Producers of NYPD Blue are hoping the third time's the charm when it comes to casting the show's new female detective. After two unsuccessful attempts at filling the role — first with newcomer Rosa Arredondo and next with Beverly Hills, 90210 grad Vanessa Marcil — they've now recruited big-screen siren Jacqueline Obradors to play Latina cop Rita Ortiz. The star of Six Days, Seven Nights and Tortilla Soup, who debuts in tonight's episode (at 9 ET on ABC), tells TV Guide Online that she's relieved to have made it this far.

"Let's put it this way, I didn't sleep a wink the night before my first day," she admits. "I had to get up at two in the morning just to look at my lines again. I was just so, so nervous. Anytime you're cast in a new role, you're being watched and scrutinized so intensely. And coming in as the third girl, it's three times that."

Of course, it didn't help that the circumstances surrounding Arredondo and Marcil's abrupt exits were hardly ideal. Sources say that the relatively green Arredondo was simply out of her league opposite such powerhouses as Dennis Franz and Charlotte Ross, and was dismissed before making her first appearance. Later, personality conflicts were rumored to have contributed to Marcil's ouster after only one episode. Counters Marcil's rep: "Vanessa's pregnant. It had nothing to do with personality. She's having a baby in April. And as you can understand, I don't think that they were going to have a pregnant detective."

For her part, Obradors confesses that her Blue castmates didn't "really want to say anything" about the axed stars. Also attempting to take the high road, executive producer Bill Clark responds: "I don't want to get into negativity, and there's no way to talk about [Arredondo and Marcil] without getting negative. I just don't think that it worked out. Period."

Well, all indications are that Obradors is a keeper. For starters, she's currently at work on her fourth episode. "Once I knew I was back for a second episode, I thought, 'OK. I can breathe now,'" laughs the thirtysomething beauty, who's being eyed as a potential love interest for fellow rookie Mark-Paul Gosselaar. "That was further than anyone [else] had gone."