Arguably Oak Park’s most famous native daughter, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, is taking her turn on the tube. Known mostly for her feature film work (The Color of Money, The Abyss, Limbo, The Perfect Storm), Mastrantonio, 47, recently joined the cast of Without A Trace, a highly rated CBS drama about an FBI missing persons unit. She will play a new love interest for star Anthony LaPaglia.

You can read about her in the latest issue of TV Guide, where Mastrantonio shares the cover with LaPaglia, but we went to a more immediate source, Mary Elizabeth’s father Frank, who still lives on the south side of Oak Park.

“It was a matter of getting work,” said dad, explaining her move to the small screen. “She’s no little girl anymore.”

The writer’s apparently wanted to spice up the main character’s life a bit, “so they put a good-looking woman in there,” Frank said. LaPaglia asked for Mary Elizabeth, who plays the widow of the main character’s longtime friend.

Originally, Frank said, she signed on for three episodes, but apparently the chemistry is promising enough to extend her stay. The TV Guide story confirms that. According to LaPaglia, “She is definitely going to be in more than three. It’s not official yet. It is about her schedule. I have asked if she would like to do more. I would like to string it out through the season.”

But, of course, nothing is ever easy, or fair, in TV love and war. Mary Elizabeth’s character is also a lawyer who will end up battling LaPaglia in court, a premise Mastrantonio should be familiar with. In Class Action she played a lawyer pitted against her father, played by Gene Hackman.

Meanwhile, her real father still gets a kick out of his daughter’s career. “In the TV Guide cover picture, you can see every one of her pearly teeth,” he said. But he insists, “She’s not a Hollywood type. She’s down to earth. When she comes home, she goes shopping for me, does the dishes, cleans up. She’s still full of energy.”

As it happens, Mary Elizabeth was back in Oak Park during the holidays, so locals may have walked right past her in the grocery store. She also accompanied him to Hines V.A. Hospital for medical checkups. She had just finished filming the three episodes in Los Angeles and stopped in to visit with her two boys, age 11 and 8. Mastrantonio is married to Irish film director Patrick O’Connor (best known for the film Circle of Friends). They live in London.

Which means she’s got a bit of traveling ahead if her character continues in the show. “My sister says it’s a heck of a part-time job for a working mother, commuting from London to Los Angeles,” Mastrantonio said in the TV Guide story.

Frank wouldn’t complain about that if it means more stopovers in Oak Park. He has six daughters, one of whom still lives in Oak Park (Gussie), and he loves seeing them.

“Every one’s a gem,” he said. “I’ve got 16 grandkids, six greats, and six great sons-in-law. My mom and dad were the only ones from their families who came from Italy. Growing up, I didn’t have a single relative.”

Without A Trace airs this Thursday, 9 p.m., on Channel 2.

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