When Stephanie March left Law & Order: SVU and her role as ADA Alex Cabot last fall, we figured the Emmy-worthy actress was setting her sights on bigger and better things — like a movie career or a legal drama all her own. Not a gig at the Food Network. But the 28-year-old up-and-comer assures us that her role as host of the five-part series What America Eats With PARADE (debuting Sunday at 9 pm/ET on FN) does not represent a new career direction. "This is just about the fact that I love food," she tells TV Guide Online. "It's like if you love the Westminster Dog Show and somebody says, 'Do you want to run my dog around the ring?' 'Well, yeah! Why not?'" March also happens to be engaged to Food Network superstud Bobby Flay, so, well, you do the math.
TV Guide Online: Are you concerned that people might think you're forging a new career as a TV host?
Stephanie March: I like food to the degree that it wasn't enough for me to rethink it. If people are going to think that, that's just crazy. It was just a one-time gig. I'm not hosting a show. It's a five-part series. It's basically three days work. It was a miniproject — a slumber party.
TVGO: Tell me a little bit about the show.
March: I would say it's a documentary using a lot of data, facts and figures about how, what and why America eats. Obscure facts and figures like, "How many people eat snacks? What's the most popular snack? How many times do people eat out every year in the U.S.?"
TVGO: When did your love affair with food start?
March: At home. My mother is a wonderful cook. And my sister is a professional cook. I guess I've just always been around it.
TVGO: Did food play a role in your courtship of Bobby?
March: Well, actually, I didn't know who he was. [Laughs] We were set up on a blind date. Neither one of us watched a lot of TV because we were both working. It just so happens that [our love of food] is a wonderful thing that we can enjoy and appreciate together. Without that quality in either one of us, it would be a much less-interesting relationship.
TVGO: Have you set a wedding date?
March: February '05. We're both gonna be out of town a lot between now and then, so we figured if we add up all the days we're gonna be out of town it's really only seven months away.
TVGO: Can you tell me anything else about the role?
March: Not really. [Laughs] She's not nearly as smart as Alex Cabot but a much better dresser.
TVGO: Is it fun playing a superspy?
March: It's great fun playing a superspy. And the nice thing is I have no responsibility really. It's not like a series where you're working on it day after day after day, and you're worried about the time and they're always trying to keep under budget and you're worried about the other people in your scene and making sure they're comfortable. I just show up, dress up, do my thing.
TVGO: For the record: Why did you leave Law & Order?
March: I want to be certain to emphasize that I have zero complaints about Law & Order. It was a fantastic work experience and I really miss the people quite a bit. But, you know, you get to a point where you feel like, as a character, you kind of said everything you can say. And then it becomes quite redundant. It was my first on-camera job after college. I got really lucky and I thought, I just have to do a couple of more things before I get too comfortable. Perhaps all I need is a long break.
TVGO: So, you could return someday?
March: Sure. If it felt like the right time in my life, definitely.
TVGO: Your last episode was so great.
March: I had nothing to do with that. I thought the writing was very good.
TVGO: You're being modest. That final scene between you and Mariska Hargitay broke my heart.
March: Well, I have to say it was made much easier by being there with Mariska. It was as hard as it could possibly be to say goodbye to somebody that wonderful.
TVGO: You're gonna be in the running for an Emmy, right?
March: I have no idea. I don't even know how it works. If it's anything like the elections now, I could wind up as being the Howard Dean: It looked promising but then kind of sucked.