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Teen Wunderkind TV Writer Unmasked

October 15, 1998 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A 32-year-old woman who passed herself off as a teen-age writer and gained a lucrative Disney television deal raised eyebrows Thursday in an industry used to people fudging about their age to get work.

Riley Weston, who was until this week a staff writer on the new WB drama ``Felicity,″ was thought to be a 19-year-old wunderkind. Then the TV show ``Entertainment Tonight″ learned of her background.

``In a business fraught with age bias, I did what I felt I had to do to succeed,″ Weston said in a statement Thursday. But she denied any ``purposeful deception.″


Weston acted under another name, not immediately known, in ``Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit.″

It’s an ``accepted practice for actresses to lie about their age,″ she said in her statement, adding:

The decision to say she was a teen-ager was based on a lack of quality roles for her age group, Weston said.

She said she did not anticipate becoming a writer.

``I could not be one age in the acting world and another in the writing world, so I chose to maintain the ruse,″ Weston said.

She was featured recently in Entertainment Weekly, which included Weston on its list of ``the 100 most creative people in entertainment.″

``In many ways, I am Felicity,″ Weston told the magazine. ``So I hope I portray this generation in a realistic light.″

The petite woman appeared to be a teen-ager and had a bubbly, youthful manner, according to one person who worked with her on ``Felicity.″

Two weeks ago, the trade paper Daily Variety reported that Walt Disney Co.’s Touchstone Television had signed a two-year, approximately $500,000 agreement with Weston to develop and produce TV programs.

Touchstone, which co-produces ``Felicity″ with Imagine Television, had no comment Thursday, spokeswoman Heidi Trotta said. The WB network also had no comment.

A statement from Imagine said Weston’s perceived youth was one factor in her employment on the show about an 18-year-old college coed.

United Talent Agency, which represents her, was unaware of her real age, UTA executive Chris Harbert told the Los Angeles Times.

She told her agent she changed her name legally several years ago.

Harbert said Hollywood’s obsession with youth makes such masquerades common.

``There are a million people who change their names and ages to get work in this town,″ he told the Times.