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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

Brande Roderick is having a ball. She is on the beach in Malibu, preening for the camera. First in a white bikini, then a blue bikini, now with a surfboard, next a cigar. Jack Guy's camera loves her. And so does the Hollywood crew assembled for the shoot: a makeup artist, a hairstylist, a wardrobe guru, her agent and Jack Guy's two right-hand men. This is the full star treatment, and Roderick is basking in the moment. When the first Polaroids are passed around, the verdict is swift: This girl is hot. Smokin, hot.

This comes as no surprise. After all, Roderick didn't get to be a Playboy Playmate by looking waifish and forlorn in a bikini, and she wasn't voted Playmate of the Year by scoring a lowly two on the arousal scale. Roderick also had a strong run in "Baywatch Hawaii," and that wasn't because anyone envisioned her as the next Meryl Streep. Clearly, though, there is more to Roderick than great looks and a magnificent body. Since the demise of "Baywatch Hawaii," she has been moving steadily up the Hollywood ladder. She has landed roles in TV sitcoms, and she was featured on the reality show "The Surreal Life," alongside M. C. Hammer. Now the world of film is opening before her: over some stiff competition she landed an enticing little role in the new film Starsky & Hutch, based on the ,70s TV series and costarring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson in the title roles.

So Brande's star is now on the rise, and watching her pose on the beach in Malibu you can readily imagine that she is loving her moment in the Hollywood sun, and that she is one of those young Hollywood starlets driven by a ruthless ambition to make it to the top. But you'd be wrong. Roderick is anything but your typical, highly ambitious starlet, and already she is planning her life away from the camera. She wants to produce shows for television and already has her first show in the

already has her first show in the works. And Roderick has her heart set on something else: finding the right guy, getting married and becoming a soccer mom. Yes, behind those magnificently photogenic blue eyes and blonde mane there is one very surprising woman.

The morning following the photo shoot, Roderick arrives for brunch at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, just opposite Rodeo Drive. She has on tight jeans, a funky T-shirt and cowboy boots—and, miraculously, she looks just as sexy as she did in those teeny bikinis. She's famished and orders a fresh fruit plate and an omelette with asparagus and goat cheese. In her place, another aspiring actress might put on airs and do some serious Hollywood name-dropping. Not Roderick. She just plops back into a chair and starts chatting about her love of fine wine, premium cigars and the San Francisco 49ers. She's charming, unaffected and as down-home as a pair of beat-up slippers. And what a story she has to tell.

"My dad is a diesel mechanic," she starts in, "and my mom works in a place that does appliance repair—you know, washers and dryers." Her father served in the Navy, and the family eventually settled down in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco. They lived first in Santa Rosa and then in Rohnert Park, a solid, working-class, ethnically mixed community. This was small-town America, worlds away from Los Angeles, and it helped provide a happy childhood for her and her younger brother, Jason. They were raised in a loving home, with strong moral values, and Walter and Debbie Roderick were always supportive of their children—and supportive of each other.

Brande was a confident, outgoing girl who enjoyed cheerleading for the local Pop Warner football league and relished her role in homemade productions. "I always wanted to be an entertainer," she says. "I was always putting on shows for my parents. There were lots of kids in the neighborhood and we would sell tickets to the neighbors to come watch our show. We'd set up chairs in the living room and we'd put on silly little shows for my parents and the parents of the other kids in the neighborhood."

Acting was a natural next step. In grammar school, Roderick began several years of school drama classes. When she was 16, the

family moved to Windsor, a community farther north in Sonoma County. But by now Roderick was getting antsy. She skipped a grade with the move, by taking extra classes at the local junior college and by doing independent home study, all in an effort to graduate early from her new high school in Healdsburg: "I really felt I was wasting my time in high school. I wanted to get out and do something with my life." She got her high school diploma on June 13, 1991, on her 17th birthday.

Her first plan was to go into real estate. For six months, she went door-to-door looking for clients for a local real estate firm. She had other jobs as well, including being a waitress and a preschool teacher. Then she enrolled at Santa Rosa Junior College, majoring in elementary education and minoring in theater, and it was there that she reconnected with her passion for acting. "In the drama department, we studied the history of theater and in another class we studied the basic mechanics of acting: stage left, stage right, that sort of thing. We were asked to stand on chairs in front of the class and recite a poem or run around like animals on our hands and knees. We were learning the basic techniques of acting and I loved it. I mean, I had a blast. I have no problem getting up in front of a bunch of people and making a fool of myself."


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