Brooke Burns, <EM>Pepper Dennis</EM> Brooke Burns, Pepper Dennis

If Murphy Brown and Ally McBeal had a baby, she'd probably resemble the title character of WB's new Pepper Dennis (premiering tonight at 9 pm/ET). But as pretty as series star Rebecca Romijn may be, the top story here, in this intrepid reporter's opinion at least, may be Brooke Burns, cast against type as the sexy newscaster's wholesome sister, Kathy.

TVGuide.com: I have to say  and I hope this doesn't forfeit me any dinner invites from Rebecca Romijn  you are the most fun thing about this show.
Brooke Burns:
Oh, stop! You say that to all the nurses! [Laughs]

TVGuide.com: No, really! What a fun role for you.
Burns:
It's such a great role, isn't it?

TVGuide.com: The prim blouses, the Stepford-wife hair...
Burns:
[Laughs] Thanks for noticing the details....

TVGuide.com: Was getting this role by design? Your bid to play against the slow-motion Baywatch-lifeguard type?
Burns:
Exactly. You know, they sent me... [Distracted as she drives] oh, I'm looking at a bus ad of Rebecca right now. "Hey, Rebecca!"... they sent me the script in case Rebecca didn't want to do the role of Pepper. I read it and I called my manager. I was almost in tears, like, "Why do I never get the fun and crazy role? Kathy is the best character ever! I want to be the crazy sister!" [Two of the Pepper Dennis writers] who were on North Shore, which was very dramatic and serious, were like, "Nobody knows this, but when the camera cuts, you are actually crazy. You can totally come in and read for the role of the sister." It was perfect.

TVGuide.com: In the premiere episode, you have this great line about wanting to "let off some steam" at your bridge club....
Burns:
Exactly. I created Kathy Dinkle as a combination of my mother and my 5-year-old little girl. My mother, "the saint," and the emotional "my world revolves around me" little girl.

TVGuide.com: On the flip side, you have to be looking forward to the inevitable episode in which Kathy gets drunk and "lets loose."
Burns:
Oh, yeah. Well, we're doing karaoke in one episode. Kathy gets drunk at one of these parties she plans and jumps in with her own rendition of "Love Shack" with the big boss [played by Brett Cullen], so it should be entertaining to say the least. I don't think Kathy has rhythm, per se....

TVGuide.com: I had to wonder, is Kathy's so-carefully coiffed hair covering a lingering neck brace from your swimming-pool injury? There's that line of dialogue in the pilot about her having "a stiff neck."
Burns:
No, that line was already in the script. That's why I've asked the writers to write in my dream man, move me to Europe, give me lots of children and have me live happily ever after, because everything they've written so far has come true in real life. [Laughs] Including the wearing of a neck brace in a future episode, which is very funny. I'm like, "OK, can you guys think happy thoughts for Kathy Dinkle, please?"

TVGuide.com: Just as it would in any TV-movie, did your harrowing accident change your perspective on life?
Burns:
You know, in a very clichéd way, yes, it did. It's hard for it not to. The only thing I can sort of compare it to in my life would be having my baby girl. When you become a mother you re-evaluate what you're doing and the people in your life. Sort of having a near-death experience does the same thing, without question. It brings a new level of humility and the realization that life is not forever.

TVGuide.com: Plus, you probably came out of it with better posture.
Burns:
[Laughs] I had really good posture before, from being a dancer, but yes, my posture is even better now.

TVGuide.com: I realize you've probably related this story ad nauseam, but what is this about the person who found you responding in such a way that perhaps saved your life?
Burns:
It was one of those really bizarre things  my friend who happened to be at my house had been a fireman, so he knew that with any chance of neck or spinal injury, [I shouldn't be moved]. Instead, he immobilized me and left me on the top step of my pool until the paramedics came. Any other person would have been like, "OK, let's get you out of the pool and get you dry." But when I quickly started going into shock, he recognized those signs and really did a beautiful thing for me. I'm very grateful.

TVGuide.com: Back to Pepper Dennis, have you and Rebecca come to realize that you're kindred spirits in any way?
Burns:
You know what's so funny is we were both really excited about playing a sister relationship on screen, something I don't think either one of us has done before, and we have discovered so much of the love/hate thing you always have with your family, where you know way too much about one another, and we've both had a good time with it. She's really gregarious and fun and down-to-earth....

TVGuide.com: Has she tried to recruit you to secretly take over her X-Men gig underneath all that blue paint?
Burns:
[Laughs] I don't know about that. But if I were to do it, I'd prefer purple.

TVGuide.com: You know, the first time I watched Shallow Hal, I didn't realize that that was you playing the, um, "less attractive" version of yourself.
Burns:
I know! That was the great thing about that, my first film ever people seeing it and saying to me, "I felt bad for the person who had to play the ugly version of you." I'm like, hello!

TVGuide.com: Did you ever wear the makeup home and say to your husband or boyfriend at the time, "So, do you love me now?"
Burns:
I know, right? I wore it to the mall to see if people would treat me differently and they did, very differently. People can be very mean!