December 30, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST

”I’m drawn to intensity in my work as well as in life,” actress Karen Sillas says intensely. ”Otherwise, what’s the f—ing point?” It is just this sensibility that has made her, until now, the darling of the independent film world. Before last fall, her showcases were small-scale: college friend Hal Hartley’s Trust and Simple Men, and Tom Noonan’s Sundance succès d’estime What Happened Was … , a dead-on portrayal of an awkward first date. Why? ”I wanted to be a movie star, not a TV star,” she says. But then came CBS’ moody cop drama Under Suspicion; Sillas’ tightly controlled work as Portland, Ore., detective Rose ”Phil” Phillips has made the show a cult fave. ”When I first went to meet the detectives, they all thought I was a new recruit,” she recalls. Now that she’s just one of the guys on the force, the thirtysomething actress is more accessible. ”I always had this mask of don’t-approach-me,” she says, ”which I’ve gotten rid of.”

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