Crystal Bernard Gets Her Big Break on 'Wings' of Fate

Crystal Bernard photo

From: Los Angeles Times 2/21/1993
By: N. F. Mendoza

Actors may claim to be dying for parts, but "Wings" co-star Crystal Bernard came closer than most. Her brush with the Grim Reaper didn't keep her from a crucial audition that landed her the role of Helen on the popular NBC series, though.

While working on a television movie, Bernard fell asleep in her trailer and woke up in a hospital emergency room, suffering from carbon-monoxide poisoning.

"They found me on the bathroom floor," she recalls. "They said that if it had been another 45 minutes, I would've been dead. I was in a hyperbolic chamber with a bodysuit on, the works. When I went home the next day there was a script on my door. My brain was barely working, but I read it. The audition was for later that day and even though I was in no condition to go anywhere, I went. It was for Helen in 'Wings.' "

Bernard got the part that December day. Not too shabby, since the show's producers had been searching for most of the year for a co-star to play opposite Tim Daly and Steven Weber. (NBC recently picked up the show for another two years.) A veteran of two other series--she was a regular on both "Happy Days" and "It's a Living"--Bernard says that cello-playing Helen has been her favorite role. "Helen is the first role I've played who has any real strength, intelligence and integrity--and her own opinion," she says. Bernard admits to being "a lot like Helen," except "she's so honest and says whatever is on her mind. It's great to just spout off and say what you want. I also like all the physical comedy they give her."

Originally from Garland, Tex., Bernard is the daughter of a Southern Baptist minister who was a traveling preacher. He took his wife and four daughters on the road with him in a motor home. "We did solos, rallies and skits, which is where I really got my training," she says. "My dad is also very, very funny, not the kind of minister you see on TV at all."

During a stop in Santa Ana, Bernard told her father she wanted to stay in Southern California and become an entertainer. "I was really lucky," she says. Almost immediately, she landed a part in Garry Marshall's film "Young Doctors in Love" and then in his "Happy Days," working on both sets simultaneously.

The self-proclaimed workaholic is also a songwriter; she's currently working with Mariah Carey's producer, Rhett Lawrence, with whom she wrote "If I Were Your Girl." Bernard says the song will be the first single on Paula Abdul's new album. And Bernard says she has a starring role in the upcoming NBC movie "Miracle at Clement's Pond."

Her eclectic interests extend to antiques as well; she and her mother own a shop in the Quartz Hill area of Palmdale, where they sell nostalgia items and painted Victorian-style furniture.

Bernard's still amazed when people recognize her ("You just think you're you"), and even more surprised that she recently made the supermarket tabloids. "Donny Osmond is a friend of mine who's very happily married, and there I was on the cover with him about us having an affair," she says with a laugh. "It was so funny, I pulled out my old scrapbooks and there he was, from the old Tiger Beat days and I was linked with him. It was a hoot!"