When Ally McBeal kicks off its fifth season on Monday (9 pm/ET on Fox), Regina Hall's legal eagle Corretta Lipp will be sans her trusted associate, Robert Downey Jr.'s Larry Paul. "It's a whole new ballpark for ol' Corretta," admits the actress, now a series regular. "She's got a new [job at Cage and Fish] and a new attitude."

Hall says that she hasn't spoken to Downey since he abruptly exited the Emmy-winning dramedy last spring following his drug-related arrest. "It was basically a professional relationship," she concedes. "He's in my prayers for a continued recovery... [He'll] definitely be missed."

Downey isn't the only Ally castmember MIA this season: Taye Diggs, James LeGros and Lisa Nicole Carson all have left, and Lucy Liu will exit after a handful of episodes. Still, Hall remains optimistic that the injection of some new blood — James Marsden, Julianne Nicholson and Josh Hopkins will be joining Hall at the firm — will keep the momentum going.

"There are a lot of changes, and in some ways it's a little bit intimidating," she confesses. "Obviously, the show has a following, so you hope that that following will be receptive to the new characters and the changes that are subsequently gonna have to happen. But I think we're gonna handle it."

Incidentally, Hall — best known for her film work (Love & Basketball, The Best Man and both Scary Movies) — was reluctant to commit herself to a full-time TV gig. "I'd be lying if I said I [wasn't], but I balance that with what the show had to offer," explains the rising star, whose Ally contract is for two years. "So much of it is about the writing, and I felt like I wouldn't get bored — and that's one of the things I always hate to do: get bored. Also, at this point, there still is a lot for me to learn."

On the top of her list? Finding out who Corretta is going to be paired with romantically. One thing Hall's certain of: With Diggs gone, she winks, "there's gonna have to be some interracial love."