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Naturally, Fame fans miss seeing Lee Curreri, Erica Gimpel, and others who have left the syndicated program. But when the new members of the cast mix their talents with those of the remaining regulars, it's sheer magic! Here's a look at the talented actors and actresses who bring Fame alive each week.
Dancer Gene Anthony Ray has been with Fame since its inception. He was in fact, one of the young performers lucky enough to display his talents in the 'hit movie' of the same name. Gene, whose performance as the moody, but dynamic "Leroy," is often nothing short of explosive, was even luckier than many of the other cast members in landing his part. He had no formal dance training when he auditioned for the movie. What Gene did have, luckily, was enough natural talent to delight the director, and later, the audience.
Carlo Imperato, who plays "Danny" is another one of Fame's old-timers. Until he auditioned for and won a role in an off-Broadway show, Carlo was, just another high school student in Bronx, New York, dreaming about a career in show business. Today, he's not only got his career, but dozens of new friends and of course, fame.Working on the series is a non-stop adventure for Carlo, "I'm.usually on the set from 6:30 in the morning until 7:00 at night," he says. It's a long, hard day, but Carlo loves every minute of it. "We're always goofing around on the set, changing the dialogue and stuff like that," he confides. "Sometimes, in-between scenes, we get a break, and I can go home or get some shopping done. But sometimes, we just have to wait on stage and be very quiet kind of like school!"
The most famous of the Fame-ers, is probably Debbie Allen. She plays "Lydia Grant," the dance teacher who imparts her knowledge with affection and discipline, but always inspires her students to new levels of achievement. A tireless performer with an intensive dance background, Debbie has also starred in the TV movie Women of San Quentin, the miniseries Celebrity and serves as co-producer on all Fame episodes.
Jesse Borrego joined the cast of Fame last September in the role of "Jesse Velasquez," an actor/dancer/singer who is a charming self-promoter. Fame discovered Jesse at an open casting call in Los Angeles, where he was a student at the California Arts College. Jesse nearly lost out on the role, however, when the show's producers lost his phone number after his audition. The producers finally managed to get word to Jesse that he had won the role by announcing it on a Los Angeles news station and asking him to call!
You may have watched Cynthia Gibb in her role as "Suzi Carter" on Search For Tomorrow, and you have probably heard her name linked with actor Chris Atkins in the past (they're just good friends now), but Cindy admits she's the happiest she's ever been as a Fame star. "Working on the series is such an exciting experience," she says. "And everyone in the cast is terrific. We all get alongso well, and I've established some friendships that will last forever." Cindy has a lot in common. with her Fame character "Holly Laird," too. They'reboth filled with energy and excitement.
Billy Hufsey portrays' "Christopher Donlan," a young man who can dance and sing up a storm, but is still a little rough around the edges.
His character is streetwise, and so is Billy, who says he loves every aspect of show business, though it was dancing that first interested him. Born in Brook Park, Ohio, Billy is the, youngest child in a close-knit German/Irish family. He gravitated toward the arts to express his inner turmoil and idealism. "I learned to dance on the streets," Billy says matter of factly, "but when I knew I had the feel for it, I began to study it seriously."
On-camera she's "Cleo Hewitt," a shy and insecure singer who has a strong comedic flair. Off-camera, she's Janet Jackson, a member of one of America's
most famous families. Janet, who has been performing since she was about seven years old, first appeared on stage with the Jacksons in a Las Vegas revue and then on the Jacksons' TV special. Fame isn't Janet's first acting experience either. She made her debut on Good Times and played Todd Bridges girlfriend on Diffrent Strokes.
Valerie Landsburg's Fame character, "Doris Schwartz," is a multitalented singer/actress, and so, of course, is Valerie. But she can also add "writer" to her list of talents. Valerie was even given the Media Award for Best Dramatic Series Episode from the California Governor's Committee for Employment of the Handicapped, for "Signs," her debut script-writing effort on Fame.
As another of the show's original cast members Valerie says she can't imagine being anywhere else for now. "I love my character and how she's grown and developed, and I love the kids from Fame and being a part of it all," Valerie says.
She began performing with her family's Polynesian floor show, but Nia Peeples, who plays "Nicole Chapman," was originally intent on a career in medicine - surgery to be exact. Instead, she won a scholarship to the University of California in Los Angeles, and entered as a music major.
Nia, who plays a singer/dancer/actress on Fame, got her first show business break accidentally. While accompanying a friend to an audition, she was asked to audition herself, and her credits now include a recurring role on General Hospital and roles on T J. Hooker; Tales Of The Gold Monkey and Hardcastle & McCormick, as well as a featured role in Patrick Simmons' rock video!
© Tiger Beat, March 1985