February 12, 2001 12:00 PM

Julie Bowen’s enthusiasm has been known to get the better of her. The actress, who plays small-town high school teacher Carol Vessey on NBC’s Ed, is a serial hugger. On the show’s New Jersey set, “I like to wrap myself around people,” she says. And at the Jan. 7 People’s Choice Awards, where the show was named favorite new television comedy series, Bowen’s glow even rubbed off on her castmates. Literally. “I decided to wear gold glitter all over me and be festive,” she says. “Everyone I got near was covered in glitter.”

“She’s a little combustion engine of love,” says Tom Cavanagh, who plays title hero Ed Stevens, Carol’s aspiring beau. The Baltimore-born Bowen, 31, didn’t get serious about an acting career until her senior year at Brown University. After graduating in 1991, Bowen, the middle of three daughters of a real estate entrepreneur and his homemaker wife, landed TV guest shots (Party of Five), then lucked out as the love interest of Adam Sandler (in 1996’s Happy Gilmore) and Noah Wylie (on ER in 1998-99). Now in a bicoastal relationship with L.A. filmmaker David Brooks, 40, the Manhattan-based actress says she wants kids someday. Until then, though, she’s more eager to see Carol and Ed’s romance heat up. “I go, ‘This is when we make out!’ Everybody laughs and says, ‘No, Julie, not this episode.’ ”

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