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Vivica A. Fox: On To Drama!

Vivica A. Fox gained international attention as Will Smith's sexy girlfriend in the hit film Independence Day (1996), reports CBS This Morning Co-Anchor Mark McEwen. And she also earned critical praise for her work in Soul Food (1997), playing the sister of Vanessa Williams and Nia Long.

Now she is playing a high school guidance counselor in Teaching Mrs. Tingle. Was Fox herself influenced by any of her teachers in high school?

"My basketball coach, Mrs. Russell," says the actress. "She used to ride my back on a continuous basis. Sometimes I used to wonder why. She wanted me to be a better person.

"That's what we're trying to show through the film: Sometimes you may have a teacher that rides your back, but it is because they want you to be a better person. This is one of my grown-up roles where I get to serve as a mentor to someone to help her realize her potential," she says.

In Teaching Mrs. Tingle, Leigh Ann (played by Katie Holmes) is a student who is just one point away from becoming valedictorian. She needs that honor to win a scholarship.

But Leigh Ann has one teacher, Mrs. Tingle (Helen Mirren), who is her biggest obstacle, and, after much confusion, the student eventually learns to believe in herself.

For Fox, who turns 35 on July 30, Independence Day marked the biggest turning point in her career.

After that, she says, "it was nonstop work for the first time." Suddenly, instead of auditioning for roles, she found that producers were coming to her with offers.

"The pressure goes out the door," she explains. "They really want you. You have a little bit of a name now, so you put people in the seats. And that's what matters to them."

Her other movie credits include Why Do Fools Fall in Love? (1998), Batman & Robin (1997), Booty Call (1997) and Set It Off (1996).

The latest big news in her personal life was her wedding in December to singer-producer Christopher Harvest, known in the music industry as Sixx-Nine (his height). Among the 260 guests on hand were Angela Bassett, Elliot Gould, Blair Underwood, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, Holly Robinson Peete, and Lela Rochon.

Fox's next big adventure in show business will be on TV, in the new CBS hospital drama series City of Angels, created by Steven Bochco and also starring Blair Underwood. Fox plays Dr. Lillian Price, a medical director. The series will premiere midseason, in early 2000.

She says she is especially gratified to see African-American actors getting to chance to play dramatic roles in a major new TV series.

"It is going to be wonderful to see brothers and sisters with intelligence and professional roles....It takes place in Los Angeles, and we're helping the community," she explains.

The actress also was ready to branch out from comedic roles.

"I was sick of trying to make pople laugh," she says.

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