The first character Mira Sorvino ever played, as a schoolgirl growing up in Tenafly, N.J., was her math teacher. ''I would come home from school and tell a story in her voice,'' recalls the actress. ''It would be a very good Scottish accent, but I wasn't doing (just) an accent; I was doing a person. That's generally what I still do. I try to find a person's voice ... to imitate.''
Lately, her childhood knack for mimicry has emerged as a highly visible talent for portraying a range of ethnic roles. In Quiz Show, she appears as the Jewish-American Sandra Goodwin, the moral center for her husband, congressional investigator Richard Goodwin (Rob Morrow). In Barcelona, she's an alluring Spanish beauty with a Catalan accent; and in a BBC production of Edith Wharton's The Buccaneers, due to premiere in April, she's a spirited Brazilian aristocrat.
A dark-haired beauty, the 25-year-old Harvard grad is the daughter of Paul Sorvino, the former Law & Order star perhaps best known for his gangster turn in GoodFellas. ''He was my first teacher and ultimately is my strongest influence,'' she says. But the younger Sorvino, who waitressed in New York for a year after earning a degree in Chinese studies, feared that ''celebrity kid'' was a tag she could never escape. ''It's turning out to be less difficult than I thought,'' she says. ''It's never been like, 'Here's the keys to Hollywood.' I've pretty much been seen doing what I'm doing and I just happen to be the daughter of Dad.''
What she's done most recently is Tarantella, the story of an Italian-American woman coming to grips with the death of her mother, due in '95; next, she starts work as one of the leads in Woody Allen's upcoming movie. And looking to the future, now that she's carved out her own niche in the family business, Sorvino says she would even consider working with her dad. ''I'd love to do King Lear with him,'' she says. Sorvino pauses for a moment, then starts to laugh. ''Not as Goneril or Regan. I don't want to put his eyes out.''