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The Girl Next Door

Monica Potter is one of us. So much so that even after relocating to Los Angeles and starring in movies opposite Robin Williams and Nicolas Cage, she moved back to the Cleveland neighborhood where she grew up. But walking away from Hollywood was nowhere near as easy as she made it look. This month, she’s back with a new series and the role she’s been waiting for her entire life.
By Colleen Mytnick

Monica Potter looks like a working mom in the middle of a long day.

She’s sitting on a swivel chair on the set of her new show, Trust Me, legs crossed at the knee and dressed in her character’s business-frumpy getup — a boring sweater over a knee-length skirt, her hair up in a quick twist.

In some ways, this new look is appropriate. Potter’s been a working mother for a long time (she had her first child at age 19). In other ways, it’s ludicrous. When not dressed down, Potter’s just as much of a beauty as when she was growing up in North Collinwood and everyone told her she should model. That kind of pretty — dreamy eyes, milky skin, huge smile — is hard to conceal.

What the new look does represent is a sequel to her Hollywood story. In part one, she starred as the sexy single girl in major studio movies. She made the cover of Vanity Fair. She was headed for the A-list when she made a baffling, almost unbelievable decision. And now, at age 37, she can walk down the street without being recognized.

It’s kind of hard to find the proper time to ask someone what stopped her from wanting to make it really big — and how she feels about that now — especially when you’re talking in a string of 15-minute conversations tucked between shots.

That question isn’t coming now, either. Potter’s got to get back to work. Trust Me, which is scheduled to debut this month on TNT, is a light-hearted drama about a Chicago advertising agency. Potter is the lead female, starring alongside Eric McCormack from Will & Grace and Tom Cavanagh from Ed.

The bell rings, and the camera rolls. Potter turns on. She is Sarah Krajicek-Hunter begging her boss, Mason (McCormack), to help her with a tricky account. She gets her way and, as the scene ends, the camera lingers on her for a moment. Each take, she uses the time a bit differently. This last time, she does a little happy dance. “That’s funny,” says director Mike Robin, chuckling. This scene’s done.

“Not all wonderful dramatic actors can do comedy,” he says, taking a few moments to talk about Potter. “I think she’s a master comedian. People don’t have an understanding of that.”

Not yet, at least. But maybe soon. Because now it’s not about playing the giggling girl in search of love in major studio movies. As much as the ’90s were about raking in millions at the megaplex, this decade has been about reaching audiences through smart shows on the small screen. Potter knows it, too. “This is where I feel like I’ve done the best work I’ve ever done. It’s what I’ve always dreamt of doing — this character.”

Check back Jan. 2 for the full story.

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