Catherine Dent rarely gets recognized for her role as tough cop Danielle Sofer on FX's hit drama series The Shield — a fact that hardly surprises the stunning Louisiana native. "People tell me all the time, 'You're so much prettier in real life,'" she tells TV Guide Online with a chuckle. "[That's because] I have no makeup and the lighting sucks on [The Shield]. It's this gritty, raw reality."

Sadly, Dent's latest project, the Sci Fi Channel miniseries Taken (airing weeknights at 9 pm/ET through Dec. 13), also does little to show off her best assets. In the 10-part drama, her alter ego — a lonely Texan who falls in love with an alien — dons rather plain 1940s frocks. Despite the vanity issues, the actress couldn't be prouder of her groundbreaking cable gigs.

"I think that cable is really lifting the bar for everybody," she says. "[Shield creator] Shawn Ryan has an absolutely unyielding conviction about his work. He is uncompromising, and that you don't get in network television because it's mostly the advertisers telling you what you can and can't [do]."

So, after all of that brutal reality on The Shield, how was Dent able to segue to a role that called for her to, um, simulate sex with an extra-terrestrial? She credits exec producer Steven Spielberg with showing her that "reality" is a relative term. "Spielberg and Les Bohem, the writer, are interested in what happens to real people in extraordinary circumstances," she explains. "These circumstances happen to be extra-terrestrial, but we all have reactions to events that we can't believe."