November 07, 1994 12:00 PM

IF SOME HIGH-TECH GENIUS, NOODLING away at his lonely desktop laboratory one dark night, should ever concoct a virtual-reality goddess as perfect as Vanessa Angel—well, then, eat your heart out, Bill Gates, and make room for another boy billionaire. On the USA Network’s Weird Science, a sitcom based on the 1985 movie, the British-born Angel plays Lisa, who has been created by two horny teenage nerds, a computer-generated beauty she describes as “having a body like a Playboy centerfold and the brain of an Einstein.” In fact, Angel, 27, is an impressive hybrid herself, “a cross,” says Science supervising producer Tom Spezialy, “between Lena Olin and Meg Ryan.”

Angel is as surprised as anyone that she has wound up a specimen on Science, now in its second season. Growing up in a London suburb, “I was an awkward, gawky, ugly duckling,” says Angel, the younger daughter of stockbroker Philip Angel, who died of cancer this year, and his wife, Elizabeth. She molted into a swan during adolescence. “I realized then I had this power—the dangerous thing about beauty,” she says. “You become aware that others find you interesting.” Modeling agents, for instance. Angel began modeling in London at 15, and by 18, she was in New York City and already tiring of the runway. “It’s just a looks thing,” she says. With acting, though, “you step into the fantasy of being somebody else. Acting changed my life.”

The transformation began when director John Landis cast her in a bit part in the 1985 Chevy Chase movie Spies Like Us. “Acting really makes you deal with your feelings,” says Angel, explaining that her upbringing was of the stiff-upper-lip variety. “I discovered there was this incredible person waiting to burst out.” The new, improved Angel has taken further flight by learning meditation techniques and brushing up on the writings of mythologist Joseph Campbell. “I know I sound like the most boring person in the world, but my passion right now is my spiritual search,” says Angel. “I’ll just try to live up to my name.”

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