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Marissa Ribisi gets a star turn with the former Urkel in ''Grown Ups''

Unlike her twin brother, Giovanni, she’s happy with TV comedy

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Art Streiber

UPN proclaimed it had a hit after last Monday’s premiere of ”Grown Ups,” the new sitcom starring Jaleel ”Don’t call me Urkel” White. The show landed an 8 share in major cities, the network’s best numbers in that time slot in more than a year. (The second episode airs tonight at 9:00 EST.) Of course, a ”hit” on the perennially last-place UPN is all relative: Joining its low-profile shows is like entering witness-protection programming. But that doesn’t bother ”Grown Ups” costar Marissa Ribisi, who’s glad she’s on a network where mass popularity is practically an impossibility. ”I just want to do a fun TV show that I can be excited about,” the 24-year-old actress says. ”I don’t want to be the next Jennifer Aniston. I don’t want people to own me when I’m walking into the supermarket. We’re more on the down-low, you know?”

Regardless of the network, joining a broad sitcom about twentysomethings adjusting to adult life was a different choice than many of her close friends would have made: Her clique consists of some of young Hollywood’s more intense actors, including Adam Goldberg (”Saving Private Ryan”), Juliette Lewis (”The Other Sister”), and her twin brother, Giovanni (”The Mod Squad”). ”Most of my friends have more of a serious viewpoint, but I love doing even bad TV, because it’s funny to me,” says Ribisi, not necessarily referring to her own show. ”It’s more exciting to me than playing the lead in some Miramax movie. In my group, people will be saying, ‘Oh my God, have you read the next best script?’ And I’m like, ‘No, I haven’t, and I don’t even care. How d’ya like me now?”’

Ribisi, who first appeared in the 1993 film ”Dazed and Confused,” obviously feels no pressure to conform to her peers’ highbrow tastes, considering that she proudly reveals her idea of the ultimate goofball prize: A role in an Adam Sandler movie. ”I auditioned for around three of them,” says Ribisi, who was one of the finalists to play Drew Barrymore’s cousin in ”The Wedding Singer,” but lost out to ”The Brady Bunch Movie”’s Christine Taylor. ”All of the girls in his movies are these plasticy, Joey Lauren Adams types. And I was like, ‘I could be plasticy!”’ Oh well, ask for Sandler, settle for Urkel.