Five Questions With Jane Krakowski

By MARY CAMPBELL AP Newsfeatures Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - The face is familiar. Those big eyes. That curly blond hair.

She's Jane Krakowski, who plays Ally McBeal's nosy secretary on the hit Fox television show.

Krakowski describes Elaine Vassal as ``a gold mine of a character.'' She credits creator/writer David Kelley with making everyone on the show ``full and ever-changing characters.''

``All the characters are complete and flawed,'' she says. ``I think that makes them all very interesting - to play and to watch.''

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association agrees. ``Ally McBeal,'' Krakowski and co-star Calista Flockhart were nominated this year for Golden Globe awards.

Krakowski, 30, has been with ``Ally McBeal'' since the pilot. She was pleased that her character sang at the office Christmas parties both seasons and hopes the show will be picked up for a third season. A break in shooting allowed her to spend the Christmas and New Year's holidays with her parents in Parsippany, N.J.

She was among the performers on a recent ``Great Performances'' special, ``The Rodgers & Hart Story: Thou Swell, Thou Witty,'' on PBS. She sang ``My Funny Valentine.''

``It's a bittersweet song,'' she says. ``I learned it was much harder to do than I expected.''

She has a small part in the upcoming movie ``Go,'' to be released in March.

Krakowski, who has appeared in several Broadway shows, became interested in performing at a young age.

``My parents had been involved in community theater in Montville, N.J.,'' she says. ``Instead of getting a baby sitter, they took me along. I saw them having fun. They were in `Company.' To be doing April, the stewardess in `Company' on Broadway with Sondheim, felt to me like an out-of-body experience.''

1. Did you always want to be a singer and an actress?

Krakowski: I focused more to be a dancer than anything else. I was taking dance at 3. I thought I wanted to be a ballerina until I became a preteen and realized I didn't have the discipline or the body shape to make it into the professional ballet world.

2. How did you get involved in show business?

Krakowski: I was hired to do commercials and for acting jobs. I found it fascinating playing other people. I had been singing increasingly. I was in `Starlight Express' on Broadway. My agent called and said he had good news and bad news. `The good news is you've got your first Broadway show and the bad news is it's on roller skates.' I kept losing my voice. I went to vocal therapy and relearned how to speak and sing.

21/2. Besides ``Starlight Express'' and ``Company,'' what other Broadway shows were you in?

Krakowski: One of the most creative was `Grand Hotel.' You rarely get to create a new musical these days. We started from scratch, with workshops and hardly any script. We read the novel it was based on and improvised. The show was born through all those sessions. It culminated in me being nominated for a Tony. It was a full-package Broadway experience for me.

3. How did you get from Broadway musicals to television and film?

Krakowski: I was doing `Once Upon a Mattress.' It got mixed reviews and we were on a week-to-week notice. I started auditioning for other things. I got `Ally McBeal' and the film `Dance With Me' in the same week. It must have been a good hair week. It worked out with the schedule. I could go to L.A. and do the TV pilot and stay and do the movie. `Ally McBeal' was picked up for a full season. I went with one suitcase and never went back to New York.

4. What changes has ``Ally McBeal'' brought into your life?

Krakowski: I don't take anything for granted. Enjoy it while you have it, it probably will go away at some point. When `Ally McBeal' won a Golden Globe last year, I was still renting a car. I still rent a furnished apartment and a TV, but I bought a car.

5. Did you ever consider taking a stage name?

Krakowski: For many years I did. But I could not come up with anything I thought was me. When I was in `Grand Hotel,' Tommy Tune used to call me asking if I'd come up with anything yet. He thought I should. I never got anywhere with it. I think you can keep your original names in this day and age and be successful.