Vanessa Marcil, <I>The Nanny Express</i> Vanessa Marcil, The Nanny Express

Vanessa Marcil is playing a nanny, but not the naughty type. Rather, the Las Vegas alumna took a gamble by turning things around and playing closer to her true bookworm self in the Hallmark Channel movie The Nanny Express (premiering Saturday at 9 pm/ET).

Marcil plays Kate Hewitt, an aspiring teacher who finds herself caring for the two children of a widower (Brennan Elliot). Can Kate succeed where the previous "run-out-of-town" nannies left off, all the while tending to her ailing father (Dean Stockwell)? And might she find love with her new wards' dad along the way? Marcil shared a look at why she chose this different role. This was a somewhat different role for you, isn't it?
Vanessa Marcil: My agent called me and was like, "You're going to love this character", and it was like no one I had ever played before. I had been volunteering at my son's school this year, and I've always thought teachers were incredible, but to watch them on a daily basis you truly realize how teachers and full-time, stay-at-home mothers are the heroes of our world. I mean, I'm always like the "feisty sexpot." Yeah, I saw that quote about how, because you're the "dark-haired curvy girl," you always get cast as the vixen.
Marcil: Yeah, I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way. So I was like, "Can I play this girl?" To be so graceful in the face of adversity with these kids and to get to have a dad — I've never played a character that had a dad — I was inspired to be more like her. After playing Kate, did you come to feel she was actually closer to yourself than you originally thought?
Marcil: Oh, for sure. You know that I'm actually much more of a nerd and a bookworm and a homebody than all the sassy, ballsy characters I always play. They do stuff that I would never normally do. As Kate tries to manage this guy's handful-of-a-teenage daughter, did you get to thinking, "Oh my god — what am I going to do when my son Kassius [now 6 1/2] is this age?"
Marcil: No, because that seems unfathomable to me. It seems so far away. And yet he's getting so smart and incredibly creative, and he says really profound things. The other day, he said, "Mommy, I'm really sad that you got your stomach cut open. That must have hurt." I go, "Yeah, sweetie, but I was in labor for two days, and it was worth it because you came out." [Laughs] He says, "Well, if I'm a woman in my next lifetime, I don't want a birth canal." Um, what?! Do you feel like you won the on-screen dad lottery with Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap)?
Marcil: When [the producers of Las Vegas] said Jimmy Caan was doing it, we were like, "OK, where do we sign?" It was kind of the same situation with this. "Dean Stockwell is going to play my father? Where do I sign?" He was so incredible. He has a really dry wit, which is my favorite kind, so I'd start to get comfortable around him. But then you get into these scenes and he's such a pro, it's like a light switch. He'd become so incredibly powerful that I was like, "Oh no, I'm not going to be able to hold it together." Las Vegas fans email me every couple of weeks hoping for some closure. They're not going to get any, are they? [The NBC series was abruptly cancelled last TV season during the WGA strike.]
Marcil: No. I mean, who knows in our business. Nothing surprises me anymore. But I think it would have happened by now. You know what? Ten years from now, the CW can do LV: The Next Generation.
Marcil: Exactly. There you go! Would you be open to another series regular role?
Marcil: No. I was so not wanting to take a series regular gig when I took Las Vegas; who knew it would last five years? Shows usually don't. Kassius had just been born and he could be on the set with me all the time, but he's in school now, so it'd mean taking a lot of time away from him. I love working at his school and [acting] a little bit. I'm looking to balance it all a bit more while he's young. So you're OK just doing the occasional handful of episodes of Lipstick Jungle?
Marcil: Yeah, exactly. That feels really right to me right now. Have you caught Brian [Austin Green, Kassius' father and Marcil's ex-boyfriend] on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles?
Marcil: I've seen him, and he's amazing. He's always amazing. That was evident to me when we were on 90210 together. He's especially great with even heavier stuff like [Terminator]. What other TV do you like these days?
Marcil: We watch Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Daily Show — I mean, if Jon Stewart filed his toenails, we'd watch it. We watch Jeremy Piven scenes on Entourage and fast-forward through the rest. Jeremy Piven is that show, he's a genius. Lastly, tell me about your "Grateful List."
Marcil: The Grateful List is one of the millions of things that Oprah told me about when I met her at, like, 22 that kind of changed my life. Every night, I write down everything I feel grateful for. It's hard to stay with any kind of negative thought when you realize all the things you have to be grateful for. Now Kassius has a little journal, and he writes down what he's grateful for. It's a great thing.