PASADENA, Calif. — Megan Mullally likes to make a big old mess for other people to clean up.
"I think what works for me (on a comic level) is when I play someone who comes in and (messes) up everything," says the Emmy-winning actress best known as the outrageous Karen Walker on "Will & Grace." "I'm good with that."
The producers of "Breaking In," a relatively low-rated Fox sitcom from 2011 being given another chance to succeed, knew that. They came to her and offered a role to shake things up, and she jumped at the chance — though she had never seen the show.
"I was starting from Ground Zero with this," says Mullally, 53. "I've been having fun doing guest spots ... but I figured it would be nice to have a regular gig."
It's not like she needed the work. If anything, Mullally is spreading herself all over these days.
She has recurring roles on three prime-time comedies this season — NBC's "Up All Night" and "Parks and Recreation" as well as ABC's "Happy Endings." That doesn't include her regular role on the bizarre medical comedy "Children's Hospital" for the Cartoon Network's spin-off channel Adult Swim.
And in between all of this, she's completed two independent films, "Gay Dude" and "Somebody Up There Likes Me," both of which co-star her husband, Nick Offerman, who plays the conservative Ron Swanson on "Parks and Recreation."
"Breaking In" centers on a team working at a high-tech security company that takes on unusual cases. Christian Slater stars as the company's owner, Oz.
The introduction of Mullally as Veronica Mann shakes up the premise by shifting the focus to office interplay and a potential love interest.
"They originally pitched it to me (and said) they wanted a foil for Christian's character," she says. "They said it would be a little like 'Moonlighting,' but I don't know if it will go that way or not."
Long before "Will & Grace" made her a TV star, Mullally was a theater talent. In 1994, she co-starred in "Grease" with Rosie O'Donnell and, in 1995, in "How To Succeed In Business" with Matthew Broderick. All that led to "Will & Grace" and the roles she's doing now.
The daughter of a model and an actor, Mullally grew up in a show business world, though she moved with her family to Indiana when she was six. She studied English at Northwestern University but found acting to be her passion.
In the decade or so she's been working steadily in television, she's seen changes in the way actors approach their work. Now, improvising is allowed, something that Mullally, who worked in improvisational comedy before her career took off, relishes.
"Ten years ago, if you improvised or went off script, you'd be fired," she says. "Now, they like it. The writers are real comedy nerds."
With "Breaking In," she figures she's had some experience the part didn't require.
"I have had to break into my own home before," she says with a laugh. "I guess that qualifies me for the part, too."
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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