Sherri Shepherd knows sitcoms.
The brassy actress/comedienne, after all, has starred in nine – yes, nine! – TV shows as a series regular before finally hitting daytime paydirt as a co-host on “The View.”
Before joining ABC’s popular chatfest, Shepherd, like most black actresses in Hollywood, was always relegated to playing the mouthy secretary or sassy best friend on such sitcoms as “Suddenly Susan,” “Less Than Perfect,” “Friends ” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
Now, the 42-year-old Chicago native is starring in a show of her own.
“Sherri” is a new Lifetime comedy premiering Monday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. In the show, Shepherd plays Sherri Robinson, a legal secretary by day and a stand-up comic by night. She is struggling to put the pieces of her life together after her philandering husband (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) cheats on her with a white woman and gets her pregnant.
The show is loosely based on Shepherd’s life and stand-up comedy. She actually worked at a law firm for eight years while waiting for her big break in show business. Shepherd admits being a sitcom star is a little daunting.
“On ‘30 Rock,’ I play Tracy Morgan’s wife – I get my zingers and I leave,” she said. “In this show, I got long monologues. I had to get used to that.”
But there are a few fringe benefits to fronting your own comedy.
“I never got to kiss (so many) men,” Shepherd said during a recent phone interview, giggling. “Every week, they got me kissing a different man, which I’m loving.”
She’s also loving working with Warner, still best known as little Theo Huxtable on the 1980s sitcom “The Cosby Show.”
But Warner is far from small these days, as Shepherd happily discovered.
“When he auditioned, I wasn’t really feeling him ‘cause I said, ‘That’s Theo,’” Shepherd recalls. “But then he walked in and he was swollen up like he had just got out of prison. And I said, ‘That’s not Theo from ‘The Cosby Show.’ When are y’all gonna write a sex scene?”
Shepherd may be laughing now, but her life was far from funny when she found out that her now ex-husband had fathered a child with another woman. The affair broke up Shepherd’s marriage and left her an emotional wreck.
Her girlfriends – especially actress Nicey Nash from Comedy Central’s “Reno 911” — ultimately lifted her spirits and self-esteem while helping Shepherd move on with her life.
“When I was going through my ‘Why me? Why me?’ bitter stage when I wanted to kill my husband, (Nicey) would stop all the foolishness,” Shepherd says.
“She would say, ‘Go put on some make-up, get that piece of hair lying on the bed, put it on, and we’re going out.’ She stopped me from (feeling like) a victim.”
Shepherd said she hopes “Sherri” will inspire other women caught on the wrong side of an adulterous triangle: “When women see it, it’s gonna make them feel good because it shows them how you get past the hurt and how you work on forgiveness and get strength.”
Despite all the drama, Shepherd remains on good terms with her ex-husband. Keep in mind, however, that he has yet to see the show. But Shepherd isn’t worried he won’t like it.
“My ex will be pretty pleased,” she said. “We show that he made a mistake, but we also show he’s a really great father. I don’t think it portrays him in a bad light.”
As for her co-hosts on “The View” popping up, Shepherd said she would gladly welcome it.
“It would be a dream come true if Ms. (Whoopi) Goldberg could grace us with her presence,” she said. “I don’t even think I would be able to do my lines. I’m throwing little hints at them so hopefully somebody will bite.”
With “The View,” “Sherri” and a film career, Shepherd is obviously a busy lady. And that’s just the way she wants it.
“This is a dream come true,” she said. “I love making people laugh and I feel incredibly blessed.”