Marisol Nichols knows how to make people cry, but how to laugh? Well, she's been working on that.

Best known for her dramatic work in such series as "24," "The Gates" and "Blind Justice," the 38-year-old actress has been stretching her comedic muscles in her latest TV series, "GCB," which debuts at 9 p.m. Sunday on ABC.

"It's so fun," Nichols, who grew up in Rogers Park and Naperville, told me while visiting Chicago over Thanksgiving. "It's ridiculous. It's also fun just being ridiculous. I had to tell [a scene partner] the other day, 'I'm going to make a complete ass out of myself, just go with me.'"

Based on the book "Good Christian Bitches," the hour-long comedy follows former high school mean girl Amanda Vaughn (Leslie Bibb), who after losing her husband returns home to Dallas with her two kids to rebuild her life. She moves in with her smothering mother, Gigi (Annie Potts), and faces the former schoolmates she terrorized in high school.

Nichols plays Heather Cruz, an outsider back in high school who welcomes Amanda, but faces the wrath of Dallas society ladies for it. The ringleader of this twisted coven is Carlene Cockburn (Kristin Chenoweth), who rules over Cricket Caruth-Reilly (Miriam Shor) and Sharon Peacham (Jennifer Aspen).

Needlesss to say, these belles--OK, bitches--want to make her life miserable in many hilarious ways.

"Out of all the bitches, I'm the nicest one," Nichols said. "But there's a bite there, and you'll see it. She and Carlene get to throw down a lot, which is really, really fun."

Long before the cast even began shooting the series, it caught flack for its original title, which was the same as the book. ABC changed the name to "Good Christian Belles" before settling on the vaguer "GCB." ("Now you can decide," Nichols cracked.) But controversy still swirled around the show because many watchdogs claimed it would slam Christians.

That's not the case, Nichols said.

"Give it a chance," she said. "We sort of walk a line, but it's not disrespectful because Kristin and Annie are both Christian and they would never do this if it was. But it definitely points out some hypocritical issues that happen along that line."

Those hypocritical issues fuel a lot of the comedy in the series, which some viewers still may find offensive. "It goes way down different paths that I'm amazed ABC let us get a way with," Nichols said. "It's juicy and delicious."

Challenging as comedy is for her, Nichols said working with the comedy pros in the cast is a blast.

"These are all funny, funny women," she said. "We were really kind of fortunate that we all have really good chemistry with each other."

In the video above, Nichols gives us her 5 reasons to watch "GCB."