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True grit pays off for Teri Polo

Thursday, January 01, 2004

By Luaine Lee, Scripps Howard News Service

When the part of the glamorous movie star on ABC's "I'm With Her" came along, actress Teri Polo was determined to land the lead.

Bob d'Amico, ABC
Teri Polo stars as Alex Young on ABC's "I'm With Her."
Click photo for larger image.

Polo had worked with co-creator, executive producer Chris Henchy before. In fact, the show is based on Henchy's experiences being married to movie star Brooke Shields. And with her pale blond hair and Helen of Troy bone structure, Polo was perfect for the part.

"I'd been [auditioning] on every single pilot that was out there. I literally had two and three auditions a day. I was coming home, changing things, and going back out again. I couldn't tell you what I'd just auditioned for two hours before," she says.

"When I heard Chris Henchy's name, I said, 'I'm going!' I read for him on Friday, that week went by and I was supposed to test for another show but passed. I was the very first person they'd seen. ... When I got the show, I'm not sure I've ever jumped up and down and screamed more. ... I just couldn't believe I'd set my sights on something that was good and had actually gotten it. So many times it was, 'I'm going to get it!' And didn't get it. 'I'm going to get it!' And didn't get it. Cameron Diaz got the part; Julia Roberts got the part."

When the show was picked up by the network, everyone on the set was jubilant except for Polo.

"I was very calm," she smiles. "This show has taught me to enjoy acting and being myself, enjoying my life. And it's changed the way I meet people, the way I talk to people in the business. I feel I've arrived, I'm complete within myself -- not because anything or anyone else has completed me, but because I succeeded in something I wanted to do."

I'm with Her stars Teri Polo as Alex Young, David Sutcliffe as Patrick Owen, Danny Comden as Stevie Hanson and Rhea Seehorn as Cheri Baldzikowski. (BOB D'AMICO, ABC)
Click photo for larger image.

Polo, 34, wasn't exactly a failure before. She'd co-starred in such big screen events as "Beyond Borders," "Domestic Disturbance," "The Unsaid." But it was the comedy "Meet the Parents" with Ben Stiller that set her apart. "It changed my life, not to the extent at the time I wished it would have," she says.

"Not to the extent that everyone around me thought it would, but it certainly opened many more doors than had been opened to me before. ... It came out in 2000 and people still stop me on the street, everywhere I go. But it didn't catapult me into the stardom I wished for at the time."

Ever since she began practicing ballet as a child, Polo has been obsessively focused on a career and, in fact, quit school to pursue it.

"I was a bit of a loner and I remember going back for some parties for my class's graduation and by that time I was on a soap. And one of the girls -- who was one of the popular girls, one of the cheerleaders -- said, 'Oh, sometimes we skip school and go and watch you on TV and that looks so easy. I could do that.' I wanted to rip her head off and shove it up her little cheerleader skirt because I worked very hard to get there. And I remember thinking, 'I'll show you.' "

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