Virginia Madsen, <I>Scoundrels</i> Virginia Madsen, Scoundrels

Take it from Virginia Madsen: Sometimes being bad can feel oh-so-good.

"Sometimes it's really fun to root for the bad guy," Madsen tells of her new ABC dramedy, Scoundrels (premiering Sunday at 9/8c).

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Madsen plays Cheryl West, the matriarch of a family of criminals. When her husband Wolf (David James Elliott) is sent to prison, Cheryl decides she and her four children — ditzy aspiring model Heather (Levin Rambin), young and smart Hope (Vanessa Marano), and twin boys (both played by Patrick Fleuger), one of which is a dim slacker while the other's a sharp lawyer — are going to go straight. Of course, things don't exactly work out that way.

"Anybody who's raising kids knows the dilemma: your idea of the right decision isn't necessarily their idea," Madsen says. "It's one conflict after another. I think a lot of women can identify with Cheryl because of the struggles she goes through trying to get her kids to listen to her and her husband to walk the straight and narrow."

Of course, Cheryl's no angel herself. But Madsen says her character's desire to give up the life of crime is mostly a protective instinct. "She's a very strong and powerful woman, and she just wants to protect her family and make a better life," she says.

Check out photos of the Scoundrels cast

Complicating that effort is Sgt. Mack (Carlos Bernard), who's made it his life's work to bust up the West family and thus is always keeping tabs on them. "Mack is definitely a threat to the security of the family in more ways than one," Madsen says. "What really bothers Cheryl about this guy is he knows so much about the family. He can see right through her. He's kind of the bee in the honey."Madsen is best known for her work on the big screen, including her Golden Globe- and Oscar-nominated role as Paul Giamatti's love interest in Sideways. Her most recent TV appearance was during the final season of Monk, of which Madsen was a self-professed superfan."I begged them to let me come in. I didn't have a lot to do, but I got to be there and meet them all and take pictures. I was a total dork," Madsen says with a laugh. "I was the stalker that got a role in the show."

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But Madsen says working with a tight-knit cast that had been together for so long inspired her to create the same atmosphere on Scoundrels, especially since it deals with a family, " I took that experience and wanted to have the closeness that cast had," she says. "Once I met the other actors [on Scoundrels], we also had a real connection. I was really happy to find that everyone opened up. The other actors allowed me into their lives and let me pull everyone together. We had a real family."And Madsen says the family element is what she thinks will draw viewers in to Scoundrels. "There are themes about the family everyone will identify with," she says. "But it's also funny and it's crazy; you're not going to believe these people and all the trouble they get into. We don't take ourselves seriously on any level."