coley Laffoon to get a steady TV gig and settle down to raise their 4-year-old son Homer. “You just hopefully have a journey in your life where you can get healthy and find love, and fortunately I did,” Heche told PEOPLE on the set of her ABC series Men in Trees.
A few months later, that journey took an unexpected turn when Heche, 37, abruptly ended her five-year marriage to Laffoon, 33. Her rep officially announced the split in a statement on Jan. 24. The reason for the breakup, say insiders, was Heche’s budding relationship with on-camera love interest James Tupper (known as “McTreemy” on the Trees set), who split from his wife in late 2006.
“That’s what happens when you put two people in front of a camera and make them kiss,” says a Tupper source, who insists the Canadian-born actor’s own marriage was faltering before he began dating his costar.
Laffoon, a self-described stay-at-home dad (whose parenting skills Heche publicly praised as recently as Jan. 14) met Heche when he filmed a 2001 documentary on her then-partner Ellen DeGeneres. He declined to comment when reached by PEOPLE.
Heche is no stranger to personal drama. After splitting with DeGeneres in 2000, she suffered a much-publicized breakdown and detailed her struggles with mental illness in a 2001 autobiography, Call Me Crazy.
Though reps for Heche and Tupper remained mum on the romance, the pair didn’t seem to be hiding on a Jan. 13 flight from Vancouver to L.A. “They looked like high school kids in love,” a witness told Entertainment Tonight Canada, adding that Heche spent part of the trip on Tupper’s lap, whispering and cuddling. And on Jan. 28, Heche lingered over a three-hour dinner at Vancouver’s Gotham Steakhouse with her new man. Says a source: “It was clear they enjoyed being together.”