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Leoni Online: The Articles — The Boston Herald

Bright, brainy even, with a sense of humor and an appealing directness, Tea Leoni has taken a curve from the TV sitcoms that initially sparked her career to find a cozy niche in movies – with special effects.

From the 1998 box-office hit “Deep Impact,” in which she faced a world-threatening meteor crash, she is hoping for another blockbuster as she jumps into this week’s “Jurassic Park III,” opening Wednesday.

Naturally, it’s a world her husband, David Duchovny, knows well, having fought aliens for years on TV’s “The X-Files” and more recently on the big screen in “Evolution.”

Yet the actress, who once lived in Winthrop, emphasized that what drew her to “J3” was not necessarily the opportunity to follow Steven Spielberg’s dinosaur tracks but simply the chance to play a mother eager to bond with her child.

In real life, the couple have a 2-year-old daughter and Leoni has discovered being a parent really does make the world a different place. “Everything surprises. You’re not ready for it and you don’t ever want to say, `If you have a child, you’re not going to believe how much it’s going to change your life.’ Like duh! Like every aspect of your life changes and you’re just blessed,” she says.

Leoni used that maternal protectiveness filming “J3” where as Amanda Kirby, the ex-wife of William H. Macy’s Paul Kirby, she finds herself on a Pacific island inhabited not just by man-eating, earth-bound dinosaurs, but flying ones as well. The Kirbys have come to this God-forsaken site to find their son (Trevor Morgan). That fear of a missing child is one every parent knows intimately.

“They’re naming my new No. 1 nightmare, which is my child would go missing,” she said.

For a Spielberg production, directed by Joe Johnston (“Jumanji”), “J3” saw a lot of script revisions as filming progressed, which added a certain tension to the project beyond the physical strain.

“We had several different scripts, and yet I felt very secure in accepting this role because no matter what they’d decide to throw at me, I’m still playing a mother trying to get her son home safely,” she says.

Safety was a major concern on the set, of course. Leoni turns around and lifts the back of her blouse to display a scar. “That was from the spinosaurus attacking me in the water. I got beaten to hell in that one,” she says, as if the spinosaurus were real instead of one of Stan Winston’s amazing animatronic creations.

Did she get any sympathy from her mate? “David doesn’t feel sorry for me,” she says glumly, then flashes a smile to show she’s joking. “No! He was absolutely sympathetic. In `The X-Files,’ that was no slouch series for him. He’d come home banged and bruised. He knows.”

What Leoni knows is the couple who lives together shouldn’t team together in front of the camera, but she wouldn’t mind being directed by Duchovny. “I would never want to act with David as a team, like a romantic interest . . . because I don’t ever want to look him in the eye and tell him a white lie. We have a pristine relationship,” she said.

“Am I dying for David to direct me? I can’t wait,” she said, mentioning the great time she had with Garry Shandling when Duchovny directed them in an “X-Files” episode.

Thanks to motherhood and marriage, Leoni is having a splendid time. At 35, she knows the score about where she stands – not just in the industry but with herself.

“Hollywood wanted me more when I was 26 and I didn’t want it then,” she said of her bright beginning on “The Naked Truth” TV series. “I didn’t really like what I did then. It never felt good, it felt painful and scary. I didn’t like the process; I was always scared and listening to those fears.

“Then I had the baby and it’s kind of like you’re untouchable. What will they take away from me? Tell me I can’t make movies anymore? OK,” she said with a shrug of her shoulders. “Suddenly, I was in there without so much fear – and these are stupid fears – and suddenly, it was as if it was no holds barred. This is my time! And this is what I love, to tell a story and make things up and make you believe me. It’s my scratch.”

And the scratch she’s talking about isn’t from any spinosaurus.