When Ally McBeal kicks off its fifth season on Monday (9 pm/ET on Fox), Regina Hall's legal eagle Corretta Lipp will be sans her trusted associate, Robert Downey Jr.'s Larry Paul. "It's a whole new ballpark for ol' Corretta," admits the actress, now a series regular. "She's got a new [job at Cage and Fish] and a new attitude."
Hall says that she hasn't spoken to Downey since he abruptly exited the Emmy-winning dramedy last spring following his drug-related arrest. "It was basically a professional relationship," she concedes. "He's in my prayers for a continued recovery... [He'll] definitely be missed."
Downey isn't the only Ally castmember MIA this season: Taye Diggs, James LeGros and Lisa Nicole Carson all have left, and Lucy Liu will exit after a handful of episodes. Still, Hall remains optimistic that the injection of some new blood James Marsden, Julianne Nicholson and Josh Hopkins will be joining Hall at the firm will keep the momentum going.
"There are a lot of changes, and in some ways it's a little bit intimidating," she confesses. "Obviously, the show has a following, so you hope that that following will be receptive to the new characters and the changes that are subsequently gonna have to happen. But I think we're gonna handle it."
Incidentally, Hall best known for her film work (Love & Basketball, The Best Man and both Scary Movies) was reluctant to commit herself to a full-time TV gig. "I'd be lying if I said I [wasn't], but I balance that with what the show had to offer," explains the rising star, whose Ally contract is for two years. "So much of it is about the writing, and I felt like I wouldn't get bored and that's one of the things I always hate to do: get bored. Also, at this point, there still is a lot for me to learn."On the top of her list? Finding out who Corretta is going to be paired with romantically. One thing Hall's certain of: With Diggs gone, she winks, "there's gonna have to be some interracial love."