"Alias" Family Tree Grows

Tue Dec 9, 7:45 PM ET
By Joal Ryan

Alias' motherless Sydney is about to get the next best thing: An aunt.

Film star Isabella Rossellini will play the sister of Jennifer Garner's MIA TV mom in a multiple-episode arc of the ABC spy series, E! Online TV columnist Kristin Veitch reported Tuesday.

The Rossellini casting comes in the wake of the Lena Olin departure.

Olin costarred on the series last season as Irina Derevko, Sydney Bristow's mysterious, KGB-affiliated maternal unit. To date, the actress has resisted producers' best efforts--financial and otherwise--to get her to reup for more casework. Her character was last seen bungee-cord jumping off a building.

No word on what acrobatic feats will be required of Rossellini. But Veitch's on-set source said the aunt character may enjoy a romantic entanglement with Sydney's father, Jack, played by Victor Garber.

Like Olin, Rossellini is a middle-aged European star, better known for screen time than prime time. The Swedish-born Olin, 47, came to Alias with a rsum highlighted by the likes of The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Enemies: A Love Story.

The Italian-born Rossellini, the 51-year-old daughter of Casablanca legend Ingrid Bergman and director Roberto Rossellini, is best known for 1986's Blue Velvet. She also served as the longtime face of Lancome cosmetics.

Alias could use a touch-up itself. A critical favorite that has generated bigger buzz than ratings since its 2001 premiere, the series finished a lackluster 62nd place, with 8.6 million viewers, for the TV week ended Sunday, according to Nielsen Media Research. For the season to date, the show is averaging 9.1 million viewers.