Elisha Cuthbert is ‘One Big Happy’ sitcom star

ONE BIG HAPPY -- Pilot -- Pictured: (l-r) Elisha Cuthbert as Lizzy, Nick Zano as Luke, Kelly Brook as Prudence -- (Photo by: Eric McCandless/NBC)
ONE BIG HAPPY -- Pilot -- Pictured: (l-r) Elisha Cuthbert as Lizzy, Nick Zano as Luke, Kelly Brook as Prudence -- (Photo by: Eric McCandless/NBC) Eric McCandless/NBC

Elisha Cuthbert wears one big happy smile these days.

She’s having a blast getting to “crack jokes and act like a goof” in a new sitcom called, aptly enough, One Big Happy.

The show, which premieres at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday on NBC, introduces viewers to an unconventional family unit.

A straight guy (Nick Zano) and a gay woman (Cuthbert) are longtime best friends who decide to have a baby together. The third person in the household is the guy’s new bride (Kelly Brook).

Aside from the fact that Cuthbert’s character is attracted to other women, the former 24/The Girl Next Door/Happy Endings star says she has connected to Lizzy of One Big Happy “more than any character I’ve ever played. I feel very comfortable being her. Plus, I like that she has a great blazer collection.”

We chatted with Cuthbert last week about this new chapter in her career.

What appealed to you about the show’s premise?

I thought it was a really modern take on a young friendship that has been happening over the course of many years. Their decision to have a family together was so fresh to me. I thought that was an amazing concept.

Also, it’s a real departure from Happy Endings. I knew I wanted to stay in comedy, but I knew I couldn’t quite re-create that experience. So I had to do something totally different and, for me, it couldn’t be more different than doing a sitcom in front of an audience. That is totally new for me.

Is it scary or liberating to act in a sitcom with a studio audience?

It’s terrifying first and then liberating second. On Friday, on tape nights, I can’t eat and I’m terrified all day. But once it’s over, the high that you get from the audience and the feeling of accomplishment is so exhilarating.

You never smiled like that when you were playing Kim Bauer on 24.

I know. Although Kim didn’t have a lot to smile about, did she? That was definitely a different mental state, as far as character goes. Where you find Lizzy in this, as much as she’s overwhelmed with everything that’s happening with her pregnancy, she definitely has a fun streak in her.

Your co-star, Kelly Brook, is a force of nature. And totally uninhibited. Could you be as brazenly naked as she was in the pilot episode?

Never. There’s a reason I’m playing Lizzy, the uptight one, and not Kelly’s character, Prudence.

Ellen DeGeneres is one of your executive producers. Eighteen years ago, when her character came out on her sitcom Ellen, it was groundbreaking and controversial. Today, a lesbian character isn’t a big issue for most viewers. The main issue now will be, “Is the show funny?”

I think you’re right. I think the idea of a lead lesbian on a network TV show isn’t the forefront of the conversation anymore. Which I think is a good thing. My goal is that it’s a great half-hour of entertainment. I hope that, as Friends did and as Seinfeld did, viewers feel like they know these people.

That’s really when you’re doing good television. When you give people a half-hour that they believe in and become invested in.

One Big Happy

▪ 8:30 p.m. Tuesday

▪ KXAS/Channel 5