Here’s one of my syndicated feature stories this week — watch this space for some fun with NBC’s “Community,” launching Wednesday — focusing on ABC Family’s “Lincoln Heights,” which stars two of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet.

But don’t take my word for it, read on …

Lincoln_Heights_Nicki_Micheaux_Russell_Hornsby.jpgO

n June 21,
Nicki Micheaux of ABC Family’s family drama “
Lincoln Heights” had a little family drama of her
own, as she and her husband welcomed a son named Aiden. He joins a 4
1/2-year-old sister, Symone.

But back on
a Saturday in May, as Micheaux (left) and “
Lincoln” co-star Russell Hornsby (right) sit down
for an interview, Micheaux is still very pregnant. She stands and leans over to
stretch her back, causing concerned looks from those nearby.

“Just calm
down,” Micheaux says. “Everybody freaks out. Your muscles cramp up.”

Micheaux’s
pregnancy is not part of the hourlong show’s fourth season, which launches on
Monday, Sept. 14, at 8 p.m. ET/PT

“No, there
is no new addition,” Micheaux says. “We’re hiding the new addition. Thank God
large handbags are in.”

Micheaux
plays nurse practitioner Jenn Sutton, who had to leave her privileged
upbringing behind to move with her husband, police officer Eddie Sutton
(Hornsby), back to the troubled
Southern California neighborhood where he grew up, in
hopes of making a difference.

The Suttons
have two teenage daughters, Cassie and Lizzie (Erica Hubbard, Rhyon Nicole
Brown), and a son,
Tay
(Mishon Ratliff). In the extended family are Eddie’s alcoholic father, Spencer
(Michael Warren), and Nate Ray Woods (Chadwick Boseman), Eddie’s older son by
an old flame.

This
season, the family and the neighborhood look to rebuild after a devastating
earthquake, and the Suttons cope with another kind of disruption when a large
amount of money comes their way.

One thing’s
for sure: Eddie and Jenn will shepherd their family and their community through
these difficulties together. A solid, functional marriage is a rare thing on
television, and that comes home to Micheaux when she runs into fans on the
street.

“They say,
‘I wish I could grow up and be a wife like you,’ ” she says, “which is really
amazing, and a little daunting, because young people are watching the show, and
people who are going through their own marital problems. Marriage is really
tough. This couple’s been together for 19 years; I’ve been married for 10
years.

“I love
portraying a married couple that communicates about the things that are bugging
them and are allowing each other to grow and be different. This man is not
afraid to be vulnerable in front of his wife. That’s really difficult for men –
it was difficult for my husband, at least.

“It’s great
to see it. Those are the things that help make a couple strong. It’s daunting
when someone comes up to you and says that you’re the role model for them, or
that the show is, but it’s great.”

Hornsby
relates a similar experience, when a group of about 10 girls came up to him at
a Hofstra women’s basketball game and asked for autographs and pictures.

“There’s a
joy that these young kids are getting from, I believe, seeing this father on
television,” Hornsby says, “a solid citizen, a quote, unquote, man of the
people, if you will, his
commitment to his community.

“That warms
my heart, to be honest with you.”

Not only do
Jenn and Eddie love each other, they also like to get a little physical. But
Jenn’s
Lincoln_Heights_cast.jpgnot eight months pregnant.

“Russell
and I are big flirts, and that’s fine,” Micheaux says. “But now I’m pregnant.
It’s a little different, flirting with a pregnant girl. There are some physical
barriers.

“So we had
this intimate scene – I’m totally outing you right now, Russell – where we had
to be romantic. Russell actually calls the writers in, ‘We’re not going to do
it this way. It doesn’t really need to be this sexy.’

“I was in
total agreement, because I, too, feel really strange.”

Hornsby
recalls, “I said to the writers, ‘Look, I think you’re going to have to rewrite
this scene.’ Writers get temperamental. (The writer) said, ‘Uh, why?’ I said,
‘I don’t think either one of us are feeling very sexual right now.’ “

“I have
been telling them,” Micheaux says, “I want Eddie and Jen to be more sexual,
every year. But I’m eight months pregnant, and they’re like, ‘Here’s your hot
and heavy scene.’ I’m like, ‘Gee, thanks.’ “

While the
scene may have been toned down, Hornsby insists the relationship is not.

“Jenn is
very much a woman,” he says, “very much a mother and very much a contributor to
society and to the community, but at the same time, she doesn’t try to encroach
or usurp her husband’s duties. That’s very important.”

“It’s great
to see it on TV,” Micheaux says. “It’s hard to do it in real life. The
characters are people we aspire to be. I don’t know if it’s even possible,
because Jenn’s an extraordinary woman. I think, in my life, how much would I
sacrifice to make my neighborhood better?

“Those are
real questions, and so they’re inspiring people.”

(

Caption for
the group shot:

Mishon Ratliff as “Taylor ‘Tay’
Sutton,” Nicki Micheaux as “Jen Sutton,” Russell Hornsby as
“Eddie Sutton,” Rhyon Nicole Brown as “Lizzie Sutton,”
Erica Hubbard as “Cassie Sutton” and Robert Adamson as
“Charles” star in “Lincoln Heights” airing on ABC Family
).