Dyan Cannon reports that her new NBC sitcom, Three Sisters (premiering tonight at 9:30 pm/ET), won't interfere with her recurring role as Judge Jennifer "Whipper" Cone on Fox's

Ally McBeal.

"I know I'll be back — but I don't know what to expect," Cannon tells TV Guide Online. "You never do with [creator] David [E. Kelley]. He's full of surprises. But they asked me to get five outs on Three Sisters, so I'll wait and see what he's going to surprise me with."

Cannon's Three Sisters alter ego, Honey Bernstein-Flynn — the sexy mother of three adult sisters played by Katherine LaNasa (French Stewart's wife), Vicki Lewis (NewsRadio), and A.J. Langer (My So-Called Life) — was inspired by her real-life persona. Still, the actress, who tried — unsuccessfully — to get producers to change her character's name ("With 'Honey,' I just think of sticky stuff"), admits that she was apprehensive about committing to a full-time TV gig.

"I've turned down being a regular on a television series for years," says the three-time Oscar nominee. "And to be honest, there were shows developed for me and there was a tremendous amount of money spent on... script[s], but it never came together. This show had all the right ingredients."

Specifically, Cannon was excited that Three Sisters featured a set of parents who maintain a healthy involvement in their adult-children's lives. "Much of what we see on television, there's so much angst between parents and kids," she explains. "Not a lot of exploration and 'How do you feel about this?' without preaching. I think a lot of people are going to see something very identifiable in this family, including myself.

"I was a very active parent," adds Cannon, whose actress-daughter, Jennifer Grant (Movie Stars), was the product of her six-year marriage to Cary Grant. "It was very tough for me when Jennifer went off to college because the house was always filled with kids. I was the kind of parent who didn't mind if they were on skates through the house. I loved that feeling."

Cannon even has good memories of her life with Grant, although their union has often been described as rocky. "I think the paparazzi were even more intense for us than they are now," she says. "Remember, you didn't have all of the TV coverage [back then]. So seeing a movie star of his status on the street was huge. I usually had to go in and canvas a place first before we could walk in. But what an amazing man he was. I learned so much from him about art and food and clothes and design and talent. It was a very interesting chapter in my life."