Felicity Huffman Has Arrived

<b>Lesley Stahl</b> Profiles The 'Desperate Housewives' Star

Felicity. The word means happiness. For the actress Felicity Huffman, it would seem to be the perfect name right now. She has a hit TV show, "Desperate Housewives." And she stars in a new movie that is generating Oscar talk in which she plays a man determined to be a woman. But, like most actors, Felicity Huffman remembers the unfelicitous years of struggle and unemployment. And she tells 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl she is amazed at how things have changed.

Until recently, Huffman says she wasn't recognized as a television star, but that has changed. "The last month people have recognized me, month and a half," Huffman says.

Does she like it? "It doesn't happen that often," she says. When asked if she can still do an every-day task like grocery shopping, she says "Oh, God, totally."

"At the same time, I was in Barney's and someone came and tapped me on the shoulder and I was like, 'Here it comes.' And I turned around. She goes, 'Could you tell me where the gloves and scarves are, please?' " Huffman recalls, laughing. "And I thought, 'At least I look like I work at Barney's. I'm lookin' good.'"

At 43, Felicity Huffman finds her career finally looking good. She won an Emmy for "Desperate Housewives" last September. She also garnered two Golden Globe nominations last month: one for "Housewives" and one for her movie "Transamerica."

It's the story of a man, Stanley, who's in the process of becoming a woman, Bree, through a sex change operation.

It's a role Huffman tackles with great humanity. She studied for the part by going to conventions of trans-gendered people. And, as they often do, she took voice lessons.

"The hormones don't change your voice," Huffman explains. "When you take estrogen … it doesn't raise your voice. I mean, you can look like Kate Moss and sound like James Earl Jones."

She learned everything she could about the sex change process.

"I learned femininity like a foreign language. You know, it's not this, it's not this kind of walk," she says, demonstrating how a guy walks.

And how does a guy learn to walk like a woman?

"You learn, well, what should I do with my shoulders? Well, hold them back. What do I with my arms? Well, suck them in so they don't look big. And, so, you walk like that," Huffman says, showing how her character, Bree, walks.

All the praise she has been getting for "Transamerica" is sweet vindication for someone who spent a long time as a desperate actress.

In the years before "Desperate Housewives," Huffman was in a lot of TV shows, that she says "died young."

"Great shows that we shot and never went anywhere. So I thought that that was sort of, that I was the … that I was the cursed one," she says.

She starred in "Sports Night," a great show that never found a big audience. Over the years she had cameo roles on, among others, "Law & Order," and "Frasier."

She was never out of work for long, but she was never quite a star, either — until "Housewives" came along.

Huffman admits she was insecure about the show. "I thought I was going to get fired. I really did."