Always cast as the girl next door, Iowa's Annabeth Gish is the real thing

Cinderella-type transformations are a staple of Hollywood storytelling. Actress Annabeth Gish has pulled one off in real life by going away to college and coming back svelte and sophisticated, minus the baby-faced look of the past. And it's paid off. She has a role in Wyatt Earp, as one of Kevin Costner's wives, and in the miniseries Scarlett, in which she plays Rhett's second wife. Not bad for someone whose only recognizable film credit reads, "played Julia Roberts's sister in Mystic Pizza."

"Hollywood thinks of actors as types," Gish says. "Sexy, quirky or wholesome. I was pegged as wholesome and wasn't able to find roles that expressed what I thought was my versatility." After a four-year hiatus at Duke University, she's now showing off her "darker, edgier, more complex side." Although she resists the whole "introducing the new Annabeth" concept, she does admit that her sleeker appearance has made a mark in her career. "Physically, I think I've changed a bit, in the sense that I'm not Pudge in Shag anymore."

Did Gish worry about interrupting her career for a stint in college? "I wasn't leaving behind some superstar's career, but I was a working actor, so it was a risk. The vibe that I got from my agents was that Hollywood could forget about me in college, and I was scared. But Hollywood can forget about you at any time. I wanted more than just movies in my life. If you're only allowed to do one thing in this business, you career's over at 20."
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