IT Scene-Stealer

AGE 49
WHY HER? The Second City and SCTV alum brings gloriously smart comic zap to Christopher Guest improvs (A Mighty Wind, Best in Show), over-the-top comedies (Orange County), and last season's Six Feet Under.
COLLABORATIVE HIGH Working with Guest & Co. ''One of the beauties of his movies is you get all those different sensibilities because nobody's writing the dialogue. Everybody is doing what they want to do [and deciding] the best and funniest way that they want their characters to be.''
ONE FOR THE AGES ''My mom always told me, 'Don't tell your real age,' and I'm saying 'I'm 19, why wouldn't I tell my real age?' But now I know why because it's on the record. On Entertainment Tonight... it's like, 'Catherine O'Hara turning 49, Faye Dunaway turning 37...'''
NEXT The comedy Surviving Christmas, with Ben Affleck and James Gandolfini; a comedy show she's pitching to HBO.

IT Royalty

AGE 33
WHY HER? After more than a decade in TV and movies, the rap artist took command of the screen in Chicago and -- in the time it took to belt out ''When You're Good to Mama'' -- forced audiences to see her again for the first time. An Oscar nomination and a leading role in Bringing Down the House were just icing on the cake.
BEST JOB ''Saturday Night Live. You have no idea how intense it is to do that show. You've got a minute and 30 seconds to change from one costume to the next. You've got four people tugging on you, putting a wig on you, and then you're running to another set.''
WORST ADVICE ''Anytime somebody told me I had to take my clothes off to do something, that's bulls -- -. Maybe I'll show a little cleave, but I'm not getting naked.... And anyone who told me to lose weight, they can pretty much kiss my ass, because I look like real people. When I look at the rooms I've been in, the Golden Globes and the Oscars, I feel like I've come a long way to be a normal girl in this business.''
NEXT An album due this year, First Love; a cameo in Barbershop 2, which will be a launching pad for her own movie, Beauty Shop.

IT Workaholic

AGE 43
WHY HER? After years of subtly shining supporting roles, this redhead's gone full glow, earning an Emmy as Ruth's bohemian sis on Six Feet Under, and igniting this year's Sundance Film Festival with four wildly different films, two of which -- The Station Agent and Pieces of April -- boast Clarkson's sharpest performances to date.
INSPIRATION ''When I was young, oddly, the two people I most wanted to be were either Ingrid Bergman or Lucille Ball.''
DREAM COLLABORATORS Y Tu Mama Tambien director Alfonso Cuaron. ''And I'd kill to be in a Christopher Guest movie.''
FAVORITE AUTHOR ''I dearly love James Wilcox [Modern Baptists, Polite Sex],'' says the New Orleans native. ''He's a real Southern writer. Not that I don't love Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner. But he writes about the South I know, a very contemporary South.''
NEXT She plays Kurt Russell's wife in Miracle, based on the underdog win of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team.

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