NeNe Leakes Takes a Break From Reality for ‘The New Normal’

by | September 10, 2012 at 11:30 AM | Fall TV Preview 2012, Interviews, The New Normal

NeNe Leakes and Andrew Rannells of 'The New Normal' (Photo: NBC)

Standing tall in her Jimmy Choos at 6’ 1”, NeNe Leakesis towering over her fellow “Real Housewives,” as she transitions from reality TV to scripted TV.

Going from the breakout star of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” to a scene-stealer in the NBC sitcom “The New Normal,” Leakes is in relatively uncharted territory for a reality star.

xfinityTV talked with Leakes as she promoted her new gig, playing “Rocky,” the sassy assistant to one half of a gay couple — Andrew Rannells (“The Book of Mormon”) and Justin Bartha (“The Hangover”) — who hire a surrogate (Georgia King) to have their baby, while battling their baby mama’s bigoted grandmother (Ellen Barkin).

“This is a lot of pressure for me,” Leakes, 44, admitted in our interview. “This is ‘The New Normal.’ I like to be able to steal the show, so I got to try to figure out Rocky’s character and really bring her into her own.

“I think it really comes from confidence,” Leakes says of acting on a TV show (as opposed to merely acting up on a reality show). “And being able to walk in there and own it.”

Watch the Pilot Episode of “The New Normal” Now on xfinityTV:

She first made the genre leap last season on “Glee,” where she played feisty Coach Roz, a foil to Cheerios Boss Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch). It helps that her new role also has shades of NeNe to it.

“There is some of me in this character,” Leakes says of playing the snarky sidekick. “Rocky is outspoken and sassy and a fashionista. And I consider myself to be all of those things.”

NeNe’s unexpected ally, her fairy godfather of sorts, is television producer Ryan Murphy (“Nip/Tuck,” “American Horror Story”), who first cast NeNe in his Fox musical “Glee” and then hired her again for his new sitcom, “The New Normal.”

There’s just something about NeNe that caught Murphy’s attention.

“I think she’s just hilarious … I love her, and I think she’s very talented,” Murphy explained to TV reporters in July.

“I actually just shot a segment of ‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta,’ which was a dream come true,” Murphy also confessed.

Click here to use xfinity.com/tv to DVR “The New Normal”

While Murphy is a big fan of NeNe’s, there are a few jealous “Housewives” (who shall remain nameless) who aren’t exactly excited about her blossoming acting career.

“You know, I’ve had certain girls, well … let me just say, I personally feel like everyone is not happy for me,” NeNe reveals. “However, a few of them have come to me and said I am happy for your success. But I don’t FEEL it from everyone.”

She’ll only have to tough it out one more season on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” — Leakes confirmed Season 5 will be her last on the Bravo show (no fifth-season premiere date has been set yet), as she looks toward her acting career — and her fashion career. Leakes tells me she’s launching her own fashion brand, including clothes, jewelry and housewares, and she’s also designing shoes for Kim Kardashian’s ShoeDazzle.

But who cares about your frenemies when you’re having this much fun? As they say, looking good and feeling good is the best revenge. To wit, Leakes says the old adage is true: “Yes, absolutely, I think blondes have a lot of fun,” grins the newly, boldly blonde NeNe. “And I love it.”

“The New Normal” premieres Monday, September 10, at 10/9c on NBC, with a second episode airing Tuesday at 9:30/8:30c.