10/26/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT
JOELY FISHER (Nina Fletcher)
"There's a new bitch in town," announces Joely Fisher, describing her role as Nina Fletcher, Lynette's tightly wound boss. But Nina's not "a straight-out bitch without any crack in the exterior. She's funny and flawed like the rest of them." Though Fisher, 37, has starred in Lifetime's Wild Card, people act as if Ho use wives is her big break. "I was in the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf the other morning and a guy tapped me on the arm to congratulate me," she says. "It's a phenomenon." While hoping the writers give her something "evil" to do, Fisher, whose daughter Skylar is 4, is also plotting a return to Broadway in a revival of Funny Girl. "I'm not really scared of anything," she says. "I bark at a challenge."
JULIA SWEENEY (writer)
Best known for her portrayal of gender-challenged Pat on Saturday Night Live, comedian Julia Sweeney thought it was a joke when she got the offer to write for Housewives. "I thought it was a ruse by my agent," she says. Apparently it wasn't. Turns out Housewives creator Marc Cherry had seen her 1996 one-woman show God Said, "Ha/" and had always wanted to hire her. "I love it when we talk about how mean these women will be and how far they'll go to get their goals met," says Sweeney, 45, "but I don't naturally think of those things. Sad and funny is my area, I guess." Sweeney, a cervical cancer survivor who adopted daughter Mulan, 5, is also writing a book, My Beautiful Loss of Faith Story. "I've become sort of a meaning junkie," she says. "I don't like anything that doesn't have a lot of meaning for me. And yet life is filled with things that are basically meaningless that you have to do."
SHIRLEY KNIGHT (Phyllis Van de Kamp)
Arriving just in time to battle Bree over her son's funeral, Rex's mom, Phyllis Van de Kamp, played by Oscar-nominated actress Shirley Knight, promises to be the cul-de-sac's latest fly in the ointment. "I come to Wisteria Lane and stir things up a lot," says Knight. "I have a great entrance and a great exit."