Perhaps you know her best as the big-screen Jan Brady, but Jennifer Elise Cox is rapidly eclipsing that memorable characterization with her current gig on Lovespring International, Lifetime's improv series (airing Mondays at 11 pm/ET) about a dating service staffed by people who really shouldn't be staffing a dating service. As Tiffany, Cox gives indifferent, gum-snapping receptionists a bad name ironic, seeing as how her phone-interview manner is as friendly, if not frisky, as our own.
TVGuide.com: So, are you ready for me?
Jennifer Elise Cox: Yes, I'm completely ready! So excited!
TVGuide.com: Oh, please.
Cox: Yes! How have you been?
TVGuide.com: I've been great since we last spoke... which was never.
TVGuide.com: In the last episode, when Tiffany says about Alex, "Mama likes her chocolate cake," I was dying. I assume that line was your own doing?
Cox: That's my own doing, yeah!
TVGuide.com: Because this show has no script!
Cox: There's no script! [Laughs] It's called "emergency acting."
TVGuide.com: What sort of notes do they give you, though? That Tiffany has some screwed-up romantic history...?
Cox: The producers had decided that Tiffany, for whatever reasons she has that je ne sais quoi has this crazy effect on men, which I think is funny, because she's so bratty and spoiled. They wanted to toy with that idea, and I had suggested to them that Tiffany also likes African-American guys, and it would be funny if she and Alex had a romance.
TVGuide.com: How has Lovespring's improv aspect been treating you?
Cox: Luckily, I've done a lot of Groundlings shows, and I was on a sketch-comedy show for a year, and I've been in a couple of movies that were all improvised. But still, you never are really prepared, which I kind of like. It's always very scary, but in a good way.
TVGuide.com: Does it help that Tiffany is the kind of person who you can never predict what she'll say next?
Cox: Definitely, and I am so glad you said that. I picked this character because I have license to say... just whatever. I pull some things out of my ass, and luckily they work! [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: What is your gum of choice, I have to wonder?
Cox: Oh, very good question. I've tried them all and I want to say that my favorite is... [Runs to her kitchen stash to double-check] it's Wrigley's Extra, watermelon flavor. It's delicious. And hot pink. And loud on camera. [Laughs] We have to drink a lot of coffee doing improv and I've noticed that everyone has foul breath, so the gum helps!
TVGuide.com: What is Tiff doing during her time off? [Last week Lovespring aired a repeat.]
Cox: I think she's at the tanning salon getting that mystic orange tan. And Neiman's is having their half-yearly Nordstrom, too so she's hitting the sales... and breaking hearts.
TVGuide.com: She likes sales because she doesn't earn that much?
Cox: She makes $5.60 an hour.... But she finds her power where she can.
TVGuide.com: In [tonight's] new episode, I'm reading, "Tiffany makes a vow which interferes with her ability to do her job." What vow?
Cox: It's a vow of silence. She goes on a Buddhist retreat, and when she gets back she decides to not speak or answer phones. But I think she doesn't even really go on a retreat. I think she just makes it up because she wants to be making more money! [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: How about a dual role where Jan Brady comes to Lovespring for matchmaking?
Cox: I would love that. That would be hysterical and wacky!
TVGuide.com: Or is she happy with "George Glass"?
Cox: Yeah, Jan doesn't need a dating service because she has imaginary boyfriends. [Laughs] I tell you, it was so much fun playing Jan because she is tortured. And Tiffany is fun to play because she's not tortured at all.
TVGuide.com: Your character's full name is Tiffany Riley Clark?
Cox: I'm making fun of myself with that, actually. Plus I think it's funny when people have three names it's something that actresses "of a certain generation" have adopted because it takes up more marquee space, I think. And if you say my name fast it sounds like "Jennifer Release Cox," which is embarrassing.
TVGuide.com: I'm not going to touch that. So, what guest stars are still to come on Lovespring?
Cox: Oh my god, Alanis Morissette is playing a homeless person. She was amazing and really good at improv. We've had great guest stars, but that was a big deal for me because I'm a huge fan.
TVGuide.com: What can you tell me about your Cook-Off! movie?
Cox: A lot of the same people from Lovespring are in it Sam Pancake [Burke], Wendi [McLendon-Covey, Lydia], Jack [Plotnick, Steve] and Guy Shalem, who cocreated Lovespring, directed it. It's a very funny, Christopher Guest-style mockumentary about a bake-off. I play a shy and nerdy girl whose mother had won the competition. I don't necessarily want to be there, but she makes me enter.
TVGuide.com: And what about your small role as an MTV VJ in National Lampoon's Pledge This!?
Cox: Um... all I know is that it was a crazy and pretty insane set! It was very exciting to be in a sorority romp starring Paris Hilton.
TVGuide.com: I watched online some outtakes of your 2000 Will & Grace appearance, where you make Debra Messing break over and over. As a guest star, do you feel bad busting up one of the leads? Is there a temptation to dial it down a notch?
Cox: You know what? They never made me feel bad. As the guest star, you're just trying to do the best job you can!
TVGuide.com: Possessing that lethal combination of funny and hot as you do, is it one of those "With great power comes great responsibility" things? You have to use it for good, not evil?
Cox: Funny and hot? Continue, please! [Laughs] I don't know that I'm either of those things, but I do have a good time!