Maura Tierney

When Maura Tierney makes her return to TV, it will be in a role tailor-made for her.

The 45-year-old actress, who last season dropped out of NBC's Parenthood to undergo breast cancer treatment, recently replaced Joely Richardson on ABC's upcoming legal drama The Whole Truth. But even though she's the second actress to get the part, she was the first person creator and executive producer Tom Donaghy wanted for the role.

Maura Tierney finds The Whole Truth at ABC

"I'd been seeing a lot of female characters on television that weren't strong in the way that ... women can be strong and also feminine," Donaghy said at the Television Critics Association's fall TV previews. "I knew Maura had the elegance and ... wit. So, I wrote it with her talents in mind, never thinking she would be available."

Although Tierney joked that her ego led her to take on the role, she was somewhat reserved in discussing her health. "I'm healthy, so that was that," Tierney said when asked how she decided to go back to work on this project.  "And then I read the script and I liked it, and that was that. That's how I decided.

"I wasn't really thinking about anything, and I wasn't thinking about doing another show," she said. "I thought it was a really appealing character because she is so curious and she's dear. And it's funny. I thought it was interesting to find a character that had such a great sense of humor and yet was so driven."

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So will Tierney's cancer battle have any impact on how she approaches her work? "I kind of have a new perspective on everything in general," she said. "My perspective has [changed] and probably should change more that it has, quite honestly. ... It's a priority for me now to work with people who I really like and trust. It's too much time involved of your life to not enjoy it."

Because of the show's format — each episode presents a legal case from the perspectives of both the defense and the prosecution — the episodes are quickly paced, often blending lots of dialogue with action. "There's something about the game of law that these two lawyers enjoy playing that is fast-paced and compulsive, and that attracted me to this particular form," Donaghy said.

But Tierney says her time on ER adequately prepared for her those types of more physically demanding shoots. "It's like a reflex for me at this point. I'm like, 'Why don't we just take the Steadicam everywhere,'" Tierney said. "It's very helpful that I had to do so much of that in the other show because it's just part of my muscle memory now."

The Whole Truth, which also stars Numb3rs vet Rob Morrow, premieres, Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 10/9c.