Kate Walsh, Private Practice
"If this all had happened to me when I was 25, I would have been shaving my head and driving over people's feet!" jokes Kate Walsh, digging into a plate of bacon and eggs at the Alcove Café in L.A. while referencing the train wreck that can occur when becomes too successful too young. "But I know myself now," she adds, those famously red lips of hers curled in a wise smile, "and I can appreciate it all."

And what a treasure trove there is for her to appreciate. For starters, she's just driven here from the $4.75-million Spanish-style home she purchased last summer with Alex Young, the hotshot copresident of production at Fox, with whom she tied the knot at a three-day shindig in September. And after breakfast, she's off to transform herself into sassy, sexy Dr. Addison Montgomery, who left gloomy Seattle and the megahit Grey's Anatomy for sunny L.A. and her very own show. Private Practice (Wednesdays, 9 pm/ET, ABC), of course, has become one of the precious few hits of this season, with Walsh easing into the leading-lady role with gusto.

Grinning and glowing, Walsh, who just turned 40, is definitely enjoying the bounty the past year has brought her.

TV Guide: Kate, what a year you've had! What's it been like?
Kate Walsh:
Like a growing tornado that kept picking up things along the way. I kept thinking, "Oh, it'll slow down," but really, it's been like a wave and I've just been riding it.

TV Guide: Let's start at the beginning: Private Practice was officially announced last February, but when did you really find out?
Walsh:
A couple of weeks earlier — and it was strange to not be able to talk about it. But we were so used to being sworn to secrecy about the plotlines on Grey's that it was also, like, "I already feel like I work for the CIA, so it's not that big a deal to keep quiet." [Laughs]

TV Guide: You also met the man you'd marry in February. As the legend now goes, you moved in together the following month, he proposed in May and you married in September. Are you nuts?
Walsh:
[Laughs] Listen, you just know. I met him at this work meeting where we ended up talking for two hours and it was just like boom! — love at first sight. I know that sounds nauseating and you want to hit me, but it's true. Afterward, I was like a cat without a whisker, and I went to a dinner party and a friend went, "What's wrong with you?" I said, "I met somebody — a person I would make sacrifices for!"

TV Guide: What a funny thing to say!
Walsh:
Yes! And Alex used to take issue with it. "Sacrifices? Sounds bad." And I'm like, "No, that's really good!" Anyway, a few days later, he came over and my dog and cats all crawled on him like he was Dr. Dolittle — a very important sign! — and then we went out to dinner and I was like, "That's it!"

TV Guide: And "it," you clever girl, turned out to be a younger man.
Walsh: For sure — I'm four years older than Alex, so I'm a cougar, baby! One of our show's producers said he went on some website where I was even Cougar of the Week! [Laughs and snarls like a cat]

TV Guide: So I heard that butterflies played a role in Alex's proposal?
Walsh:
Oh, our whole theme is butterflies. I see a butterfly every day — like, literally, ever since I was a baby. So we were up in San Francisco at Gary Danko's restaurant and there was this amazing butterfly painting on the wall, and then I looked down at my appetizer and it was tuna tartare — shaped like a butterfly with these crazy wasabi antennae. And then he asked me. It was like a great dream that I've never experienced.

TV Guide: It's even more interesting considering that not long before this happened, didn't you say you'd given up on the idea of marriage?
Walsh:
Absolutely. I think that was because everybody in this culture gets a little obsessed with age and, for women, the two big things related to that are marriage and children. We live in a baby-obsessed culture and everyone assumes that we're born to breed. I said, "Well, maybe not. Do I want that badly enough to go and have one on my own? No, I don't. I'd rather have my life and find a partner and, hopefully, love — that's the most important thing." And, also, in this business we get to dress up in pretty dresses and pretend all the time, so it wasn't like, "Oh, I need my one big day!"

TV Guide: Which, nonetheless, you got — along with a little heat sickness — when you got married in Ojai, California, on Sept. 1. What happened?
Walsh:
First, there was a blackout, then I was dehydrated.… It was 105 degrees, I'm in a long-sleeved lace gown, and, all of a sudden, I go [whispers], "Alex, I can't feel my hands!" He's like, "It's OK, baby, just breathe." Then I look down and my hands are, literally, clawed around my bouquet. I thought I was having a stroke. So the minister goes, "Can you just make it to the kneeling part?" and I go, "I don't think so." [Laughs] So we had to take five. The best part was someone went to get my makeup artist and was like, "Sir, could you please come with us right away?!" Someone else asked, "Is that a doctor?" and my assistant goes, "No, it's the makeup artist!"

TV Guide: Hooray for Hollywood! You had another milestone right after that when you turned 40. Did you have any freak-outs?
Walsh:
So much was happening at once, I didn't have time to freak: Private Practice started, I got married, then, a month later, I turned 40. My only guilty lament was… well, I'd just had all my friends and family up for the wedding, but I was like, "In case you didn't get enough of me, everybody, time to celebrate me!" [Laughs] But Alex planned the most amazing birthday party — the guy has a second career as a party planner if things don't work out being copresident of production at Fox. The greatest Alex idea was a photo booth, which became the life of the party. What happens in the photo booth stays in the photo booth, that's all I'm sayin'!

TV Guide: What's the best thing about marriage so far?
Walsh:
The more everything was happening professionally, the more imperative it became to have someone to share it with. 'Cause [this kind of success] is so rewarding, but it is extreme and exhausting. And you feel like, "If I don't have anybody to share it with.…" I can only call my mom and brother so many times. You need support and love and balance — and, also, someone who cares and can call you on your s--t, too!

TV Guide: How does Alex feel about all the face-sucking you do with Tim Daly for the sake of Private Practice?
Walsh:
He's like, "We should just call the show Addison Gets Worked!" See, Tim and I are obsessed with making the kisses look real. The other night, Alex was watching at home and I called and said, "Did it seem hot?" and he said, "Yeah, it was really hot — if I wasn't your husband!" [Laughs] But you'd have to be a sociopath to be able to detach and go, "That's cool, babe. I know it's just your job." It's weird.

TV Guide: And now Alex's kisses are captured for the cameras, too. The tabloids recently ran photos of the two of you making out in a supermarket. How weird is that?
Walsh:
The grocery store make-out, sure! Listen, as soon as we pull away from our house, usually on Saturdays, there's a line of four cars following us. But what are ya gonna do? This is part of the job. To go to work and act is playing; the actual work is the paparazzi, the politics, everything else. But hey, I'm not gonna not go grocery shopping — it's literally become a novelty, like, "Hey, let's go grocery shopping. Exciting!" All of your life changes with this success. But, come on, it's glorious. Glorious! [Big laugh] I'm so happy, it's morbid.

For more on Kate Walsh, visit our Online Video Guide.

Check out the special double issue of TV Guide on newsstands now, featuring Christina Applegate on rumor patrol, the ultimate holiday TV preview and our exclusive look at the Dancing with the Stars tour! Try four risk-free issues of TV Guide now!

Send your comments on this Q&A to letters@tvguide.com.