She's Got Drive
GROWING UP IN THE PACIFIC NORTH-WESTT, Cynthia Stevenson never missed a Bob Newhart Show. “Everybody who liked him when they were young wanted him to adopt them,” she says.
In Stevenson’s case, the wish has been granted—sort of. Now 31, she is beginning her second season as Trisha, Newhart’s TV daughter on the CBS sitcom Bob. As it happens, Stevenson’s TV dad was also the favorite comedian of her real father, Al, an upholstery-warehouse owner who was divorced from her mother, Gayle, when Cynthia was 3 and who died of cancer in 1985. “The way she acts with Bob on the show makes me sad,” says Gayle, an editor at a trade journal for credit unions. “I see the relationship she wishes she had with her own dad.”
Stevenson’s work on Bob was a nice change of pace from her lauded role as Tim Robbins’s briskly efficient film-executive girlfriend in Robert Altman’s 1992 movie, The Player. “You really buy her as Bob’s daughter,” says Phoef Sutton, one of the show’s producers. “Her timing is enough like his to make her really seem like family.” Stevenson’s hallmark, though, is energized spunk. “I tend to be enthusiastic about things,” she explains.
The lithe, 5’5″ Stevenson’s first love was gymnastics, but she got hooked on acting while reading one of her essays aloud in high school. “Everybody laughed, and I remember getting the most incredible adrenaline rush,” she says. Stevenson apprenticed at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater and L.A.’s Groundling Theatre and got her first big break as George Wendt’s secretary on a memorable 1989 Cheers episode. A more personal break came on the set of the 1992 film The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag, where she met director Tom Davies. Says Davies, who married her six months later: “There’s something grounded and wholesome about her. She doesn’t need to walk into a room and be the center of attention.”
That’s not unlike her TV dad—whom she still worships. “Sometimes,” marvels Stevenson, “I’ll look over and get one of those flashes like, ‘He’s the king, and I’m working with him!’ ”