Daphne Zuniga Daphne Zuniga
Daphne Zuniga is back on television — not that she ever really left. It's just that her most recent bid for a longtime prime-time run, as former Playboy pinup Shelly Pierce on

American Dreams, was snipped short when the ratings-challenged NBC drama got snuffed. Now the beautiful brunette best known for playing Melrose Place's relatively (being the key word) moral Jo and Spaceballs' Druish Princess Vespa, is betting on Beautiful People. The new drama (premiering tonight at 9 pm/ET on ABC Family) presents Zuniga as Lynn Kerr, a newly single mother of two girls who, because of one of her daughter's academic aspirations, must relocate from a small town in New Mexico to big, bad New York City.

Zuniga can relate to the upheaval. "I did the reverse, which is just as horrific," she tells TVGuide.com with a laugh. "When I was in high school I moved from the big city" — in this case, San Francisco — "to a tiny village of 500 people in Vermont. It was like The Waltons!"

Beautiful People isn't just about the Kerr women. No, the girls of course are magnets to cute boys and, wouldn't you know it, once in the Big Apple Zuniga's designer-wannabe character bumps into the college sweetheart (Rescue Me's James McCaffrey) who broke her heart years ago. "He says to me, 'Wow, Lynn Kerr — the one that got away,' and I say, 'Yeah, only I didn't go anywhere,'" relates Zuniga. "It's a great line."

"Great" is also a word she used to describe her TV daughters, Sarah Foret (Clubhouse) and Torrey DeVitto. "A lot of the times we have been finishing shooting at 5 am, and they have never complained," she marvels. "I have to shut my mouth. 'Daphne, calm down, the girls are doing just fine... and you can, too.'"

Long shoot days aside, Zuniga is definitely a People person, and hopes against hope that the series lives beyond its original eight-episode commitment. "I would absolutely love that," she enthuses. "I hope it does go a long time."

Not that any new role is likely to make fans on the street forget Jo or Princess Vespa anytime soon. "I usually get recognized for Spaceballs," she says, adding that she'd be open to doing, but has heard no details about, the new Star Wars trilogy-inspired sequel Mel Brooks reportedly has been pondering. "When people recognize me for that, they have this gleam in their eye and they're happy, and that makes me happy. It's nice to be a part of that."