Nadine Velazquez, My Name Is Earl
Now in its third season, My Name Is Earl (tonight at 8 pm/ET, NBC) continues to be a ratings stalwart as the lead-in to NBC's Thursday-night comedy lineup. Along with consistently funny writing, a big part of what keeps audiences tuned in to the misadventures of Earl J. Hickey is the casting, from the Golden Globe-nominated Jason Lee and the Emmy-winning Jaime Pressly to regulars Ethan Suplee (Randy), Nadine Velazquez (Catalina) and Eddie Steeples (Crab Man). TVGuide.com recently spoke with Velazquez about what she thinks elevates Earl. The beautiful Chicago native also gave us a heads-up on how the ongoing writers' strike will affect the rest of the season.

TVGuide.com: TV Guide chose you as one of its 40 Hottest TV Stars back in March. I'm guessing that since that time your phone has been ringing off the hook.
Nadine Velazquez: Oh, sure. That would be nice. Actually, it was very sweet to be part of that. I grew up with TV Guide, so to be able to put that issue on my grandma's coffee table was great.

TVGuide.com: So why do you think My Name Is Earl has continued to be one of the more popular comedies on network TV?
Velazquez: I just think it's different and entertaining and visually a beautiful show to watch. Yeah, it's about trailer parks, but the way it's shot feels like an independent film. I love the camera angles, the way it dips in and out of flashbacks. The motion of the camera going into black between cuts always keeps it moving.

TVGuide.com: I've noticed that. How do you get that effect?
Velazquez: Well, sometimes they'll take a little black piece of fabric and Velcro it on the actors' backs. If they want to do the motion where they're on Earl's face and they pan into darkness, sometimes it'll be placed on the guy's back that's in the scene with Jason. Then it'll just cut to the next scene, which makes it look like it's always moving forward. It's really cool how they do that.

TVGuide.com: Interesting. So somebody in each scene is wearing a piece of black fabric?
Velazquez: Not always. Sometimes they'll pan into someone's hair and get lost there. The hair needs to be big and black, though. We did a scene the other day at the Crab Shack where we panned right into the hair of the little kid who plays Darnell's son. But that's just something we've done since the beginning that keeps the show unique. I think stuff like that and that we have interesting characters is what makes the show great.

TVGuide.com: It does seem more character-driven than most situational comedies.
Velazquez: Yeah. We have a good combination of real, everyday-looking, weathered people and we also have cute, attractive people. Jaime's very beautiful, but she's also very real looking in the show.

TVGuide.com: Speaking of Jaime, do you two have a good relationship on the set, or is there a Method acting sort of thing going on?
Velazquez: [Laughs] There is no Method acting going on. We all get along really well. We're all into keeping it very chill on the set. Nobody is tense or dramatic.

TVGuide.com: So what storylines are coming up for Catalina?
Velazquez: Well, we're going to find out more about Catalina's backstory, stories of her village. More of her stuff will be interwoven into the lives of the other characters.

TVGuide.com: With the writers' strike in full swing, what's the status of My Name Is Earl?
Velazquez: We don't have the writers or the show-runner, but we've been asked to complete the last two written scripts that we have. After that, we'll be done until further notice.

TVGuide.com: If production comes to a halt, do you look at it like a snow day or does it bum you out?
Velazquez: There's no denying it's a bummer. You see it all around, because everybody is affected in Los Angeles. So much of the industry is here. In the last few days, even driving on the highway, I noticed that the streets are clear at, like, one or two o'clock. It dawned on me how much business is not going on from messenger services to people going to auditions. Even my personal trainer was telling me his business is suffering. People who were buying 20 sessions are now only buying 10 or 5. It just makes you realize how many people are involved and affected by the business here.

TVGuide.com: Are you nervous about whether a resolution is forthcoming?
Velazquez: In me, there is that brewing. I love acting and I have a need to do it, even when the business is down.

TVGuide.com: But I read that you have a degree in marketing. If this writers' strike persists, you could get a marketing-related gig.
Velazquez: No way! This is what I love now. If I have to, I'll create my own show!

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