NEW YORK (AP) - This summer, fans of Callie Thorne are in for a treat.
She will soon be returning with Denis Leary in his firehouse drama "Rescue Me" on FX for its seventh and final season. She also stars in her own new USA series, "Necessary Roughness," premiering Wednesday at 10 p.m. EDT.
The only hitch: When "Rescue Me" returns to the air July 13, it will go head-to-head with "Necessary Roughness" in the very same time slot.
That could pose a slight dilemma, even for Thorne, who anticipates "trying to decide what I'm going to watch at 10 o'clock on Wednesday night - and which one I'm going to TiVo. Verrry interesting." And she triggers her plummy guffaw.
On "Necessary Roughness," Thorne plays Dr. Dani Santino, a happily wed mother of two teens and a successful psychotherapist on Long Island in New York. Then she discovers that her husband has been cheating. The marriage is kaput.
As a suddenly single mom, Dani has to tackle life as the family's sole breadwinner. She gets her chance after meeting cute with the trainer for the New York Hawks pro football team. Matt (Marc Blucas) arranges for her to counsel bad-boy wide receiver Terrance "TK" King (Mehcad Brooks), who, on top of his off-the-field shenanigans, has developed a bad habit of dropping the football.
Can she help TK with his mental game? And can she kick her misgivings about Nico, the Hawks mystery man (Scott Cohen) whose murky job seems that of a round-the-clock fixer?
Even though Thorne's two shows will coexist on the airwaves this summer, she wrapped production on "Rescue Me" a year ago - and not without some sorrow and angst.
"Briefly, I was thinking, 'I'll never work again! I'll never laugh again!' I got a little melodramatic," she chuckles. "Denis and the boys in the cast had become as close to family as they possibly could."
Even so, Thorne needn't have worried about working again.
At 5 feet, 3 inches, she is sexy and vivacious - an actress who can play vulnerable or tough or, when called for, colorfully unhinged.
The 41-year-old Boston native has logged an impressive list of credits, starting with NBC's "Homicide: Life on the Street," the acclaimed 1990s police drama in which she played Detective Laura Ballard. Returning to Baltimore a few years later, she had a recurring role on HBO's celebrated drama "The Wire" as the wife of Detective Jimmy McNulty (series star Dominic West).
She scored story arcs on "ER" and "Prison Break," and guest roles on series including "Burn Notice" and "Californication."
Since 2004, she's been a key part of "Rescue Me." She plays Sheila Keefe, who on 9/11 lost her husband, Jimmy, who was the cousin, best friend and a fellow firefighter of Tommy Gavin (Leary). Tommy then began a tempestuous affair with Jimmy's widow, further inflaming her manic-depressive tendencies, and further heating up the show's tragicomic tone.
With such a resume, no wonder Thorne landed "Necessary Roughness." Its pilot was shot last fall. Then filming for the series began in May.
The show is based in Atlanta, where summer is famously sweltering, "while we're all dressed in fall clothing," Thorne shudders. "The idea of the show is, it's eternal fall - perfect football weather. I've got these gorgeous suede jackets. Hopefully, I don't look like I'm sweating."
The character Thorne plays is inspired by real-life Dr. Donna Dannenfelser, who is a former mental health clinician for the New York Jets and serves as the series' supervising producer.
"I'm less interested in mimicking her than representing her honestly - her spirit and her energy," Thorne says.
Techniques used by "Dr. Donna" include hypnotherapy, but Thorne says her research hasn't included getting hypnotized by Dannenfelser. Not yet, anyway.
"In the past, I tried it to quit smoking, and it worked," Thorne reports. "But even though Dr. Donna hasn't hypnotized me, she has helped me incredibly in terms of talking through my anxieties about being the lead of this show, instead of just being one in an ensemble.
"I have always thrived in an ensemble cast - coming in a couple of days a week, working really hard, then checking out until the next script arrives. Before now, I don't know if I could have been the person who is there from morning until night, in every single scene on every day. It's really scary being No. 1 on the call sheet, and she has helped me tremendously, just through conversation."
One reassuring insight: Thorne views herself as still part of a team.
"Though my character is the connection to all the other characters, this show feels like an ensemble show to me. It's not called 'Dr. Dani'! Thank goodness!"
EDITOR'S NOTE - Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at email@example.com and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier