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THE SUNDAY CONVERSATION

Jenna Elfman, 'Accidentally on Purpose'

The former costar of 'Dharma & Greg' is back at home in a TV comedy.

September 06, 2009|Denise Martin

Jenna Elfman is best known for playing the free-spirited hippie yoga instructor Dharma on "Dharma & Greg." She stars in the upcoming CBS sitcom "Accidentally on Purpose," based on the true story of a movie critic who becomes pregnant after a one-night stand with a much younger man.

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You've been determined to find another TV show after "Dharma & Greg." CBS' "Courting Alex" didn't work out. What about doing a sitcom is important to you?

Since I was a little girl, I knew that television was my place. On the right show, it does not feel like work. I feel like I'm in my old sandbox as a kid and it's playtime. When "Dharma" was over I was like, "OK, that's enough of television for a while." I did a movie or two and then I woke up one day and thought, "What am I doing? I love doing comedy on TV." That's when I started reaching back in, and that's why I'm so happy now and appreciative because finding a show hasn't been an overnight thing.

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You once told your agent that if you couldn't find another series, you'd move to Montana. What's in Montana?

Nothing. I could have picked Colorado. Zimbabwe. Anywhere but here. It was just so frustrating. I was really working hard and putting a lot of time and energy and commitment into this and then having nothing come of different projects. It was like a second puberty almost.

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What did you like about the script for "Accidentally on Purpose?"

I liked it right when I read it, and I couldn't stop thinking about it. Having spent the last four years reading pilot scripts, I can tell you that rarely happens. My character, Billie, is pregnant with no man, then the father of the baby moves in, but they're not together. So she's trying to figure things out, like "Am I completely out of the mix with dating and men now?" She actively pursues this man thing, and it's a predicament. The show is just outrageous.

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How so?

Pregnancy hormones kick in. Billie's horny. Her boobs are getting bigger. She's looking for a man, and she doesn't play it down. On the contrary. It's sort of an alternative family comedy. Billie's also more sarcastic and more, I don't know, she thinks out loud. She's more flawed than characters I've played before.

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It says on on your IMDb page that you're set to star in a sequel to the '80s cult film "Forbidden Zone," which was directed by your father-in-law.

I don't know why it says that. Bodhi's dad, Rick Elfman, directed it and his brother, [composer] Danny Elfman, plays the devil in it. It's this great film, just totally wild and out there. Very bizarre. But I don't know anything about a sequel though, I don't even know if it's true.

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How did your 2-year-old son's name, Story Elias Elfman, come about?

Frankly, we knew we were going to try and conceive and a month before we even started -- it took, like, one time -- Bodhi turned to me and said, "Story Elias Elfman." I said, "Done. I love it." We have an Elias in the great-grandfather territory on my husband's side. It was also Walt Disney's middle name, which my husband is a huge fan of. What that man created is tremendous. And stories -- nothing better than a great story. He did come up with some names before that made me go, "What are you smoking? Absolutely not."

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You've been closely associated with Scientology for a long time. The headlines seemed to have died down -- good or bad thing?

Scientology is something that's been in my life for 18 years. It's so greatly helped me. Helps me keep the stress down, the happiness up and gives me tools for living a better life. I kind of ignore all the craziness in the press.

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What's your biggest indulgence?

Blowing off things and spending time with my kid. It's my most favorite thing in the whole world. Not that spending time with your kid is an indulgence, it's a responsibility, but it's like indulgence in terms of shirking other responsibilities. Back in the day, that was a woman's job: to maintain the house and raise kids, and raise them well. That's actually a real duty because you're preparing a human being to live a life. You can't not be there. Feminists are going to hate me, but I get a little wistful wishing I could do that.

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denise.martin@latimes.com

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