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The actress and comedian Niecy Nash does not do things halfway, which means her new reality show - starting Sunday - may be really over the top. But it's a family show. Nash says she wants it to be a real-life modern family. It's a show about Nash's own family. NPR's Neda Ulaby talked to Nash in Los Angeles about blurring the lines between her private life and public persona.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Niecy Nash pushed every stereotype about black lady cops to the max when she was on the comedy show "Reno 911!".

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "RENO 9/11!")

NIECY NASH: (as Deputy Raineesha Williams) Don't hate, ladies. Don't hate...

ULABY: It was a spoof of police procedurals with ridiculously incompetent officers flummoxed by problems like a stray chicken on the loose.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "RENO 9/11!")

NASH: (as Deputy Raineesha Williams) Stop, chicken. Stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as character) Get it, Suzy. Look out.

ULABY: Then Niecy Nash perched a flower in her hair and hosted a reality show about shockingly messy houses.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "CLEAN HOUSE")

NASH: What is all of this?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: This is an accumulation of all my shopping.

NASH: I'm sorry. You almost sound proud.

ULABY: When Nash got married on TV last year, the show was an unexpected hit for cable channel TLC.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "NIECEY NASH'S WEDDING BASH")

NASH: I'm getting married.

ULABY: Almost 5 million people tuned in - enough for TLC to offer Nash her own reality show about her new blended family.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LEAVE IT TO NIECY")

NASH: You try blending my three kids, my outspoken mother, my gorgeous husband, his son and yours truly and see if you're the picture of happiness.

ULABY: In a typical scene, the three teenagers act out when Nash and her husband try to convince everyone to go on a family bike ride.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LEAVE IT TO NIECY")

NASH: What happened to honor your mother and your father? What about half a glass of act right and do what you're told?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: That's not in the Bible.

NASH: It's the book of Niecy.

ULABY: Niecy Nash met me in a hotel in the middle of Hollywood, slinky in a zebra-striped top and high heels the color of bright red lipstick. She grew up in Southern California, a performer from day one.

NASH: Ive known for quite a while that I was a funny girl, but it wasn't rewarded, you know? So I got pinched in church. I got the notes sent home from school from the teacher.

ULABY: And she was uncertain about how to channel her big personality and impeccable comic timing until her brother was shot and killed accidentally in the hallway of his high school.

NASH: My mother was so depressed, and she said, I'm getting into bed, and I'm never getting up.

ULABY: Nash was in her early 20s. She felt helpless. All she could think to do was try to make her mom laugh.

NASH: So I would go to the foot of my mother's bed every day, tell her jokes, stories, do characters. And my mother went from laying down in the bed to sitting up in the bed. I got my peanuts and my water, go on and get up there and do your rendition of things.

ULABY: That's when Nash realized comedy could be meaningful.

NASH: It didn't completely heal my mother, but I saw it serve as a spackle or a salve, at piecemealing her back together.

ULABY: With her new show, "Leave It To Niecy," Nash wants to show the hard work of piecemealing a new family together.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LEAVE IT TO NIECY")

NASH: One of the challenges is the fact that the kids do not think Jay is cool.

JAY TUCKER: Boss, the plane.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: What?

NASH: So we're not quite a blended family. We're in the blender. I just need to turn it on.

ULABY: Before she let cameras in her house, Nash says everyone sat around the table, including her ex-husband, and decided collectively to put the family on TV.

NASH: I would draw the line if my children were challenged by something. I wouldn't want to embarrass them, you know, in front of the world.

ULABY: But Nash admits that's happened before. Here's her daughter Donyelle in the wedding special.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "NIECEY NASH'S WEDDING BASH")

DONYELLE: Being the daughter of Niecy Nash is a little embarrassing, you know, because my mom is the one who wore the fake butt on TV.

ULABY: OK. Let me explain the fake butt. In the "Reno 911!" movie five years ago, Nash's costume included a massive prosthetic bottom displayed in a tiny bright blue thong. Then she wore it in public, to the premiere, as a gag.

NASH: I wore the booty to the red carpet. I wasn't even thinking.

ULABY: Pictures of the booty popped up all over. Nash got criticized by people who felt she was perpetuating African-American stereotypes. She says it did not even occur to her that anyone would care besides her fellow cast members, who were in on the joke.

NASH: So I didn't have the wherewithal to discuss with my family then. My hindsight is 20/20, so I realize now that we do need to have conversations if there's something that I'm going to do that could affect them. Who are these little kids at your school watching "Reno 911!"? They don't even need to be watching that anyway. That's hindsight. You know what I mean? We saw your momma's booty. What? Who said that? Oh, shoot, maybe I should have told you I was doing it.

ULABY: Before the new show started, Nash sent her kids to counseling preemptively to spare them and herself any more fame-related pitfalls.

NASH: I'm a work in progress. You know, my kids didn't come with instructions, so I got to - and neither did this business. So when I put the two of them together, I got to take it a little bit at a time.

ULABY: Nash believes there's drama and plenty of it in exploring how people learn how to love each other. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

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