Can lightning strike twice for Lifetime, which just launched the highly successful — and already renewed for a second season — Army Wives? Fronting the cabler's latest effort, Side Order of Life (premiering Sunday at 8 pm/ET), is Marisa Coughlan, familiar to Boston Legal fans for her run as Alan Shore's brainy and beautiful assistant, as well as a cast member in such films as Teaching Mrs. Tingle and Gossip. In Lifetime's new series, Coughlan plays Jenny, a magazine photographer who, with her nuptials pending, is led to question if she is getting what she deserves out of life. Muddying matters is not only the fact that Jenny has 90210 nice guy Jason Priestley's ginormous ring on her finger, but that she's getting advice from, like, TV newscasts, the radio and some strange guy she always manages to accidentally call on her phone. TVGuide.com asked Coughlan for a preview — as well as her take on onetime cast mate Katie Holmes' own "new life."
TVGuide.com: I watched the first episode just this morning, and it's lots of fun. Really cute.
Marisa Coughlan: Well, thank you! Thank you! [Wednesday] was our first day with any real reviews out there, and the response has been favorable, so I'm really excited.
TVGuide.com: Your character, Jenny... she's just a bit crazy there.
Coughlan: [Laughs] A little bit! I'm very well cast, we can say that safely.
TVGuide.com: What about this series would you say is most like, and most unlike, what we would expect from Lifetime?
Coughlan: Our show definitely tugs at the heartstrings, which people expect. We try to carry a tone of a real dramedy, where it's dramatic but also comedic, and there are a lot of moments in each episode that I hope will move an audience. What we don't do, which Lifetime is trying to get away from, is skew toward women in a certain demographic. Our show appeals to people of all ages, in different places in their lives. It's about the journey of life and figuring out who you are.
TVGuide.com: Has playing Jenny as she totes around a camera made you a better photographer, by any chance?
Coughlan: It's made me take note of things a bit more, I think, because my character is also looking for the "angle," figuratively. Naturally, when you hold a camera in your hands, you start to notice your surroundings a bit more.
TVGuide.com: But as far as knowing what the flip to do with developer fluid or whatnot...
Coughlan: Not so much, no. I am trying! I do have lots of scenes in the dark room, but I wouldn't put me to the test if I were you.
TVGuide.com: Jenny's cancer-stricken friend gives a speech about how life is "the main course, the appetizer and the dessert." How does that compare to your own view? Are you a "seize the day" type?
Coughlan: For me, it's been a very similar journey. When I read the script, to be honest, it made me cry — it hit me the same way it hit my character. Like anybody else, I can either get wrapped up in the minutiae and take all of the wonderful things around me for granted, or I can stop and smell the roses. The theme of the entire show is about not getting wrapped up in what everyone else wants you to do.
TVGuide.com: The mysterious and mysteriously sage guy on the phone whom Jenny keeps accidentally dialing... are we ever going to meet him?
Coughlan: You're going to meet him. [Laughs] I can't say when, but you will.
TVGuide.com: And how about Ian, that fiancé of yours? Does Jason Priestley ever age, or what?
Coughlan: I know! [Laughs] He's wiser, but he doesn't look any older. I don't know how he pulls it off.
TVGuide.com: It's tough, because the viewer wants you two to make things work, if only because it's Brandon freakin' Walsh. But at the same time, Jenny's friend has a point, that she's trying to force her foot into a shoe that doesn't fit.
Coughlan: Right, right. You look at a guy like Ian and go, "What girl in her right mind would pass that up?" But maybe not every great guy is your guy. Jenny is just trying to figure out where she is.
TVGuide.com: You were on Boston Legal for a stretch. What's your perspective on the recent cast shake-up? Just David E. Kelley's way of keeping things fresh?
Coughlan: Yeah, he's got his mainstays, and they're pretty amazing. The rest of us come in and complement them. I think it's smart of him to phase people in and out.
TVGuide.com: What do you have coming up? This Bill movie, with Aaron Eckhart, looks pretty good.
Coughlan: Yes, I have a small role in it, but it's a really good movie with a great script. I think Aaron Eckhart [playing the disenfranchised husband of a cheating wife] will hit it out of the park. There's another movie called The Dissection of Thanksgiving, which is an independent set in the '80s, and that's very funny. And there's Already Dead, which I did with Christopher Plummer and Ron Eldard (ER). It's a psychological thriller about revenge, with Ron trying to find the guy who killed our son.
TVGuide.com: As someone who worked with a younger Katie Holmes in Teaching Mrs. Tingle, do you look at her now and not see the same person?
Coughlan: No, I see the same person. She looks like a really happy mom and wife. Obviously her life has changed and she lives an entirely different kind of life that I could never possibly begin to understand. But she looks like she's happy.
Let our Online Video Guide order up some Side Order of Life clips for you.
Marisa Coughlan is one of the "fresh faces of summer" profiled in the July 16 issue of TV Guide. Try four risk-free issues now!
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