I do topless gardening!" exclaims Alyssa Milano. "I do, I do that," she reasserts, leaning forward. She seems eager for me to believe she plants her seedlings that way,and I have no trouble believing her as she is practicality giving a topless interview. She's wearing an eye-poppingly tight, black velvet bodice, on top of which her breasts are perched like two plump peaches on a shelf. The good witch Phoebe,the character Alyssa has played for the past three years, is off to a party and dressed to kill. But Phoebe's not needed for another take right now, so the compact, corseted and incredibly cleavaged Ms. Milano and I are sitting in her trailer, which she was allowed to decorate to her own taste when she joined the cast of Charmed. "They call it the frat-house trailer," she says, although the chenille pillows, folksy throws and billowing incense sticks are more reminiscent of a fortune-teller's hideaway than a smelly student's bedroom. Nevertheless, the conversation soon turns to America's strange relationship with nudity. "It's so weird," she says. "I think we're in a time when everyone's afraid to be naked or have sex. But I was raised with it being beautiful." It obviously worked. "I guess I don't have the issues," she says, "because my parents were '60s parents. They went to Woodstock, and it was very free and open in my house. My mom walked around naked, although my dad was always a little bit more like, 'My God, I have a daughter now.' But, you know, there were copies of Plaboy in the house, and it wasn't like nudity was ugly or weird or bad."
However, her parents' free and open ways did not extend to the world of showbiz. When she was 7 (Brooklyn-born Alyssa is now 28), a stage-struck baby sitter took her to an audition for a touring production of Annie. There were 15,000 kids there and Alyssa was one of the four picked. "My parents didn't want me to go because they'd heard the nightmare stories about child actors, but I locked myself in my room and I wouldn't eat. I guess they felt if they didn't allow me to do it, it would be an even more nightmarish story." So for two years she toured the country, and then acted in Broadway shows until, at 12, she got her first TV gig as Tony Danza's wisecracking Italian-American daughter on Who's the Boss Two years later she became daughter to a bigger dad, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in Commando: "It was weird," she says. "I'd never worked with someone so large in my life. I found him intimidating."
After eight years of Who's the Boss, and perhaps tiring of being seen as a child star, Alyssa took on some very adult stuff: Poison Ivy 2, Deadly Sins and Embrace of the Vampire. In each, the curvaceous actress was refreshingly free of textiles, and amply displayed her fearless un-American attitude toward sex of all kinds. She also had a few roles in independent films—a vengeful girlfriend in Fear with Mark Wahlberg, and a sassy, saucy poet cleaner in Hugo Pool, co-starring Sean Penn—which won her less carnal critical acclaim. Before becoming Shannen Doherty and Holly Marie Combs's kid sister in Charmed, Alyssa took soapy sexiness to new heights in Melrose Place. And in January, Alyssa will star in Buying the Cow with Jerry O'Connell and Bridgette Wilson. An of which adds up to a pretty impressive celebrity resume. But FHM wants to know...
Have you ever had a regular job?
No. It's funny you should ask that. We have a coffee guy who comes on set once a week, but last week he wasn't here and I wanted a blended coffee. I was like, "How hard can this be? Come on, I'm 28 years old, I can make a blended coffee drink. "I broke the blender! Smoke was billowing out of the room. All I could do was laugh. That kind of made me realize I've never had a real job. I can't even make a coffee drink.
Do you think you've missed out on normal rife because you were a child actor?
No, but in Who's the Boss, they used my life. which isn't normal. It was so embarrassing. Like, I started developing and wearing a little bra, and a couple of weeks later, I turned up for a table reading and the episode was called "Sam's First Bra." And, the first time I got my period, instead of being home with my mom I was with Tony Danza! I didn't tell Tony, but I told Judith Light, the mother on the show. She told me through the bathroom door how to put a tampon in. I phoned my mom, and she was a little upset that she hadn't been there.
Is there a sort of sisterhood on Charmed, or can it get a bit bitchy on set?
People always ask, "Do you guys really get along?" They just assume we couldn't possibly. My stock answer is if we didn't get along, you'd hear about it. I mean, if Shannen Doherty, Alyssa Milano and Holly Marie Combs weren't getting along, that woutd be huge news. I knew the way Shannen was viewed by the press, and I had a day before I joined when I was like, "I don't want to get myself into a situation that's going to be unpleasant." Then I had this sort of epiphany, and I said to myself, "I don't even know her, and I wouldn't want anyone to judge me without knowing me." At first, every day was a big slumber party. We'd hang out and go out on the weekends together. But now, by the third season, I'm definitely in my trailer more. There will be days when we're like, '"Yes! I love you!" And days when it's, "Oh, God, go away. I can't even look at you."
You played Amy Fisher, the Long Island Lolita, in a TV movie about the Buttafuoco story. Have you had any similar "dirty old man whose wife doesn't understand him" experiences?
No, I had a sheltered life. I had a guardian who came on the set with me. I was so lucky, I mean, I have no casting couch stories or weird sexual-harassment issues. Which is rare. In this business, you hear that stuff all the time. Like the dirty old man making the young ingénue take off her blouse during auditions.
You worked with Sean Penn in Hugo Pool. Did he live up to his "difficult" reputation or was he a pussycat?
He kept coming into my trailer. He is so sexy. I've never met a sexier man. He'd say stuff and I'd be like, "Oh, God." And it would have been, "Could you pass the ketchup?" I saw him a full month after we were done, and he said, "You were really good in our movie." And for me, that goes down as one of the greatest compliments I've ever gotten in my life. I shit my pants. I laid a brick, and I was like, "OK, thanks, Sean. Gotta go."
And Ice-Tea was your co-star in Body Count. Did he turn up on set with a huge entourage?
Oh, yeah. He came with 17 one day—very sweet people. There were a lot of, like, cousins that he had on payroll. There was one scene where he takes a bullet in the leg and he took it so differently than I'd ever seen an actor take a bullet before, so I was like, "Wow, that was a neatly cool choice." He just looked at me and said, "That is what happens when you get shot." So I went, "Oh! OK, so it wasn't really a choice! Nice work!"
In Fear you played an out-of-control girlfriend. What's the worst thing you've done in the name of love?
Well, after someone finished with me, I stalked him. I called a girlfriend and we followed him, thinking we'd catch him with another woman. We didn't. It was only one night, but I felt so guilty for ages after that.
Was it good to work with Mark Wahlberg?
Yes, there's a physical presence about him that most young actors don't have—he's manly. Most actors his age are weird and androgynous, but there's something very primal about him.
You had a best-setting workout video called Teen Steam. Do you think it was watched by men for purposes other than just improving their abs?
Do you get lots of kinky fan mail?
I have weird things, but I have an understanding with my security people, which is, "Call my mother, tell her what's going on and if she thinks it is important, she'll tell me." Idon't want to live my life in fear. There have been a couple of situations when people have tracked me down, and the FBI got involved. My mother called and said, "There's going to be a security guard parked outside your house for the next couple of days. Go out and say hello."
You run a Web site protecting celebrities' images on the
Net. How did you get to be a Web crusader?
When my little brother was 12 years old, he typed my name into a search engine and all these porn sites came up. It upset him, it really did. And for so many reasons, it didn't seem right. I'm not ashamed of the nudity I've done; it wasn't about that. It's about the porn masters making $30,000 a month off my naked body without my permission. We had 12 lawsuits, all of which were settled outside of court. We did go to trial for one case, and we won a quarter of a million dollars—a substantial lump of money that felt gross because it was porn money. So I came up with the idea of starting an entertainment-industry-driven search engine. I'm very proud of it. I felt like a pioneer because nobody had taken that into their own hands. Celebrities hadn't been doing anything about it.
What was the worst abuse of your image? Had anyone put your head on a spread-eagled nude?
Yes, but the worst thing was that they took my head from Teen Steam when I was doing leg lifts and they put a little girl's naked body on it. It was so upsetting. That's when I thought it was getting to be sick.
You had a massive recording career in Japan. How did that happen?
In a totally bizarre way. When I was 15, Commando was shown there. It was the first time Japan had ever seen me, and fans started writing in to magazines asking, "Who is this girl?" So I did some interviews over there and said I'd been in Annie. A record-company exec saw that, assumed I could sing and gave me a five-album contract. It was so bizarre I had to do it. It was great—all five albums went platinum.
Can you speak Japanese?
Just "hello" and "I am Alyssa Milano."
Did you adopt the high-pitched singing style of Japanese opera?
No, it was total bubble-gum pop.
Why haven't you tried to launch a pop career in the US?
First of all, because actors and actresses are not taken seriously, and secondly, it would be another excuse for everybody to give me shit.
You did some saucy commercials for Candies, and your co-star was a man with a goatee. Is there any excuse for exotic facial furniture?
Come on, I like weird facial hair. It's so neat.
Would you date a man with a beard?
Yes, although I've never dated anyone with a mustache.
The Candies print ads were banned by Seventeen and Teen People magazines. Do you understand that censorship? What harm could seeing you in your undies do to a teenager?
It was more to do with the condoms in the bathroom cabinet, and what really upset me about it was that The WB was quoted as saying they didn't promote condom use, which is the most irresponsible thing. I think they were trying to say, "We don't agree with premarital sex," but that was offensive to me.
Your former TV dad, Tony Danza, was quoted as saying he worried about you when you appeared nude in a magazine. Does he still think he's your dad?
He does think of me as a daughter, totally. He still calls me all the time.
Do you have a nudity policy or any kind of rules as to how far you'll go in sex scenes?
I do now, because it's been so taken advantage of. I have major clauses in my contract saying if I choose to do nudity, I have editing and angle approval or I won't do it. You have to. The production companies own those rolls of film, and they need to back us up a little bit more, or it'll wind up that no one wants to do nudity. It seems to be going that way already.
You seem to have a relaxed attitude about getting naked.
Yes, well, it's not normal in America. It's so bizarre. You can look at a naked body, and to me, there's something very natural and beautiful. That's why I garden topless. I'll be in my garden, you know, just being natural.
Have you ever had to phone your parents and warn them, "Don't look at page 36," or, "Blink at minute 72"?
No, they've seen every single thing and there's never been any embarrassment. They look at it as part of what I do for a living. It's not like my dad would say, "Boy, in that love scene you were great." We won't talk about the nudity. He knows it doesn't make me a bad person, you know?
On New Year's Day, 1999, you were married to Cinjun Tate, of the band Remy Zero, and you're now divorced. Do you miss the rock-star life?
They were not your typical rock stars. I mean, they took Dramamine on the tour bus. It was like, "Guys, aren't you supposed to be doing coke or something?" They're taking drugs so they don't get nauseous! There was no partying or girls. I expected it to be so much darker and seedier than it was.
Do you like being a single girl again?
I just feel a bit ridiculous like, "Of course! The actress marries the rock star and it lasts 11 months!" What a cliche. I was so pissed at that. Our marriage was not a cliché.
Are you ready to start dating yet?
No, I'm not going to put the effort into it that I used to. I am really good at being alone. But if next week I decide I need to be with someone, I will pursue that.
Have you had to fight people off since your separation?
No, because I haven't left my house! I'm not out there enough for people to be hitting on me.