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LOS ANGELES — OK, she goes out a lot. But Shiva Rose McDermott, who is married to “The Practice” star Dylan McDermott, is more — much more — than the stylish party girl or Hollywood wife she might seem to be.
She recently wrapped both short and feature-length films, performed in a sexy play and filmed a guest spot on Lifetime’s “The Division,” which airs April 13.
McDermott has been doing a lot more than shopping lately. Still, she’s not ashamed of her fashionista status. Her style — European coquette meets California bohemian — grew from a love of movies, after all. “As an introverted child, I immersed myself in old movies and what Ava Gardner or Sophia Loren wore,” she says over lunch at the Chado Tea Room. “I was this 14-year-old girl trying to look like Rita Hayworth. I got made fun of a lot.”
In “Silent Madness,” the feature-length film, McDermott, 29, played none other than silver-screen legend Louise Brooks. In the upcoming short “Dysenchanted,” about disillusioned fairy tale heroines in group therapy, she’ll appear as another raven-haired icon — Snow White.
“I felt more like the wicked stepmother because I was doing a play at night and filming during the day,” says McDermott, who recently performed in the Pacific Resident Theatre’s production of “Therese Raquin” as the lead, an adulterer and murderer.
“I felt schizophrenic at times,” McDermott says. “I’m the same way with fashion, but it’s fun to get up every day and say, ‘Who do I want to be?’”
While some might buckle under the strain of working multiple projects, running a household and raising a six-year-old daughter, McDermott reveled in the moment — still managing to make her way to chic happenings around town, though she couldn’t linger as long. “The times you get to act 24 hours a day are few and far between, so I try to cherish it,” she says.
The daughter of an Iranian father and Irish mother, McDermott lived in Iran until the revolution forced her family to move to Los Angeles. She joined Pacific Resident Theater at 16, earned a theater degree at UCLA, and shortly after, she met her husband, an event that’s tied to — you guessed it — fashion. “I was working at Betsey Johnson when Dylan saw me and said, ‘That’s the girl I’m going to marry.’ So he followed me to a cafe across the street and started talking to me,” she says. “Betsey always likes to say she was our matchmaker.” The couple moved to New York for a few years, then returned to L.A. to start a family.
And what does she think of being labeled a Hollywood wife, party girl and fashionista?
“It can be frustrating because my husband’s career has taken precedence, and I’ve been acting since I was 16,” she says. “At the same time, I get excited about being interested in fashion because that’s my passion. In every industry — especially this one — people get labeled, and it’s just one of the things you have to overcome.”
Besides acting, McDermott, who spent Oscar week not searching for a gown but protesting the war in Iraq on the streets of Hollywood, is also a committed community activist. After a quick lunch, she and Ryan Haddon, Christian Slater’s wife, visited AIDS-infected infants at a local hospital, a cause for which the two are planning a Hollywood benefit.
McDermott says that growing up in a war-torn country has heightened her dedication to political activism. In 1994, she went to Bosnia to work with women in rape camps, and last January she was arrested during a protest against the war in Iraq.
“I got into a coffin in front of the Federal Building to demonstrate the death caused by war,” she says matter-of-factly. “I think when you get overly informed, you become an activist.”
Not surprisingly, the next project she hopes to bring to the big screen is a biopic about artist Tina Modotti, the Italian photographer/revolutionary. “She was one of the first to make art and fashion political,” McDermott explains. “Selfishly, I’d love to play her, but it’s so important to me to get the movie made, that I’d be OK even if they cast J.Lo.”