New sitcom Accidentally on Purpose premieres tonight on CBS, with Jenna Elfman in the lead role as a San Francisco movie critic who becomes pregnant after a one-night stand (Elfman went totally Method: she just announced her real-life pregnancy). Playing her best friend? British actress Ashley Jensen. Jensen has struck comedy gold on both sides of the Atlantic, earning an Emmy nomination for her work alongside Ricky Gervais in Extras and making a splash as Betty's best friend (and Wilhelmina's surrogate) in Ugly Betty. Jensen and I chatted at the CBS/CW party at the TCA press tour about how she landed the role (after getting horribly lost on the way to her audition) and how she'll play a party girl despite being pregnant in real life. Here are highlights:
- On her character, Olivia: "She's a party animal girl, sort of the cheeky, sassy, witty one who kind of is independent and doesn't need to be tied down. She seems to have a boyfriend in every place that she works . . . which is good fun to play!"
- On playing pregnant on Ugly Betty and now being pregnant: "I've been pregnant for over two years! This [belly]'s a little bit more difficult because I can't remove it at lunchtime. I said to someone earlier, 'If I'd realized what it was like to be pregnant and wearing four-inch heels, I may have walked a little bit different in the last season of Ugly Betty.' I was just strutting about!"
To hear her Ugly Betty highlights, how she stumbled into meeting Ted Danson and how she feels about using her own accent on TV, just
- On the highlights of her time on Ugly Betty: "Going to the Golden Globes at the beginning was quite exciting. We'd done maybe 10 episodes. . . . To find myself suddenly on a red carpet wearing dresses and diamonds and having people doing my hair, I'd never had all that before. So that was all incredibly new, and that was amazing, and for the show to have such an impact so immediately was very exiting. And going back to New York [last season] was exciting — I think that gave it an extra wee bit of like, 'Ooh!' Because I never went to New York [full-time] — I commuted. I found that quite exotic. I was like, 'Oh yes, I have to fly to New York for five and a half hours for my work.'"
- On her best New York to LA flight experience: "I got to fly with Ted Danson one day, which was quite exciting. It was the day after the Emmys, actually, after I'd been nominated for Extras. And the [flight attendant] was like, 'Oh, you looked lovely last night!' And I was like, 'Oh, thanks,' and she was like, 'It's such a shame you never won,' and I could see Ted Danson going, 'Who's this?' And then I sat down beside him, and he was like, 'Were you there last night?' and I said 'Yes I was,' and he went, 'Sorry for being really ignorant — what were you in?' and I said it was Extras and he was like, 'Oh my God!' So Ted and I sat down, shared a bit of breakfast, watched a little movie, had a little sleep, exchanged restaurants in New York, and it was fleeting but beautiful. That was a highlight, going to sleep with Ted Danson."
- On being one of the few UK actors to use her natural accent here: "The two jobs that I've done, I've gone in and used an American accent, and they go, 'Do it in your own.' And then they go, 'It's funnier. It's funnier in that strange little accent that you have.' I think it adds color to shows, doesn't it, when there's another accent in there. . . . I think comedy is easier in your own accent, as well — I've lived with this accent all my life, and I know the rhythms and the pauses that make it funny, so I think that absolutely helps."