Jennifer Love Hewitt is about to get her hands dirty in her new
Lifetime series "The Client List."
In a lot of ways, she's like her character. In other ways ... not so much.
"Being sort of a feisty young lady from Texas comes naturally to me because that's sort of who I am really, and I've grown up in a household of feisty Texas women," said the Waco native.
But playing Riley Parks, a single mother deserted by her husband who takes a job as a massage therapist at a day spa only to discover massages aren't the only client services, is a "whole different ballgame," said the actress, who starred in the 2010 Lifetime TV movie of the same name.
"Obviously, sort of being so overtly sexy and provocative - that part of it is not something, by nature, I've put on display before or really put out there before," she said in a recent teleconference. "And that part's just been sort of fun and exciting and, you know, I feel like I'm at a good age for it. I'm 33 years old, and I think, if I was younger, it would feel more saucy and daring.
"But, at 33, I'm a grown woman -- this is what we do ... You sort of find your femininity and your strength and your own sexuality in sort of playing a part like this - much like I think Riley sort of discovers as the series goes on."
The role means Hewitt often appears scantily dressed as a woman who finds herself having to balance her morals and an opportunity that could resolve her financial hardships. Her secret life is one her conservative family and friends couldn't accept. Cybill Shepherd reprises her role from the TV movie as Riley's hairdresser mother.
Playing a sexy girl is not usual for Hewitt, who was the subject of many a teen boy's fantasy in films like "Can't Hardly Wait," "The Heartbreakers," "I Know What You Did Last Summer" and on Fox's "Party of Five" and "Ghost Whisperer."
But she said playing that type of role for a Lifetime series or film is the best possible circumstance.
"It hasn't been as scary as I thought it was going to be," she said. "... I feel like I'm doing it in a really safe place. There is no better place to do it than a network that is about empowering, inspiring women. You know, I'm not at some network that wants to take advantage of that stuff."
And she's not self-conscious playing the character who turns into a business woman.
"I knew what I was getting into. I mean that's definitely been my career at different ages. ... I think there is a time and a place for it ... It's just what she does, who she is. It's never in inappropriate places."
The actress, who has guest-starred on "Hot in Cleveland" and has a romantic comedy coming out with Rita Wilson and Jamie-Lynn Sigler, said her series is "provocative" and pushes the envelope, pulling back just in time, and that is what makes "provocative" TV interesting.
"I think people are watching it," she said. "If you look at 'Dexter' and look at 'Nurse Jackie' and look at 'The Sopranos,' I think (that it shows) people like provocative television. ... Television is supposed to allow you to escape into other worlds and watch people do things and forget about your life for a minute."
On one side, her character, Riley, is struggling with financial hardship - something being experienced by families everywhere, she said.
On the other side is the fantasy that happens in the massage parlor run by Loretta Devine ("Grey's Anatomy") who insists 90 percent of what goes on in her workplace is nothing but massages. But the other 10 percent -- handled by Devine's group of attractive employees -- is another matter, and it includes "a client list of men who want a little something extra."
"I think her (Riley) being a single mom with two kids is real," said Hewitt, who is called Love -- her middle name -- by friends and family. "But I do think that what happens in those rooms with those clients and the sanity that she creates for them -- all of that is meant to be in good fun.
"It's meant to be provocative, and it's meant to be a fantasy."
The 33-year-old said she's not really sure what has allowed her to continue to work as an actress for the past 24 years. But she may have a bit of an idea.
"I think I've always had respect for the business that I've been in. I've tried not to act too crazy or disrespect the opportunities I have been given or the people who have believed in me. So I think that helps.
"I also think some of it is just luck. ... I think I've just been blessed, and I don't necessarily know what keeps one person here longer than somebody else but I couldn't feel more grateful."
'THE CLIENT LIST'
When: 9 p.m. Sunday
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