Article 110

She's the first choice of Chamberlain

Aside from its internal political turmoil, South Africa had been best known for exporting gorgeous diamonds.

Hollywood has inherited one of these precious gems in the form of Alice Krige, an actress from the remote Kalahari desert region, who in a short period of time in Tinseltown has had the distinction of working with Richard Gere ("King David") and Richard Chamberlain ("Wallenberg").

In fact, Krige is the only actress to have worked with Chamberlain - the acknowledged king of the miniseries on two consecutive small screen projects.

Next week she'll be seen opposite the gallant actor in CBS' saga "Dream West," which starts Sunday at 9pm on Channel 7, and continues Monday and Tuesday nights.

The panoramic yarn is based on David Nevins' novel about John Charles Fremont and his wife Jessie - and their roles in the opening of the American West in the mid-19th century.

"I actually asked for her to work with me again," said Chamberlain. "The chemistry between us is an absolute mystery. I can't account for it, but I'd be happy working with her for the rest of my life."

What's this magic potion that the alluring actress possesses?

"I didn't fall in love with Gere or Chamberlain, if that's what you are asking," she claimed.

"You are your tool in acting. What you produce on-camera is a product of your sensibilities and feelings. You don't have to fall in love with them to act out a relationship. It's fascinating, though, to create love scenes and it's a strange knife-edge to walk on. Chemistry is so terribly difficult to explain. Who knows why one's rhythms seem to mesh with another person."

"An enormous amount of energy flows out of Richard Chamberlain, so you have a strong process of interaction. He's a splendid actor and we've built a good friendship. Besides, he can be wildly funny on the set."

Chamberlain added, "Alice is so serious about her work! It's easy for me to work with her as well. If I do something new, I see her adjust and vice-versa. I feel wonderful working with her."

Playing an American woman in the 1850s should have been a difficult task for Alice, who knew little about the American West beforehand. But the determined actress said, "Playing an American woman was no more difficult than playing a European baroness was in "Wallenberg." Each part has its own difficulties," she said.

"But the joy of acting is that you discover an enormous amount of information and come across subjects that you might not ordinarily encounter."

Alice's free-spirited character - Jessie Benton - married John Charles Freemont when she was but 16 years old - without her father's approval.

Added Alice, "They spent half their marriage apart but Jessie was like a tiger for Fermont, solicitous and protective of him. I think that kind of commitment is wonderful."

The soft-spoken star will also be seen shortly in CBS' "Second Serve" - the story of transsexual tennis player Renee Richards starring Vanessa Redgrave. But she has not had a hard time adjusting to the Hollywood show-biz environment.

She claimed, "I spent some time in London before coming to the States and because of all the movies I saw about America, I had this curious sense of déjà vu."

"As for dealing with the so-called 'Hollywood party scene,' my temperment says that I'm not a party person at all. Besides, most of the time I'm working and that consumes my energy."

"The only time I get to watch TV is when I'm flipping through the dials as I get up in the morning or before I got to bed."