"They made a real effort on the set to recycle. In general, people in the arts tend to be relatively ecologically conscious, more so than the average," opines Daniel Sunjata, and he and his co-stars in "One for the Money" bear that out. "I recycle, I turn off the lights when I leave the room and not leave water running. If I can buy stuff that's recyclable I'll do so," says Sunjata, who moved from New York to L.A. a year ago and walks "more than people tend to walk here."

 

Katherine Heigl, who stars as bounty hunter Stephanie Plum in the movie, based on the first in a series of 18 books by Janet Evanovich, has a solar-powered second home in Utah with radiant heating in the floors and plenty of reclaimed wood. She's also a big advocate for neutering and spaying pets and made the attention-getting "I Hate Balls" PSAs. "Next we're going for ovaries — it's only fair!" laughs the actress, adding that she "didn't realize how many men would be offended. I thought they would know I was joking. I hope we get more of my celebrity friends to do these PSAs for me."

 

Sherri Shepherd, an Evanovich fan who lobbied hard for her role of heart-of-gold-hooker Lula, showing up to the audition in a tube top and skin-tight miniskirt, uses only natural products at home because her son Jeffrey has sensitivities. "I buy detergents with no perfumes. One of the cleaners smells like parsley," she says. The latest side gig for "The View" co-host, who's also appeared on "Hot and Cleveland' and "30 Rock" recently, was a dream come true, as she's wanted to play Lula since she first read "One for the Money" seven years ago.

 

Her co-stars weren't as familiar with Evanovich's novels. Approached about starring in and producing the movie, Heigl "started reading them and became obsessed with them," gravitating toward the mystery, romance, and comedy aspects." Aware that a transformation would be required, she donned a curly brunette wig, wore minimal makeup, and studied with a dialect coach to affect a proper New Jersey accent. "There's something about her that's really endearing," she says of Plum. "She is a decent person with a big heart and she is sort of fearless and courageous but perpetually puts herself in situations where she is in over her head but doesn't take herself very seriously and doesn't take other people too seriously. She has this great perspective on life that happens to be very funny and witty and charming as well. She is sort of that hapless heroine, an everyday girl."

 

 

Sunjata ("Rescue Me") read the first two Plum books once he got the role of Ranger, the veteran bounty hunter who shows the rookie the ropes. "I'm not the kind of guy who gets in fights or shoots guns so it was fun to have that vicarious experience, and he's mysterious, which is always fun to play." Jason O'Mara ("Terra Nova") also became a fan once he was cast as Joe Morelli, but didn't read past the third novel to avoid getting ahead of the stage his and Plum's relationship is at in the movie. "When we meet him, his world has been already flipped upside down. He's a cop who is on the run, a fugitive. That's a pretty cool character to play," reflects the actor, who, like Heigl and Sunjata, is a "Grey's Anatomy" alumnus although they never worked together (director Julie Anne Robinson did work with Heigl, however, and that led to her directing the film).

 

Like Sujnata, Heigl enjoyed the gun range scene that required practice, fake weapons notwithstanding. Once she got over her nerves and the hang of not blinking, she found it "satisfying and cathartic on some level.  I had a good time," she says, reporting that she and her husband, Josh Kelley, now go clay pigeon shooting. O'Mara particularly favored the scene where he surprises Heigl in the shower. "There's something diabolical about watching her struggle, just spend all day suffering in a tub. But I have to say I really admire Katie for going through that because it looks like we shot it in five minutes but we spent pretty much all day there and it was not a bathroom in a house. It was a film set and it was kind of grubby and cold and miserable. But [she] never complained, not even once."

 

Heigl admits to grousing out of earshot, but the horror stories she heard about the grueling conditions that Debbie Reynolds, who plays her feisty grandma, endured on the set of "Singing in the Rain" put things in perspective. "I stopped complaining about my hours," she says. She hopes "Money" spawns a sequel, as do her co-stars. "Lula becomes a bounty hunter with Stephanie, gets a boyfriend, carries a gun," says Shepherd with anticipation. "As the books progress, the character of Ranger is fleshed out a little more," notes Sunjata.

 

While his romance with Bailey (Chandra Wilson) ended on "Grey's, "if they wanted to bring me back I would come back," he says, and Heigl expressed a similar sentiment when she appeared recently on "The View." Meanwhile, she wrapped work on the rom-com "The Wedding," due out next fall. Sunjata has two films coming up: the psychological thriller "Gone," in which he plays a cop opposite Amanda Seyfried, will be released Feb. 24, and he'll play a Special Forces operative in "The Dark Knight Rises" this July. O'Mara, now waiting to find out the fate of "Terra Nova," will appear in the Civil War miniseries "To Appomattox" in 2013.

 

Photos: Ron Batzdorff

 

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