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LOS ANGELES — As the last couple of years in Hollywood have shown, all the pretty girls — from Charlize Theron to Halle Barry — want to get gritty. And model Michele Hicks doesn’t discount herself from that group. On the latest season of F/X’s “The Shield,” Hicks plays an ambitious real estate agent dating Shane Vendrell (played by Walt Goggins), a cop who, Hicks explains, “usually goes for the stripper types.”

Anyone who’s seen the Emmy-nominated drama knows that it doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff. “I think there’s a kind of grittiness to it, and if you’re going to go there, go there all the way,” says Hicks over ahi tuna and french fries at Chateau Marmont. While the season’s first three episodes have shown Hicks manipulating her beau into buying a Lexus and planting seeds of discord among his buddies, the good stuff is yet to come. “There’s definitely a violent aspect to it,” she confides.

This story first appeared in the March 25, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

In 1999, Hicks quit modeling for a few years and made the transition into acting. “I didn’t have an ‘I wanna be an actor when I grow up’ thing,” she says. “It was all personal timing.” But she soon realized she wasn’t prepared to give up the catwalk. “A lot of actresses do fashion, and I thought, ‘I can do that.’ And I did do it, so why not?”

Hicks moved to Los Angeles a year-and-a-half ago to lead the double life, but for now, she’s relieved herself of wondering from whence her next bookings might come. The New Jersey native, now 30, started out as a bartender at New York’s Limelight and worked her way through the door and into a manager’s position before her modeling career took off. “I was pretty old when I started modeling. I was 20, but I looked like I was 17, so people told me to say I was 17.”

Since her debut in “Twin Falls Idaho” in 1999, Hicks has appeared in a string of indie films including “Mulholland Drive.” Currently, she’s reshooting scenes for “Distress,” a psychological drama about two sparring lovers who get trapped on the roof of a skyscraper. “I gravitate more toward dramas,” she says, “but I’d love to do something happy, though not hokey.”

Of course, moving to Los Angeles presented Hicks with a new set of practical challenges. Wearing the classic New York model’s wardrobe for 10 years, she had to figure out how to dress for a sunny climate. “I was very into European clothes like Helmut Lang and Dries Van Noten, and I had my summer holiday wardrobe, which consisted of a bikini,” she recalls. Now, most of the furs and dark woolens have been packed away and Hicks dresses in jeans and tank tops.

“Sometimes I’ll pull out a fur and go, ‘F–k it — I’m just going to wear this because I miss it,’” she laughs.

Hicks is self-effacing enough to admit that the career move has its downside. “Honey, there are still times where I’m just waiting to get a job,” she says. “It’s not constant acting for anyone except major movie stars.” But she’s still happy with her decision. “This is Hollywood, you know? You’re gonna have to put in your dues.”

— Marcy Medina

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