It’s no surprise New York native Lily Rabe was bitten by the acting bug given the 24-year-old’s parents are playwright David Rabe and actress Jill Clayburgh. But her career choice wasn’t immediate. “In high school, I was a dancer,” says Rabe, who attended Hotchkiss. Then, “senior year, I sort of discovered acting, and pretty instantly knew that’s what I wanted.” After studying drama at Northwestern University, Rabe now lives in Gramercy Park and will appear on the big screen in “No Reservations,” which starts Friday and costars Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart.

HIDDEN TALENT: For her part as a saucy waitress, Rabe was assigned to train with the staff at SoHo restaurant Fiamma. “I told the producers, they hired the only actress who was never a waitress to play one,” she says, laughing. “I would be the world’s worst waitress. I drop everything.” At Fiamma, she was treated like a regular working stiff. “They didn’t tell anyone I was an actress,” she said. “They let me carry one plate, then two plates.” Luckily nothing fell on the unsuspecting patrons. “I realized the shoes are really important,” she says. “But hopefully I’ll never have to use my skills.”

This story first appeared in the July 26, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

DAILY SPECIAL: The fictional eatery built for the film, 22 Bleecker, was so realistic that it fooled many a passerby. “People would come in and ask for a reservation,” remembers Rabe. “It’s New York, and they all wanted to get in first.”

WORDS OF WISDOM: “I go to my parents like anyone does,” says Rabe. “They are brilliant. I trust them and I respect them.” And vice versa: her mother looks to her for advice. “She makes me go to her dress rehearsals,” says Rabe.

STYLE: “I love fashion. I wish I didn’t,” exclaims Rabe, who’s a devotee of Jane Mayle and Marc Jacobs. Though she’s donned gowns from Vera Wang and Narciso Rodriguez to walk the red carpet, she’s not above scouring the racks at Woodbury Common for a bargain.

UP NEXT: Rabe spent the summer shooting “What Just Happened?” opposite Robert De Niro, in which she plays an aggressive Hollywood development girl.

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