Over 25 years into her TV career, you would think that nothing could shock Sara Rue. But even with a long list of memorable roles on shows like Popular and Less Than Perfect under her belt, the actress's latest project still managed to throw her for a loop. That would be TV Land's new series Impastor (premiering tonight at 10:30 p.m. EST), a single-camera comedy about an identity thief, Buddy Dobbs (played by Michael Rosenbaum), who poses as a small town’s gay pastor. Rue plays Dora Winston, the conservative-dressing assistant to Rosenbaum’s faux preacher, and she revealed on a recent visit to InStyle's New York offices why you may be shocked by the series.
“The show is much edgier than what you think you’d see on TV Land,” says the 36-year-old, whose character is the one who sets the show’s main storyline in motion. “She really wants to bring the church into modern times and create a feeling of acceptance within the town folk, so she hires an openly gay pastor to take over,” Rue explains. Unfortunately, it seems that Dora didn’t do a thorough enough background check.
Although Rue's character may be in the dark when it comes to the deceitful new “pastor,” she also probably couldn’t handle the aftermath if the secret came to light. “She’s really dedicated to doing what’s right for her little suburban town and her church,” Rue says, describing the series as “a kind of comedy version of The Americans.” But while it may bring the laughs, Impastor still packs plenty of drama. “Every episode ends with a cliffhanger about a murder," says Rue. "The episodes just keep getting darker.”
The show's grittier nature was a major bonus for Rue, who kicked her career into high gear with 1999's Popular before landing memorable guest spots on Chuck Lorre-produced comedies like Two and A Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, and, most recently, Mom. But this time around, things are different—and that's largely thanks to the series' anything-goes script. “We curse, and there’s sex and drugs—it definitely gets a little down and dirty,” says Rue. “We can pretty much say anything we want, and they’ll just bleep us out and go with it. That’s been really exciting for me, because I’ve never been allowed to do that before on network TV.”
While she may not have been able to drop expletives as the doctor girlfriend of Johnny Galecki’s character on The Big Bang Theory, Rue still enjoyed her time on that set, and for good reason: the one and only Sheldon Cooper—or rather, his real life counterpart. “Big Bang Theory was probably my favorite [guest star role], because I became—and stayed—really good friends with Jim Parsons, and I adore his boyfriend, [Todd Spiewak],” Rue says of the An Act of God Broadway star. “It’s always nice when you make a life-long friend somewhere.”
And Parsons isn’t the only one that Rue has stayed tight with over the years. She's guest starred in many of Lorre's series, and it turns out that she and the producer go way, way back. “I did an episode of Roseanne when I was 13, and he was on that show—but I didn’t even know that until he told me later on,” she said. Most recently, Lorre tapped Rue to star on Mom, playing the "patronizing" new girlfriend of Anna Faris’s character’s ex-husband. But while she certainly pulled off her condescending character on Mom, Rue is anything but demeaning on Impastor. "My character represents the happy and lighter side of the show's small town,” she says. “She’s a victim of circumstance and is just the voice of reason—and I love that."
Check out the show’s trailer below, and tune into TV Land at 10:30 p.m. EST tonight to watch for the series premiere.