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Nina Dobrev Explains How Rachel From Friends Inspired Her Character on Fam

Nina Dobrev Fam Interview

After six years of pining over vampires — and occasionally playing one — on The CW, Nina Dobrev is returning to TV in a new CBS sitcom, marking a significant (and intentional) shift in her career. 

“The reason I took the show when the opportunity presented itself was that it was so different from anything I’d ever done before,” the former Vampire Diaries star tells TVLine. “It was also scary, which only made me want to do it more. Anything that’s challenging and scares the s–t out of me is exciting. The laugh lines on my face are getting deeper and deeper, and I couldn’t be happier about it.”

On Fam, which premieres tonight at 9:30/8:30c, Dobrev plays Clem, a city girl whose plans for a perfect future with her fiancé Nick (played by Disjointed‘s Tone Bell) are impeded by the unexpected arrival of her estranged half-sister (Nashville‘s Odessa Adlon), who immediately makes herself at home. Clem’s deadbeat dad (The Good Fight‘s Gary Cole) also re-enters her life, which would be OK… if Clem hadn’t told her fiancé that her father was dead. Oops?

But while there’s no denying that Clem’s family is a hot mess, Dobrev says the show carries an underlying message of “accepting people for who they are and loving everything about them,” especially when they’re — wait for it — fam.

In preparing for her first TV sitcom, Dobrev visited the sets of fellow CBS comedies The Big Bang Theory and Mom (just two days after star Allison Janney scored an Oscar!) to watch sitcom veterans in action, but Dobrev says it still took some time to adjust to the unfamiliar format.

“I’ve grown so much,” she says looking back at the season, which has wrapped filming. “I was terrified when we filmed that first episode, but as the season progressed I got much more comfortable and really began to understand who Clem is. She evolves a lot as the season goes on. If you like the pilot, it only gets better from there.”

Part of Clem’s constant evolution is her “vibe and aesthetic,” for which Dobrev drew inspiration from Jennifer Aniston’s character on Friends. “We told the wardrobe designer that we wanted the looks to be effortless,” she says, “kind of like Rachel’s were.”

The show’s first season leads up to Clem and Nick’s wedding, though she says we’ll have to wait and see “whether or not they go through with it.” (Ruh-roh.) But if things do go south for the TV couple, at least Dobrev’s real-life fam got to share in the fun of Clem’s big day; her mom joined her for Clem’s dress fitting at Monique Lhuillier.

“It really felt like I was getting married,” Dobrev says. “I made the joke on Instagram, ‘I’ve got the dress… now I just need the husband.'”