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New Role For A 'Housewife'

Felicity Huffman has a big surprise in store for her fans.

The actress is one of the stars of the hit TV series, "Desperate Housewives." Now, she has taken to the big screen, portraying a very different kind of character in the critically acclaimed, off-beat comedy, "Transamerica." In the film, she plays a man desperate to become a woman.

Huffman dropped by The Early Show Monday to talk about the movie and her career with co-anchor Rene Syler.

When Huffman sees herself playing a man, what goes through her mind? Her reply: "I just keep thinking my ears are enormous! I think two things. Whenever you watch yourself, you kind of go, 'Ow, yuck!' Then I loved that character so much that every time I see her, I go, 'Oh, sweet Brie.' "

Of the movie itself, Huffman explains, "It's a man becoming a woman. But it's sort of, oddly enough, a road movie, and a rollicking good time, and it's really funny. And it's touching, and I think it speaks to everyone.

About Brie, the character she plays, Huffman has found a lot to love.

"She's so brave," Huffman says. "She's sort of like your sweet little spinster aunt who's conservative and scared of everything and goes forward anyway, and is sort of silly in her uptight conservativeness, and she's just endearing in that way."

Huffman worked with a voice coach to lower the tone of her voice. As for mastering the way her character would move and behave, the actress says, "I read everything I could get my hands on: biographies, articles. I watched documentaries.

"Then I worked with some transgendered women," she continues. "I worked with a man who coaches men to become women. I went to transgender conventions. I worked with an acting coach. I worked with my husband. I noticed how men moved. So I did. Oddly enough, it was a journey of becoming more feminine for me."

Her husband is actor William H. Macy, who also is one of the executive producers of "Transamerica." Working with him is nothing new to Huffman, who recalls, "I worked with him from the minute I met him. So we're used to it and really good at it. He's great to be directed and produced by, and he's wonderful to act with."

Huffman has become a big star, thanks to the success of "Desperate Housewives," a phenomenon about which she says, "I couldn't be more surprised. It's like lightning striking. I've done a lot of pilots, I've done a lot of series. Short-lived, some medium-lived. I thought I was the anthrax of series. If I was in it, it was going to die a terrible death. But this one seems to have survived me being in it. It's great. I'm so happy."

Her role is that of a woman who is often overwhelmed by the duties of motherhood.

"Well," says Huffman, "I found motherhood to be so phenomenally challenging, and no one talked about it in the way that it actually is. And so I was so glad that Mark Cherry wrote a character that certainly expresses motherhood the way I experienced it."

But along with success comes scrutiny by the media, and the magazine Vanity Fair recently carried a cover story that reported all is not well among the stars of "Desperate Housewives." What did Huffman make of that?

"People have been waiting for us to fight since the minute, since before we were on the air," observes the actress. "There has always been, 'Oh, they're fighting, and they're not speaking, and she had plastic surgery, and she's mad that she did.' So every week, we're like, 'I wonder what we're doing this week.' "

So, she concludes, the Vanity Fair story "was just sort of more of the same opinion. You're like, 'Yeah, we're not getting along. We're fighting. What else is new?' All just poppycock."