The movie, which received a People's Choice Award on Sunday for best comedy film and is a Golden Globe nominee, is the basis of the CBS series "My Big Fat Greek Life," debuting next month.
The sitcom will reflect a more contemporary sensibility than the movie's "old world" feel because watching TV is a different experience than watching a movie, Vardalos told the Television Critics Association.
"In a movie theater, you accept the reality given you. ... When you're in a living room, surrounded by 2003 appliances and your 2003 wife," a show has to be more accessible, she said.
The series also will focus on more than her character's love life, Vardalos said.
"You can't just carbon-copy something. We have to be creatively interested in what we're doing," she said.
Vardalos starred in the romantic comedy as Toula, a single woman whose Greek-American family is appalled when she falls for a guy who isn't Greek. The series picks up after their marriage, with Vardalos' character renamed Nia.
There's no danger of running out of material, Vardalos said. "I have one conversation with my dad on the phone and I get an idea for a sequel."
"My Big Fat Greek Life" will debut on Feb. 24 at 9:30 p.m. EST and move to its regular 8 p.m. EST Sunday slot on March 2.
Most of the movie's cast is returning, including Lainie Kazan and Michael Constantine as her parents and Andrea Martin as Aunt Voula. John Corbett, who played her beau, was committed to the upcoming FX series "Lucky," and is replaced in the series by Steven Eckholdt, whose TV credits include "Melrose Place" and "Providence."
Actress Rita Wilson, who's Greek-American, helped bring Vardalos' one-woman play to the big screen and is an executive producer on the TV series.
Wilson said she'll guest star on the show. Would her husband, Tom Hanks, also make an appearance?
"He's going to have to go through the casting couch, too," she said, picking up on a joke Vardalos made about using her husband, actor Ian Gomez, in the movie and the show.
Vardalos called the People's Choice award "fantastic" and said she was excited about the prospect of other honors — although she's tried to convince herself the box-office success is enough. The independent film has brought in more than $200 million, making it the fifth-highest grossing film of 2002 behind such blockbusters as "Spider-Man" and the second "Harry Potter" movie.
"I'm not going to pretend we're not thrilled" with the attention, she said.
The exuberant Vardalos, asked about being a role model for women who aren't rail-thin, said she hoped women of all sizes would be accepted. She also offered a comic jab at the double-standard regarding the sexes on weight.
"Russell Crowe is fat. Nobody ever talks about that," she said. Jack Nicholson "comes into a room 10 minutes before his head does," she added.