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Edie Falco

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ER

One minute she's making nice with the staff and patients of County General's emergency room—pushing morning muffins and mochas with all the fervor of Martha Stewart on crank. A few scenes later, she's pushing her petite self and spewing language Gidget would never use, while being strapped kicking and screaming into four-point restraints.

All in a few days' work for Sally Field, whose bravura November stint as the bi-polar mom of med student Abby Lockhart (series regular Maura Tierney) was—like the actor herself—short but damn unforgettable.

Switching personalities on a dime is, of course, nothing new for the 54-year-old Field, whose career-stretching break from sitcom surfer girls and soaring sisters to two-time Oscar holder is most often pegged to her 1976 Emmy-winning turn as the schizophrenic title character in the miniseries Sybil. Though her subsequent television and film roles haven't required 16 distinct faces, Field has nonetheless attempted to imbue each one with multiple layers, which pays off through something of an emotional striptease.

As ER executive producer Jack Orman told the press in August when Field's casting for the six-episode story arc was announced, "[Field] can be sympathetic and strong and vulnerable, and very, very complex." And, by God, people do like her, as proven by Nov. 16's ER appearance, which, at the time, was the series' most-watched episode of the season.

She really is the woman with something extra.

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