For Hollywood execs, the recent cancellation of Showtime's biting industry satire Beggars and Choosers was a blessing in disguise. Although they would have to make do without their weekly fix of in-jokes and celebrity skewering, finally they could get their hands on the show's break-out star, Charlotte Ross.

"I was really surprised to find that an enormous amount of people in the industry had become huge fans of mine," Ross tells TV Guide Online. "I was shocked by the offers I got."

Perched comfortably in the driver's seat, the regular of such short-lived series as The Five Mrs. Buchanans, Pauly and Trinity passed on most of what came her way (including a role as Chris Elliott's sister on The Weber Show), opting to hold out for a job on one of her four favorite shows: The West Wing, ER, NYPD Blue or Will &#038 Grace. "And then out of the blue [NYPD creator] Stephen Bochco called," Ross recalls. "I was just floored with what he ended up telling me."

The Emmy-winning producer/writer explained that with NYPD leading lady Kim Delaney turning in her badge at the end of the season to star in his upcoming ABC legal drama, he was in need of a new female recruit. "What's funny is, I'd always say, 'I want to be on that show,' but when it actually happened, I had this huge panic attack," admits the diminutive Ross, who was concerned that viewers might have trouble buying her as a cop. "But then [producer] Bill Clark showed me a picture of his wife, who is 5'4", blonde and was a detective and also a lieutenant in New York City, and he said, 'You don't get any tougher than this woman.'"

Ultimately, it was the prospect of such a challenge that led Ross to join the force. Her character — Det. Connie McDowell — makes her first appearance on March 6, and the following week she's already participating in the show's signature ritual. "I take off my shirt in the second episode," she reveals, adding that the prospect of baring more "is very stressful. I'm sure it's around the bend."

Meanwhile, Ross turns up on tonight's Valentine-themed Frasier playing a love interest to Kelsey Grammer — a role she also had to be persuaded to take. "I was actually going to pass because I didn't know if I could do anything with it," offers the actress, modestly. "And I got so nervous [performing in front of] a live audience again — I was so panicked. But then I ended up having a really good time."