Tracee Ellis Ross, <EM>Girlfriends</EM> Tracee Ellis Ross, Girlfriends

Don't hate Girlfriends' Joan Clayton because she's beautiful. And has a successful business. And a great house. And, according to recent episodes, a great hookup for free clothes. When tonight's season finale gets under way (at 9 pm/ET on UPN), the lawyer-turned-sports-bar-owner will be a heartbroken mess because, well, after Joan dumped two of the three yes, three!  guys she was dating, she got kicked to the curb by the third. Will Toni, Maya and Lynn be around to pick her up? Girlfriends star Tracee Ellis Ross dishes (sort of) about her character and (definitely) her own opinions on life.

TV Guide: This has been some season for Joan.
Tracee Ellis Ross:
It has been delicious. You know, it's six seasons and I'm still challenged and intrigued and titillated by my character. And this season Joan has really turned a corner in a way that has been scary to play at times because you worry, "Are people going to stay with you and keep loving you?" 
TV Guide: With good reason. Joan has ditched Toni, Lynn and Maya for parties and men. Would you say Joan's been going through a slut-player phase?
What Joan is doing is finally enjoying her life. [Laughs] OK, yeah she's a little slutty right now. But this is the first time in her life that she's able to feel as cute as she is and go with it. She's never been the girl who's had a guy. She's never had someone who stayed. So do I think she's being slutty? Well, a little. But do I think she's being a player? No. When you say player it strikes me as more of a Toni someone who's aware of their motives.

TV Guide: How would you describe the way Joan treated Derek and that other guy?
I think it's awful, but she's doing the best that she can in an area that she knows nothing about. Joan's still a people-pleaser, which is why sometimes it seems like she's a player. That is why she accidentally told Derek she loved him in the "It Girl" episode. She wanted to make him feel better. And that's where she gets in a tangle. She's just a mess.

TV Guide: What about you, have you ever juggled men?
If I've juggled men, it's not the way Joan is juggling men.... Yes, I can date more than one person. But dating doesn't mean sleeping with. There's a big difference. I'm also very straightforward and honest, and not afraid in the way Joan is.

TV Guide: When Wayne Brady talked to us about his guest-starring stint as Derek, he said that women want a nice guy but...
I have an answer for that immediately. It's bulls---. It's not true. Women do not want a bad guy. What men, I believe, misunderstand is that we do not want a pushover. A dud. A dud is somebody who has no grit, no edge. So if a man starts doing too much and acting like he's madly in love with you before ya'll know each other, that is not attractive. But women do not want an a--hole. We don't. We want to feel special and wanted. We want somebody who when they say it's a date, they come and pick you up at the time of the date, and not blow you off. That's just stupid. I don't even have time for that s--- anymore. And I've said that to someone. I was like, "I'm sorry, this is just shabby, you coming up with an excuse every time we have a date. It's not good enough for me."

TV Guide: 'Cause you gotta stand up for yourself.
No kidding. Men can get away with anything you let them get away with. And if you start a relationship on shabby behavior, that's the relationship you're going to have. Like now, you go to a club and guys think they can dance on you like they're humping you. If you stand there and don't say anything, I swear to god, a guy will hump you until he gets [happy].

TV Guide: Hate to defend dirty dancers, but you know that's the style for kids. It freaks me out, but it's their norm.
But I'm not a kid. I'm a grown-up. And that's what I tell people. Like "The Whisper Song"  I love the song. It's great. But that's not the way you talk to me.

TV Guide: True. But back to Girlfriends: At the start of tonight's season finale, Toni's got the custody battle and Joan's been dumped. What's next? Is Joan going back to Derek? Will she try to fix things with Toni?
You know I can't give away all the goods. But I can say, while Joan's turning into this party girl has happened at a time when it was exactly what she needed in her life, it happens to be at the worst possible time in terms of what Toni needs from her friendship from Joan.

TV Guide: And...
Oh, we take it to the limit. And we push that envelope for your investment in these characters. Wait until you see it. For the love of Jesus [pronouncing it HAY-soos], Joan goes through it.

TV Guide: So will Girlfriends definitely be on the new CW network in the fall?
It looks very good but one never knows until that beautiful upfront [starting May 15] when they announce the actual lineup. But not only would our audience be sad if after six years the show didn't come back; after the finale, I would be in grief. There's a point in the episode where Joan is looking like a beat-down whore. And I would hate to go out like that.