By Tom Gliatto
January 17, 2005 12:00 PM

On NBC’s chilling new crime series Medium, Patricia Arquette plays a woman who talks to the dead to help solve murders. As for the actress herself? Zero sixth sense. “I had a very strong feeling John Kerry would win the Presidency,” she says. “That is not to say that I wanted him to or not—I’m just saying that was a literal dream I had. So there you have it….”

She probably never saw this role coming either. But with her clear green eyes and air of detachment, the actress best known for offbeat movies like True Romance and Lost Highway was always series creator Glenn Gordon Caron’s vision for the character based on Allison DuBois, a real medium who has helped police crack numerous murder cases. “Patricia has an ethereal quality,” says Caron, who also created Moonlighting. “She’s beautiful and sensual, but you don’t have a sense that it’s something she works at.” And she has earned raves as DuBois, a woman trying to raise three children while interpreting grisly messages from beyond. “We don’t usually engage in speculation about Emmy-worthiness,” wrote the Washington Post’s Tom Shales, “but Arquette’s [performance] is so intelligently intense that it immediately stands out.”

For all that, the real Arquette, 36, is unfussy and down to earth—unusually so, considering her high-profile Hollywood history. There was the rocky, off-and-on marriage to Nicolas Cage that finally ended after six years in 2001, as well as an acting-family pedigree that includes sister Rosanna Arquette and brother David, who’s married to Courteney Cox Arquette. During 12-hour days on the set, “she’s a workhorse,” says Jake Weber, who plays her husband. Still, she’ll stay until the wee hours singing karaoke with the crew on a machine she bought them (her signature song: Deep Purple’s “Highway Star”). Last fall she spent all her time between scenes sewing Halloween costumes for her fiancé, actor Thomas Jane, 35, and their 23-month-old daughter Harlow. “I made sock monkey costumes,” she says. “I dragged that sock monkey all over the set.” At her home in L.A., “I feel like I am forever making messes and organizing them.” Her fiancé doesn’t care. “Tom is so sweet,” she says of the actor, whom she met through friends four years ago. “He is like, ‘You are a mess, girl, but I love ya. I can’t see the kitchen counter, but I love you.’ ”

Jane is the one at home these days, taking a break from acting while looking after Harlow and Enzo, 16, Arquette’s son with musician Paul Rossi. It was the reverse before she signed on for Medium. “I took a couple of years off just to really mourn some things,” she says, possibly referring to the breakup with Cage, 41. By the time she had settled down with Jane and given birth to Harlow, she was ready to head back to films, “but I didn’t like anything I was reading.” The Medium character intrigued her and led her to visit DuBois in Phoenix. There, DuBois gave her a startling reading. “She said, Tour dad [actor Lewis Arquette, who died in 2001] is there, and he has a clown nose on,’ ” recalls Arquette. “Which is funny because at my dad’s wake, I ordered like 150 clown noses. We all had clown noses.” DuBois has been impressed, too, watching Arquette’s performance: “She almost climbed inside my head. She captured me so well.”

Meanwhile, it might take a psychic and an astrologer combined to pinpoint the date when Arquette will marry Jane, who proposed in 2002 by inserting footage of himself with a dialogue card reading, “Patricia, will you marry me?” into an old silent film and screening it for her. She says she has had “millions” of wedding fantasies, all discarded. “Let’s go on a Moroccan train—no. Scuba diving—no. Everyone wears white-no.” But if she can’t see the future, she knows what she wants: “I always have the same dream: To live happily ever after.”

By Tom Gliatto. Rebecca Paley and Natasha Stoynoff in New York City