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A Splash of Brande

Former Playmate Brande Roderick wants to keep making waves in television.
Paul Chutkow
From the Print Edition:
Alec Baldwin, May/June 2004

(continued from page 1)

Soon she really had the bug: "Three times a week I was driving into San Francisco to audition for commercials, independent films, whatever I could find." Roderick did ads for Snickers, Mentos candies, Diet Dr Pepper and Miller Lite Beer. She also did two or three independent films, the most memorable of which was Immortal Vengeance, in which she played a zombie.

Then one day she went to San Francisco to audition for a production of Cinderella, to be held at the prestigious Herbst Theater. "I was hired right away, to play Cinderella, of course," she laughs. "It was not your typical Cinderella; it was a Gothic Cinderella. I had a three-and-a-half-foot wig."

During this period, Roderick got her first taste of Hollywood. Through a casting agency, she got a call to appear as an extra on The Rock, a 1996 Alcatraz action flick starring Sean Connery and Nicholas Cage. "I was so excited, and I remember me and my mom, in my room, picking out all these different clothes, then we packed them in this huge suitcase. She woke me up at 3:30 in the morning, all excited for me. Then I drove down to San Francisco and worked a 10-hour day. It turned out I wore only one outfit and I didn't need all those clothes, but I had no idea—it was my first paying job."

After doing two walk-ons in "Nash Bridges," Roderick was ready to take the plunge. To raise some cash, she sold her car to her brother, then she packed her belongings into a U-Haul and headed to L.A. in 1997. "My mom really didn't want me to leave town, even though L.A. was only a seven-hour drive away," Roderick recalls. "Most kids who go away to college go to another state, or to another country for that matter, but she just didn't want me to go. Other than that, though, both my parents have been really supportive. They always said, 'Whatever you want to do, you can do it. Go after it!,"

Her first days in L.A. were like a dream come true. "I was just so excited to be here," she says. "I would be driving down the street, looking out on these beautiful sunny days and just thanking God that I was here. I just loved it. In college, in my English classes, I would literally write stories about coming here and about the things I would do. It's so funny, because I kept those stories, and everything I wrote about wanting to do I've now done. Or I'm living them. It just goes to show that when you really do write down your goals, they really do happen."

After that initial high, though, reality began to set in. Roderick did not find herself working on movie sets; she found herself working conventions as a spokesmodel for companies like Nintendo, EarthLink and Budweiser. Glamorous it was not. Then one night it happened. She went to a club in L.A. with a group of friends and ran into a crowd from the Playboy empire. "I stepped into that world and met all these girls and they told me how much they loved it. They were like this wonderful, great family. It was a great job, they said, and you're always working. So I went down and did the test."

The test was a photo shoot to see if she had what it takes to be a Playboy centerfold. "It's really tedious work," Roderick says. "You're holding the same pose, in awkward positions, for hours and hours. You have to hold so still; you can't move." She came away crushed: Playboy was not satisfied with the shoot. But the editors called her back for another look and this time they were sure: she had the right stuff. To give her story a sexy twist, Playboy's image makers turned her modest upbringing in Sonoma County into a yarn about Wine Country chic, complete with photos of Roderick frolicking naked in a barrel of grapes. It stretched the truth, but for Roderick it was a ticket to ride.

With her natural endowments and her sweet, unaffected ways, Roderick was a big hit in Playboy. In the balloting for Playmate of the Year for 2001, Roderick got the nod, from readers and from the final decision makers in the Hefner management team. That opened all sorts of new doors.

Now "Baywatch Hawaii" and the starring role of head lifeguard Leigh Dyer came her way, and none too soon: Roderick needed a breather from the Hollywood rat race. "I had been in town about three and a half years and by that point I was a little over Los Angeles," she says. "When my agent called with the news, I just dropped to my knees and started crying. It was like, finally, after all this hard work....

"Hawaii was a marvelous, healing time for me. This sounds kind of cheesy but it's true: I bought the Bible on tape. I had about an hour's drive to work every day, but I'm thinking, Who cares? I'm driving through pineapple fields, there are palm trees, and it's just gorgeous driving along the ocean. I'd listen to the Bible and my Christian rock music. It was a really healing, spiritual time for me."

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