August 18, 1997 12:00 PM

GUN CONTROL

As an executive producer of the HBO movie Subway Stories, airing Aug. 17, Brooklyn-born actress Rosie Perez wasn’t strapped for creative inspiration. “Once I was on the A train, and this guy got on and [threatened] to shoot everybody,” says Perez, 30, who also appears in one of the 10 stories. “I started laughing, purely out of fear, but he thought I was trying to humiliate him, so he put his gun away and left. That’s when I decided not to take the train anymore. I was like, ‘Okay. Movin’ on.’ ” So what is Perez’s preferred mode of transportation these days? “My truck, ’cause it’s big and intimidating, and I can just whip around the city in it,” she says. “But I still don’t really like driving. I’m very much a New Yorker that way.”

SUFFERING BY COMPARISON

In the romantic comedy A Smile Like Yours, opening Aug. 22, former Talk Soup host Greg Kinnear and his onetime Sabrina sweetheart Lauren Holly reunite to play a couple trying desperately to conceive. “We hit a fertility roadblock known as ‘lazy swimmers,’ ” explains Kinnear, 34. “Yes, that’s right, America, my character suffers from a slight potency problem.” Shooting his next film, the comedy-drama Old Friends due in December, Kinnear had to overcome his own feelings of inadequacy acting alongside Jack Nicholson. “There are big names, and then there’s Jack,” he says. “I was always fighting the temptation to say, ‘You do realize you’re Jack Nicholson, right?’ ”

POST DOCTORAL

Neil Patrick Harris, best known as the cherubic child prodigy in the 1989-93 sitcom Doogie Howser, M.D., takes a scalpel to his clean-cut image in the West Coast production of the Tony-winning musical Rent. “Physically I’ve changed a lot,” says Harris, 24, who bleached his hair to play a grungy East Village filmmaker. “I’m a blond now, and I may keep it. It’s fun to have bleach-blond hair and funky clothes, to strut around and play the part offstage as well.” The show is playing in La Jolla, Calif., before its Los Angeles run starting Sept. 19. “Since it’s La Jolla, it’s mostly older, wealthy, conservative people, which is not our target audience,” he says. “So I’m” one of the hippest guys in La Jolla. Then again, I don’t know how much that says.”

COMBAT ZONE

Samuel L. Jackson did his homework before playing a teacher traumatized by a student assault in the new urban drama 187. “I went to some inner-city schools, and I rode around with a police crash unit,” says Jackson, 48. “I came to realize that teachers today have the stress levels of cops without the weapons. I understand now why a lot of them are leaving the profession. It’s just not safe anymore. Now parents just don’t care, so kids are attacking teachers like they attack each other.” The lessons Jackson learned growing up stuck with him. “My parents taught me to respect teachers,” he says. “And back when I went to school, teachers had reputations. You didn’t want to go to their class because they’d jack you up.”

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