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LOS ANGELES — Sydney Tamiia Poitier carries her famous name proudly.
Acting is a very individual thing, she says, but she's also aware of inherited character traits.
"My mother and I are both very superstitious and kind of magical in our thinking, and we believe in things that cannot necessarily be proven," she explains. "Then my dad, on the flip side, he's very analytical, and I can get that way, too, and I can over-think."
Her mother is former actress Joanna Shimkus; dad, of course, is Oscar-winning actor Sidney Poitier.
The 29-year-old Sydney — the youngest of Poitier's six daughters (from from a previous marriage) — stars in "Abby," the new UPN sitcom about a television sports producer trying to balance her love life and career.
Although Poitier has had various TV and movie parts, including on the short-lived NBC legal series "First Years" in 2001, she had never done a sitcom before and thought trying out for "Abby" would be "good practice."
"In walked this tall young actress. We knew the pedigree, of course, but there was something special, which we picked up on immediately," says "Abby" creator and executive producer Mitchel Katlin.
In the show, Poitier's character, Abby Walker, still shares her apartment with an ex-boyfriend — even as she looks for a new romance.
As the sitcom was originally conceived, Abby's roommate was white, but that's been changed. Kadeem Hardison, who starred in the sitcom "A Different World," now plays the erstwhile beau.
"We had wanted to have an interracial relationship, but not make the show about an interracial relationship," says Katlin.
He explains the change came because "the test audience for the original pilot asked, 'Why aren't you dealing with it?"'
Poitier was surprised when she was told that audiences weren't comfortable with not addressing the racial mix.
"It's normal, at least to the people I've grown up around," says Poitier, the child of an interracial marriage. "I'm sure it is still an issue for some people, but I've never been asked about it."
Poitier says she talked with one of her sisters and concluded that "every single friend that we knew was in some sort of mixed relationship — black and white, Spanish and white, Asian and white, Asian and black, Jewish and Christian. Everyone was this whole mishmash."
So Poitier insisted that some interracial elements remain in the show.
The recurring role of Abby's mother is played by Michelle Phillips, the Mamas and the Papas singer turned actress. Her father is played by Charlie Robinson. And Abby will go "on many, many dates," with men from various ethnic backgrounds.
"I think that television, as far as the arts, is the most behind when it comes to (interracial relationships)," Poitier says. "It's so polarized. I thought here's an opportunity to change that."
Unlike her character, Poitier isn't interested in sports, although "just to make a point that girls should be allowed to," she once tried out for the football team at school. And neither is she into serial dating, because she has "a wonderful boyfriend," musician Dorian Heartsong.
Poitier is interviewed as hair and makeup artists fuss around her on the CBS Studios soundstage where "Abby" is taped. Lines are being altered continuously during a scene in which Abby's mother stops by the television station and interferes with her daughter's dating plans. Poitier picks up on the script changes quickly — and with good humor.
Her desire to become an actress happened because "it seemed as normal to me as any other career."
But she never got the lead parts at school.
"I was always in the chorus," she says, laughing. "Then I got really shy about acting. I suppose I was embarrassed that people would think I was just doing it because my dad was an actor."
She performed with her father in the 1999 TV movie "Free of Eden," playing a student opposite her dad as a teacher.
"The first week of rehearsals, I just kept cracking up because I would look at him and think, 'It's not ever going to work. You're my dad! What am I doing!,"' Poitier recalls. "Then, after I got all the giggles out, it was great."
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