"America's Sexy Sweetheart"

Making a career on the silver screen is a risky proposition. Few appreciate that better than Rebecca Gayheart, an actress from deep in the heart of the South who set out to create a showbiz career for herself before she was even old enough to drive. The path she chose led her out of her Kentucky mining town home at age 15 and into the Big Apple to attend the Professional Children's School and take a swing at the entertainment industry. It was a journey that led her to modeling jobs, bit parts, television commercials (Noxema, anyone?) and eventually to California, where Rebecca began getting offers for movie and television roles. In one of her first roles, she was an earth angel in Steven Spielberg's sci-fi drama "Earth 2." She was then quickly married to the mob as Luke Perry's girlfriend on Aaron Spelling's blockbuster "Beverly Hills, 90210." Making the leap to the big screen, Rebecca became a sassy seductress in Nothing To Lose with Tim Robbins, shattered glass with her squeals in Scream 2 and then shed her good girl image even further when she played a crazed serial killer in Urban Legend. This fall, Rebecca's path led her into millions of American homes - and one step closer to her mission to "have it all" - as part of the ensemble cast of "Wasteland," ABC's newest golden horse and one of the hottest television shows of the season. From the mind of Scream screenwriter Kevin Williamson, "Wasteland" follows a group of twenty-somethings finding their way in New York City. How hard can the role be? Rebecca found her way to New York City when she was a teenager. Guaranteeing Rebecca's ongoing success is her talent, willingness to role the dice and the smile that has made her face instantly recognizable since she first hit the TV screen 15 years ago. It's a smile she flashed easily and often when we caught up with her at her Los Angeles home to talk about what's next for on of Hollywood's fastest rising stars - Sam Brenzel

Would you describe yourself as a risk taker?

A calculated risk-taker. I usually think about the pros and cons of a situation before I actually dive in and take the risk. I rely on my instincts most of the time, but some of the best things I have done in life have been when I went ahead and just took a leap without looking.

What's the biggest personal gamble you've ever taken?

Leaving my family and everything that I knew and moving to New York City when I was 15. I was very young, but it was something that I had to do.If I had stayed in Kentucky my life would be completely different.

How's your poker face - how well do you maintain your cool in a stressful situation?

It depends oh how badly I want to win, but I guess I have a pretty good one. It seems to work. I am pretty good at maintaining my cool most of the time, and for some reason being under pressure brings out my strengths and helps me act rationally.

Where have you been to gamble?

All over the world. Atlantic City, Bahamas, Las Vegas, Monaco. I had a great time in the Bahamas because I actually won some money for a change. I generally like to watch the high rollers - that's the most fun.

What's your most interesting story about a trip to Vegas?

I went to Vegas for the first time recently and saw Cirque du Soleil's O at the Bellagio and really enjoyed the performance.

What's your favorite game to play?

Blackjack, but Scrabble is a close second. My friends and I have been known to play a mean game of Scrabble. We all tend to get very competitive.

You've gone from being a model to being an actress to starring in your own show. What accomplishment is next for you?

Besides quitting smoking and make one great movie a year, I wouldn't mind being Siegfriend & Roy's masterful assistant and working with lions. After all, I am a Leo.

What's the ideal situation for you in your career?

I want to have it all. I would like to play challenging characters while maintaining a happy personal life. Eventually I want to get married and have the kids along the way.

What's your luck number?

Seven. Since there are seven days in a week, every day is a lucky day.

What are your good luck charms or superstitions?

My friends are my good luck charms. I used to have a lucky sweater that I would wear to auditions but I lost it. Another superstition of mine is that I don't really like to talk about something good just before it happens because I'm afraid of jinxing it. I usually think more about karma than about superstitions. I believe if you put good things out in the world, good things will come back to you.

Being an actress, do you have a favorite movie that centers around gambling?

Well, one of my favorite movies is a French film, Betty Blue. In it the two main characters take a gamble on each other for love.

What is your ideal Saturday night?

My favorite thing to do on a Saturday night is to go to a nice casual dinner at a neighborhood restaurant with my fiancé and my friends and then rush home early and change into some comfortable pajamas and watch a movie in bed with my fiance.

What are your New Year's plans?

Luckily I'm very busy with work right now so I am just trying to live my life one day at a time. I'm not sure where I'll end up for the millennium, but most likely it will be with family and friends and it will be a lot of fun.

What's the biggest "cheat" that you have ever gotten away with?

I don't know if this counts as cheating, but I used to sneak into movie theaters in New York City when I had no money. I did that out of necessity, but if I ever mistakenly take something like a pen from a restaurant I immediately have a complete panic attack and run back to return it.

You lived for a while on the East Coast and now you live out here in the West. What are some pros and cons about these very different places?

The weather is definitely a plus in California. It's great waking up every morning to a beautiful sunny day, but I do miss the changing seasons that you get back East. Also, it's more relaxing here but at times I definitely miss the energy of New York. I miss riding the subways and taking taxis since I am not a very good driver.

You've been seeing the same person for awhile now. If you were heading to Vegas to get married, what would the wedding be like?

On the off chance that I would ever get married in Las Vegas, it would probably have to be extremely campy and include lots of Elvis impersonators.