It’s all in the ‘Fam’ for Nina Dobrev in new CBS sitcom

Actress returns to series work in CBS comedy

Nina Dobrev and Tone Bell star in “Fam,” premiering Thursday on CBS.

After her time on “The Vampire Diaries,” Nina Dobrev has earned the chance to laugh … and to get laughs.

The actress tries something new by doing comedy in front of a studio audience in “Fam,” which CBS premieres Thursday, Jan. 10. She plays Clem, whose vision of married life is clouded when her unpredictable half-sister (Odessa Adlon, a daughter of “Better Things” star Pamela Adlon) suddenly arrives to stay – forcing Clem to try to get her fiance (Tone Bell) and future in-laws (Sheryl Lee Ralph, Brian Stokes Mitchell) used to the newcomer and vice versa.

Dobrev allows that it took her a while to “get into a groove” for sitcom work. “I had done theater at my performing-arts high school, so I knew what that was like,” she says, “but it had been so long since I was in front of a live audience that, more than anything, this was about the nerves. The writers have an idea of what they want the character to be, but you have to discover it together. It’s a very collaborative process.”

As she adjusted to performing for spectators again, Dobrev was grateful to be with a sitcom alum in Bell (“Disjointed”) and stage veterans in Ralph (“Dreamgirls”) and Tony Award winner Mitchell (“Kiss Me, Kate”). “I will be the first to admit that I did need the guidance,” notes Dobrev. “I viewed this as a second college experience and hung onto every syllable they said. I definitely was a newbie.”

Nina Dobrev stars in “Fam,” premiering Thursday on CBS.

While she acknowledges that the public may not know her funnier side, Dobrev (whose birthday is the day before “Fam’s” launch) attests that “all my friends know that I will do anything for a laugh, in the most self-deprecating manner. It’s definitely something that I love, and I’m glad that I get to showcase it now.”

Movies including “Flatliners” and “Dog Days” have been among Dobrev’s credits since her six seasons as Elena (and sometimes also as Katherine) on “The Vampire Diaries.” She recalls that series with “positive, amazing memories. I remember having maybe a disagreement over a scene with Paul (Wesley) in Season 1, and he looked at me and said, ‘One day, 10 years from now, you’re gonna miss me.’ And now that the show is done, we’re probably closer to each other than anyone else (from the series).”

In prepping for “Fam,” Dobrev (who’s also in the upcoming film “Then Came You”) visited “The Big Bang Theory” and “Mom” and spoke with executive producer Chuck Lorre. She says she’s eager to do more of her new show “now that I do have that taste of a live-audience feel, and that instant gratification of laughter in the moment.”

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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