Alyssa Milano discards image of tomboy kid on TV’s `Boss’

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
October 14, 1986

Alyssa Milano has been acting for about half of her life. When you’re 13 years old, that’s not a long time.

But the young actress already has starred opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Gielgud.

Television viewers may know her as the tomboy daughter on ABC’s popular “Who’s the Boss?” series. The sitcom, starring Tony Danza, airs at 7 p.m. Tuesdays on WLS-Channel 7.
Although Milano said she’s fond of her TV character, she quickly added that Alyssa and Samantha are very different.

“We look alike, but that’s about all,” Milano said. “I was never a tomboy like Sam is – or rather, like Sam was. Now that Samantha is a teenager, the writers are making her more feminine and less into sports and all.

“It’s pretty logical that the character changed, because you really aren’t a tomboy after you’re 13. You have to grow sometime. Besides, this way there can be some interesting situations with Sam and boyfriends, instead of Sam and a hockey puck.”

In real life, Milano has been dating 15-year-old actor Corey Haim, who starred in the critically acclaimed movie “Lucas.” They were introduced by a mutual friend and “hit it off immediately,” she said.

“I find it easier to have friends who are in the business because they understand why you can’t go to the movies or out bike riding. If they’re not in the business, you never know if they just like you because you’re on `Who’s the Boss?’ or because of who you really are. I suppose it is a shame that I don’t have a more diverse range of friends, but I’m happy with the ones I’ve got.”

Milano started her career five years ago as one of the orphan waifs in a road-show production of “Annie.”

She traveled for a year and a half with the musical, moving on to more theater work.

Born and raised in New York, Milano said she had no misgivings about leaving Brooklyn for Hollywood.

“I never liked New York,” she said. “I love it out here. When I came out here, I just felt that I was born in the wrong place.”

Milano, who is in her first year of high school, hasn’t been to school on a regular basis since sixth grade. Because of her busy schedule as an actress and model – she’s the spokesperson for Green Street Teen Apparel, a Los Angeles clothing outlet – she is taught by a tutor who conducts class for three hours every morning on the set.

If class conflicts with filming her scenes, Milano reschedules her class time for the afternoon.  Her favorite subject is algebra, though she said she’s not very good at it. She plans to attend the University of California at Los Angeles, where she wants to study psychology and cinematography.

“They’re both so different that I think they’d be interesting and challenging to learn,” she said. “But I don’t think I’d ever want to give up being an actress completely. I think I’ll always be in show business somehow.”

A regular teen queen, Milano has had her face on countless fan magazines. She repeatedly has disclosed her favorite food (Italian), favorite colors (pink and blue), favorite show (“Family Ties”) and favorite bands (Police, the Jets, Five Star and Genesis). Polite and self-assured, she has her answers down pat.

But ask her about working with adult stars, and she giggles. Regarding Danza, Milano said: “Tony was one of my first `dates.’ Last year he took me to a ball for Cary Grant’s birthday. I got to meet Lucille Ball and Donald O’Connor and all these great actors. I had so much fun. Things like that are glamorous and nice, but shooting every day isn’t glamorous at all.

“Working with Arnold Schwarzenegger (in ‘Commando’) was great! I didn’t expect to get the part of his daughter, ’cause I didn’t think I looked that much like him. Early on in my career, I used to get turned down for commercials and things because they said I was too ethnic-looking. But luckily I got it. He was like a big, big teddy bear! He was really intelligent and so nice. He was always concerned that I wasn’t tired or hurt from some of the scenes. I love him so much!”

Whether due to her Schwarzenegger connections or because of her “massive” 5-foot, 80-pound stature, Milano has won the nickname “Conan” from her buddies. “Maybe somebody mistook me for Arnold,” she said.

Last spring, Milano went to Britain for the first time to star opposite Gielgud in a TV remake of “The Canterville Ghost.” She plays a girl who befriends a ghost that haunts the old English castle her family has inherited. WFLD-Channel 32 will telecast the movie at 7 p.m. Monday.

Although Milano has been around many stars in her career, she said she was awed by Gielgud.

“He’s very dignified, and you don’t want to come off as a silly schoolgirl in front of him. It was great to watch him work, ’cause he’s got an interesting way of memorizing his lines. He memorizes his lines by writing them down. He used to have these long pages of speeches that he’d write and rewrite over and over again on sheets of paper.  It was amazing that he wouldn’t forget them.”

Milano said she uses the standard method of learning her lines – repeating them over and over in rehearsals.

Asked if her first overseas trip lived up to her expectations, she said: “Well, I worked every single day I was there, so I didn’t get to have any days off to sight-see or anything. It was also scary because I went with a guardian and my parents weren’t there with me, and that was the time when the Libyan thing was happening. I’d like to give it another try later, though, and go with my family. And shop!”

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