11/04/2008 at 04:00 PM EST
Lisa Bonet's return to television in a recurring role on the ABC cop drama Life on Mars
wasn't easy for the press-shy actress.
"To have my face reinstated in minds and homes once a week was an intense decision," says the star, who achieved fame early in life on the hit Cosby Show
The paparazzi's interest her in family has been one of the downsides to being back in the public eye. Bonet, 41, has a 16-month-old daughter Lola with boyfriend, actor Jason Momoa (Stargate Atlantis
), and is expecting their second child in January.
"It feels like you're being stalked," she says. "As a shy person, that type of attention coming at me violates something. I don't like that it's expected to come with the territory."
Bonet does have a lighthearted complaint about some other media attention. She'd like to debunk the widespread rumor that she also has a son. "I don't have three children already," she says. "I always hear that I do … Apparently, there's some young child locked in a basement," she quips. "I don't dwell on that stuff, but that comes to mind.”
Motherhood is definitely a priority for Bonet, who describes herself as "a hands-on mom."
"A parent's hope is to pass on wisdom so they don't repeat the same mistakes you did," she says. "You want a better life for them."
As for why she decided to sign on for a the new role, despite some reservations about the attention she'd be getting, she says, "You know, I guess it all has to do with the stars lining up and it being the right time and the right project.'
A happy love life also helped. "Having a mate has given me that feeling of safety," she adds.
For more on Lisa Bonet, pick up PEOPLE on newsstands FridayRELATED ARTICLES:
2000: Catch up with Lisa & more stars of The Cosby Show!
Find out who immortalized Lisa in song!
Read more about TV's most-loved casts!