Newsmakers

For fans of "Trading Spaces," the home-decorating show that's become a runaway cable hit, it's the Great Debate: Alex or Paige? The show launched two years ago with Alex McLeod, a thirtyish Texan, as its host. But she mysteriously disappeared in season 2, replaced by Paige Davis. As with the public's reaction to New Coke, lots of fans prefer the original. Some even speculate McLeod was fired. But in her first interview since leaving the show, McLeod told NEWSWEEK she laid down her own paintbrush. "I don't want to sound like the poster girl for disgruntled cable divas, but the grueling travel schedule was driving me into the ground and the network wouldn't give me a proper vacation," she says, adding she spent three weeks a month in Holiday Inns during taping. "Things got out of control. Not only was I shooting footage, writing voice-overs and intros, but at one point they wanted to send me to sewing school so I could help sew on the show."

So what's she think of her replacement? "I think Paige is perfectly perky," says McLeod, who is now pitching her own reality shows. "She's lucky because she was plugged in after the show had become a huge success... But to have her performance measured against mine day after day must be taxing." Although the episodes McLeod hosted are still in heavy rotation--"Someone in TLC programming must have a crush on me"--she's losing patience with fans obsessing over whether the show was better with her. "I appreciate all the outpouring of support from my fans, but it's over," she says. "I'm not coming back."

-Daniel McGinn Q&A Samuel L. Jackson Samuel L. Jackson is one busy movie star. He's appeared in two films already this year ("Changing Lanes" and "Star Wars"), and this month he'll costar in "XXX." But his next gig will be on the small screen, where he'll host this week's ESPY Awards on ESPN, a job that requires the buttoned-down actor to perform in several silly skits. In fact, when he talked to NEWSWEEK's Allison Samuels, Jackson was still wearing a cheerleader skirt.

I noticed you didn't shave your legs.
Don't worry. I shaved other places.

Oh. You pull up your skirt and show your butt in the skit. Did you worry about showing so much?
Hey, it was my idea to do the skit in the first place because I loved "Bring It On." I was just supposed to show my belly, but I have a great butt so I showed that. Plus, I was born to cheer--hear me roar!

Are you an ESPN junkie?
I go to sleep watching it and wake up to it, just to make sure I didn't miss anything while I was knocked out. You never know who did what in the night at a game.

What's the biggest difference between athletes and actors? Are the egos the same?
Athletes take things more seriously. We have a lot of drama around here with the show because certain athletes won't come on because ESPN said something bad about them. As an actor, you get criticized and rejected all day. We don't take it personally. You'd go crazy.

Tiger Woods once asked you for acting tips. Did he ever give you golf tips?
Yeah, but you can't tell it by my game. Tiger and I talked about acting a little. He left a couple of messages on my machine about it, but I'm sure he can put my tips more to use than I can his. I love golf, but if I could be any kind of athlete, it would be a basketball player. That's more befitting my skills.

I heard your refrigerator is filled with berry Popsicles and you refuse to share. What's with that?
I like Popsicles, and I think people should buy their own. I count them when I come home to be sure they're all there. It's not a very good night when the Popsicles are gone. Good Sports: Attention, all you golf widows. Catherine Zeta-Jones learned to play just to please her husband, and at last week's Michael Douglas & Friends Celebrity Golf Tournament, she appeared to be a quick study. They say the celebrities who play together stay together.