NBC's Las Vegas is MIA this Friday night (to make way for a Heist encore), but Nikki Cox could probably use the free time, anyway. The red-hot redhead, after all, is busy making plans for her wedding to fellow actor (and Vegas guest star, natch) Jay Mohr. Still, she found time to talk with TVGuide.com about the evolution of Vegas' Mary, the "rumored" pillow fights she has with her female costars and more (meaning Mohr.)
TVGuide.com: I saw you the other day on the cover of InStyle Weddings looking all pretty....
Nikki Cox: All "gussied up." [Chuckles]
TVGuide.com: Is what I saw you in your actual wedding dress?
Cox: No, my dress is still being made and whatnot. It's in the works!
TVGuide.com: Everyone at Las Vegas must be psyched. Since moving to Friday, the show has been retaining a good chunk of its lead-in audience and even beating up a bit on Close to Home.
Cox: People seem to still be pleased with the show which is certainly far better than the alternative. You always hope that the fans will follow you, but you never know. As a television watcher myself, I'll "lose" a show if it's on a new night or I get busy and forget it's on. The fact that people hang with Las Vegas is certainly a nice compliment.
TVGuide.com: I recently saw the most provocative tidbit in the New York Post saying that the real reason behind Vegas' move was that come next season, NBC wouldn't be allowed to promo it during Sunday Night Football, due to its gambling themes.
Cox: You know, I heard that rumor myself and I was stunned. I don't know it for a fact, either although if it's in the Post, it must be true. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Going back to Vegas' 2003 pilot, Mary went from escort to event planner... like, overnight, right?
Cox: Pretty much. When I read the pilot, I was supposed to be a hooker with the proverbial heart of gold....
TVGuide.com: "Hooker" is such a dirty word; she was a "high-class escort."
Cox: OK! You say high-class escort, I say whore. [Laughs] At any rate, that was part of why I was interested in the show. I had just come off a sitcom [Nikki] where I played a wife, so I thought, "How neat to play this kind-of-raunchy gal who is genuinely supersweet?" And by the time the show got picked up and did Episode 1, they said, "By the way, here's your clipboard. You're an events planner now." I guess a hooker is an events planner, too. It's just events of a different nature. [Laughs] I believe the network felt that it would be "unseemly" to have your protagonist's girl-next-door sweetheart and the ultimate love of his life be an escort.
TVGuide.com: Were you sad to lose that grittiness to the character?
Cox: Slightly, because as a hammy actress, you always want those kinds of roles. But I understood their point of view.
TVGuide.com: Besides, as many of the show's female fans will crow, they still dress Mary like a hooker.
Cox: Yeah, so what's the difference? As long as I get to keep the bustiers and the lip gloss. [That career switch] made me realize that the series was going to be different than the pilot. The script had initially read quite dark and a lot more ominous. By the time we got to Episode 1, I realized, "This is a different show. They're going for the fun and glamour, not the gritty underbelly of Vegas."
TVGuide.com: Who are your buddies on the set?
Cox: I can't possibly say good things about James Lesure (Mike) without sounding like a rabid fan. He is just genuinely one of the most talented human beings and one of the loveliest souls I have ever encountered. And he's so brilliantly funny, fast and gifted. He and I will get ourselves hysterical with that kind of crazed laughter that is almost scary because you can't stop. He is without a doubt the highlight of my working day.
TVGuide.com: You, Molly Sims and Vanessa Marcil don't get together for slumber parties? Playful pillow fights?
Cox: [Laughs] We actually like to hold car washes during our time off. Constantly. No, Molly is actually a friend. She is a genuinely kind girl and someone who is there for you. She is as pretty on the inside as she is on the outside.
TVGuide.com: Who have been your favorite Vegas guest stars? And no fair saying Jay Mohr.
Cox: Well, I have to say him! But outside of fiancés, Alec Baldwin... holy smoke, he got me right where I live. He's right in my wheelhouse. He's such a movie star, and he's so, so, so painfully funny.
TVGuide.com: Yeah, you can see that on Vegas or Saturday Night Live.... He really dives into what he's doing.
Cox: That's exactly what he does. He has no preconceived notions or sense of entitlement. And he's so gorgeous. The older he gets, the more handsome he gets, in my book. The other one I would have to mention is Wayne Newton because... it's Wayne Newton! He sings, he's Mr. Gracious, and I swear to god, he is the best-smelling man I have ever met. Whatever heaven is, it's the aroma of Wayne Newton's neck. It's bizarre.
TVGuide.com: Why did I think you were on the Married... with Children spin-off?
Cox: Because I was Unhappily Ever After was [developed by] all the same people, so it was a spin-off of sorts.
TVGuide.com: Are you a fan of Unhappily costar Kevin Connolly's Entourage?
Cox: Oh, my word, I'm a fan of Kevin Connolly period. He and I were a couple for several years when we were very young. I think he is such a good actor, and I'm so glad that other people are now seeing that.
TVGuide.com: You alluded to Nikki before. Are you glad to have that comedic actress' albatross the eponymous sitcom behind you?
Cox: It was never my intention I thought it was going to be a show about a married couple, and then when they said, "Oh, we think the name of it should be Nikki," I went, "Uh... uh... uh." First of all, who the hell am I? And that was the season that Geena Davis and Bette Midler had [The Geena Davis Show and Bette], so it was like "Geena, Bette and... this broad. How did she sneak in?" It makes you nervous because you realize that if the reviews are bad, it's literally going to say, "Nikki sucks." Luckily, people seemed to like it, for some weird reason.
TVGuide.com: Now let's talk about your fiancé: Jay hasn't produced a rock yet, true or false?
Cox: It was true when we did the [InStyle] interview, then when we got home that night, he proposed and gave me the ring.
TVGuide.com: Were you like, "Stop the presses! Don't let my man look like a chump!"
Cox: I was like, "Honey, when they asked me, you hadn't given it to me yet." He said, "Yeah, and now I look like a cheapskate who didn't give my girl a ring!" But that night he asked for my parents' permission, got down on his knee and gave me a bigger rock than I deserve! It's quite lovely.
TVGuide.com: Are you officially giddy to become his bride?
Cox: I'm thrilled to become his wife. I can't wait to be married to him. As for the wedding itself, it's just starting to get crazy in terms of the planning and all that.
TVGuide.com: I trust it's not some Star Trek-themed ceremony at a drive-through Vegas chapel?
Cox: Who told you?!