'Animal Practice': JoAnna Garcia Swisher holds her own with Justin Kirk and Crystal the monkey

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Now more than ever, JoAnna Garcia Swisher knows it takes "Practice" to be a series star.

The wife of New York Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher previously was a regular on "Reba," "Privileged" and "Better With You." Also following a guest arc on "Gossip Girl," she resumes weekly work as NBC gives the fall sitcom "Animal Practice" an early premiere Sunday, Aug. 12 ... also the night the network televises the closing ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Garcia Swisher plays the new boss at a veterinary clinic where the main doctor ( Justin Kirk, "Weeds") gets along much better with animals than with people, including the woman he now must answer to.

"I knew what I was hoping to bring to it," the actress tells Zap2it, "and I was very blessed to have such a creative and collaborative team behind me." That includes executive producers Anthony and Joe Russo of "Arrested Development" fame.

The regular run of "Animal Practice" begins Wednesday, Sept. 26, and its nonhuman stars make it fortunate Garcia Swisher is fond of animals anyway.

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"I'm obsessed with them," she says, "and that was also a huge draw of this for me. At one point, I think I had collected 11 animals; I'm a little bit of a rescuer, so anything that needs a home finds its way to me, which is fine. Now we have four dogs, and I still have a horse and a goat, so I'm very animal-friendly."

Garcia Swisher's route to the fall season has taken her through all of the Big Three networks: She had deals for ABC and CBS pilots that ultimately weren't picked up, leaving her free when the makers of "Animal Practice" recast the female lead.

joanna-garcia-swisher-animal-practice-2-325.jpg"It was very unusual, and a little awkward, to be honest," she says of refilming scenes initially done with another actress. "At the end of the day, though, I thought the script was great, and I was really eager to do it. Life's too short, and you have to put yourself out there sometimes, even if it's a little uncomfortable."

Comedy work clearly appeals to the lively Garcia Swisher, but she reports "Animal Practice" is "single-camera, so it's closer to 'Privileged' than to 'Reba' or 'Better With You.' I really love both styles, though. I appreciate the aspect of performing in front of a live audience, but I also love being to able to tackle one scene every day, put it to bed and move forward."

The time-tested theory of opposites attracting also gets another workout in "Animal Practice," and Garcia Swisher cites fellow star Kirk as "so kind and generous, and he was so open and welcoming to me. You really feel grateful for that as an actor, and on top of that, he's excruciatingly talented. And very charming."

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Still being seen on "Reba" in weekday repeats on both ABC Family and Country Music Television, Garcia Swisher is "so happy" title star Reba McEntire also returns to series work this fall, in ABC's "Malibu Country." She's also content that husband Swisher is at the peak of baseball season while she's starting her new show.

"It's sort of what our life has been like since we met," she says of their simultaneously active careers, "and it's the easiest thing we've ever done. Somehow it just works for us, and I feel very blessed to have him. The highs are so much higher with him in my life, and the lows aren't as low. He's truly my No. 1, and in our relationship and our lives, he is the most important thing to me."
Photo/Video credit: NBC