Katrina Bowden’s first on-camera work was in educational videos. “You know those films they make you watch in school about bullying?” says the 26-year-old actress. “But I was always cast as the bully — the mean girl.” It’s a testament to Bowden’s range that she couldn’t be further from a mean girl in real life, and she’s spent the past decade upending stereotypes as the far-from-dumb blonde Cerie on 30 Rock and now as a mysteriously multi-layered call girl named Fortune on Ed Burns’ new 1960s NYPD drama Public Morals (debuting on TNT Aug. 25 at 10 pm). Bowden spoke with Playboy about how she’s busted out of typecasting.

What appealed to you about the character of Fortune?
She’s a little more innocent and sweet than your typical prostitute character. She’s someone you like even though she has an iffy career. But you don’t really know if she’s lying most of the time. It’s a really interesting character. She’s not just one type of person. She’s the girl who wants to have a normal relationship and life, but she chose a path where that’s really hard to have.

She has a romance with Michael Rapaport’s character, who’s a vice cop. Are her feelings for him real?
There are definitely feelings. She likes him and thinks it could be nice having him around, but at the same time, she’s not sure she wants to have a cop around.

What have you learned from working with Ed Burns?
I love how he’s a do-it-yourself film and TV maker. He created the show, wrote and directed all the episodes and starred in it. That’s really inspiring to me, when someone can do all those things well.

Do you enjoy all the period costumes, makeup and hair?
I absolutely love it. It’s so glamorous. There’s something about this hair and makeup and putting on this wardrobe that really transports you to that era.

Cerie was always saying mean things on 30 Rock yet she remained likable. How did you manage that feat?
She was the perfect foil for Liz Lemon. She could deliver a snarky one-liner that made Liz feel old or out-of-touch with a smile. Cerie said a lot of mean things, but the funny part was that she never realized what she was saying was mean.

But she wasn’t dumb…
No, she was kind of flighty. She was definitely educated. I’ve met people like this, who have no street sense. They’ll say something rude and not even realize it. Her concept of age and what’s cool and what’s not cool was so inflated. She just thought of things differently.

You were 17 when you started on the show. What was it like working with Tina Fey at such a young age?
I was really new at acting, and to have someone like her around me was really amazing. She does it all, like Ed Burns does, with grace and a sense of humor. And she stays normal. She can do no wrong in the public eye. Everybody loves her. I couldn’t have asked for a better role model.

Currently Senior Articles Editor for Closer Weekly, Bruce Fretts has written for The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide, Fast Company, Emmy, and Vulture.com. You can follow him on Twitter @brucefretts.