.: Charming Holly :.
She may not be Charmed's biggest star, but Holly Marie Combs just might be its best.
"I'm the least 'babe' of the babes,'' Holly says of her status alongside her Charmed co-stars, Shannen Doherty and Alyssa Milano. ''I'm not like vavoom! Walk down the hall and everybody turns their head. I don't need to be in the skimpy outfits with the push-up bras all the time.''
Push up bras?
''Oh yeah, the push-up bras became the big issue. Next to Shannen and Alyssa I look positively deprived, so they had me in one of those. I wore it for a while, but then finally I was like, this is ridiculous.'' Holly Marie Combs is dressed in sandals, sweatpants and a t-shirt. She has just lit a cigarette, something she only does when she's nervous and she's nervous about how she'll come off in print. She should save it; she's a charmer. She has this cute-as-your-buddy's- kid-sister look that's immediately apparent. Then, as you sit with her, there are glimpses of something smoldering under the surface.
Maybe it's because her mother was only 15 when she had Holly Marie. They lived near the beach in San Diego, but moved to New York when the future actress was eight.
''We lived in a little box of an apartment,'' Holly recalls, ''me, my mom, my stepfather, and a huge Siberian Husky. I was the angriest little person imaginable. I woke up with a frown every morning. I barely talked, wore black all the time, and had some serious teenage rebellion years.''
But, she explains, the rebellion failed.
''My parents were both musicians,'' she says, ''which made it impossible. When I was 16, I got some tattoos (a braid on each wrist and a rose on her shoulder), and my stepfather said, ''Oh, I want one like that.''
Five years of emotionally charged acting - beginning with a part on Picket Fences that was rewritten for her - and a short-lived marriage cooled much of Holly's fire, though. On this day, she's enjoying the temporary unemployment of the Charmed hiatus. She has just come from horseback riding, is looking forward to reuniting with the puppy Alyssa Milano's mother just gave her, and is recently engaged to a second-grade teacher from Venice Beach.
As Combs watches the smoke coil off her cigarette, she looks positively languid. Until, that is, our conversation drifts to 'A Reason To Believe', a little- known independent feature with a brief love scene that turned her into an Internet pin-up girl.
''Lauren Holly [off Picket Fences] asked me to do a part in it with her husband Danny Quinn,'' Holly explains. ''I hadn't read the script, but I flew to Ohio during a break from Picket Fences. All I went off was what Lauren had told me. She was like, 'It's a great monologue, but I'm just a little nervous because you might have to kiss Danny.'
''I never thought that this one shot of me taking my shirt off could be freeze-framed into 15 different pictures. All you had to do was search for my name and the first thing that came up was 'Holly Marie gets naked.''
Fortunately for Holly, Milano's mother had some experience in getting porn off the Internet and by threatening a law suit, got the photos removed.
''I was really lucky my pictures weren't getting 1,000 hits a day,'' Holly says. ''The guys who posted it were like, "Yeah, we'll take them down no problem.''
''I guess that's the good part of being an under- rated, under-valued...''
''Yeah, an underdog. I like that.''