A Nice Surprise For `Exposure' Actor





Entertainment & the Arts: Wednesday, July 31, 1991
Nancy Costello

Shannon Ross loved the farmer in the Birdseye broccoli commercial long before she found out he was her father.

As for actor Barry Corbin, he couldn't have been happier when he learned he had a cowgirl for a daughter in his home state of Texas.

Reality can be quirkier than a script of "Northern Exposure," the TV hit that features the 50-year-old Corbin as Maurice, a wealthy landowner in rural Alaska.

"Our case is kind of a rare one," said Corbin, a resident of Redmond. "When we talk, it's like talking to a mirror image. We are constantly reaching out and touching each other's faces. We hold hands. It's kind of disconcerting to her husband and my wife."

The actor discovered in late June he had a 26-year-old daughter when Ross, who was adopted as an infant, tracked down her biological parents. Ross' mother gave her baby up for adoption at San Antonio's Methodist Mission Home in February 1965 without telling Corbin she was pregnant with his child.

Ross, a resident of Arlington, Texas, contacted her natural parents to check on possible genetic problems affecting her 18-month-old son. Ross' mother, who asked that her name not be used, initially wouldn't tell Ross who her real father was for fear of disrupting his life. Then she softened.

"She told me he was an actor, then she told me his name and it didn't ring a bell," Ross said from Arlington. "She said, `He's on a TV show called `Northwest Territory' - or something.' I said, `Could it be `Northern Exposure'?" The CBS sitcom is one of Ross' favorite programs. It is filmed in Roslyn, in Kittitas County, and Bellevue.

"I went through everybody on the show. I thought the doctor is too young, I thought of Holling (the bartender-mayor), but then thought, `No, he's got blond hair,' " Ross said. "When I thought of Maurice, I felt something really strange in my stomach."

Ross had been admiring Corbin long before she realized there was any connection.

"He's on a broccoli commercial and everybody knew I loved that broccoli commercial," Ross confided. "It's about Birdseye broccoli with the dog next to him. I loved the way he talked and he seemed like a real nice guy."

Originally from Lubbock, Texas, Corbin said he dated Ross' mother in the spring of 1964. She phoned him in June of that year when he was playing summer stock theater in Colorado to announce she was pregnant. But a few weeks later she called back to say it was a false alarm.

Ross said her mother did not tell Corbin about the baby because he would have felt compelled to get married and possibly cut short his acting career. Ross, a graduate student who plans to get a Ph.D. in psychology, was adopted by a doctor and his wife from Arlington shortly after birth. She grew up riding and showing horses, a passion no one else in her adoptive family shared.

But Corbin, who dresses in a cowboy hat, boots, Wrangler jeans and a big, silver rodeo belt buckle, understands just how she feels. Strangers for 26 years, the father and daughter share the same favorites in country music and cowboy Western movies. Corbin borrowed Ross' spurs on a recent visit to Texas and won first place for cutting cattle at a Fort Worth rodeo.

Relatives say the two look, walk and talk alike. When Ross learned about Corbin, she rented home videos of his movies - "Urban Cowboy," "War Games," "Who's Harry Crumb?" and "Critters 2; The Main Course." Her husband, Jim, stopped the videotape and had Ross pose nearby to observe facial similarities.

"Shannon looks so much like me, it's spooky," Corbin said. "It's a very strong genetic tie."

The discovery gives Corbin, married for 15 years, a third child along with two sons, ages 12 and 8. And it gives him fodder for his acting career. "Northern Exposure" has just begun to tape programs for its fall season.

"The script we're doing now is a love story," Corbin said. "When I played it, I got giddy - I wouldn't have done that a month ago. "Shannon changes my outlook - how I act and how I write. When you find a daughter, you fall in love."

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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