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Leeves of Autumn

The colorful ‘Frasier’ costar rakes in a ‘Miracle’ of a film role

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Jane Leeves didn’t wear a Halloween costume this year. ”My mother and father are staying with me, and I’m making them dress up and answer the door,” she says on trick-or-treat morning from her new house in L.A. And what disguises has she selected for mom Ruth (a nurse) and dad Colin (an engineer)? ”An old hag and the devil,” she says, laughing. ”I love them.”

For her part, the London-born Leeves, 32, has a pair of alter egos, playing semi-psychic physical therapist Daphne Moon on NBC’s Frasier (Tuesdays, 9-9:30 p.m.) and, in her first major film role, a scheming department-store executive in Miracle on 34th Street (opening Nov. 18). ”I’m always cast as the nice guy, except in Miracle,” she says. ”I play a baddie, but I turn nice in the end.”

The slightly daft Daphne, on the other hand, couldn’t be sweeter. She’s totally unaware that Frasier’s married brother, Niles (David Hyde Pierce), has a crush on her. ”When Jane and I worked on the first episode, we talked about how that might be fun,” recalls Pierce. ”And then it appeared in the script. So someone’s psychic.”

”She is the antithesis of [Niles’ neurotic, never-seen wife] Maris,” Leeves explains of Daphne’s allure. ”She’s grounded, she’s well-adjusted, she can fix the plumbing, and he finds something very erotic about that.”

Despite her on-screen chemistry with Pierce, Leeves reveals she’s even fonder of another Frasier costar. ”I love Moose,” she confesses of the Jack Russell terrier who plays Eddie. ”I’m closer to him than anyone on the set.” (Pierce has taken note of Leeves’ special bond with the dog: ”What we’re | talking about is illegal in the state of California,” he jokes. ”But bond is a good word to describe it.”)

Actually, Leeves shares her new abode with two cats, Matilda and Newman Bumble (better known as Fat Bastard), and her housemate/personal trainer, Patrick Goudeau, who also helps keep Leeves’ best friend, Faith Ford, in shape. The actresses worked together on Murphy Brown, where Leeves played Audrey, the girlfriend of Miles (Grant Shaud, her real-life boyfriend at the time). ”I was supposed to marry Miles on the show, but then Frasier happened, and they had to write me out,” says Leeves, who’s still pals with Shaud. ”I went back to England. I was hoping they’d kill me. You know, Audrey meets with a freak accident … ”

Leeves’ role on Murphy — and her turn as the virgin who beds JFK Jr. in Seinfeld‘s seminal masturbation episode — helped her land Frasier, and now her future looks bright. Perhaps it was predestined. Says Leeves, ”When I was doing a summer season in Scarborough, [England], a gypsy told me, ‘You’re going to go to the States and do very well.’ ” Who says all psychics are nuts?