* THE ODD COUPLE. 8:30 p.m. Thursday, CBS3.

ACTRESS Yvette Nicole Brown has a new show, a new look and an off-camera life that means a lot to her.

And that life, which includes caring for a father with dementia as well as her own fight against Type 2 diabetes, has taken the former "Community" star to CBS' reboot of "The Odd Couple," where she plays Dani, the assistant to sports-radio host Oscar Madison (Matthew Perry).

In Thursday's Dani-centric episode, Oscar and his finicky roomate Felix Unger (Thomas Lennon) will try to help her find a boyfriend so she won't be solo at her high school reunion.

Although her character was, as she put it, "wedged" into the pilot at the last minute, subsequent episodes "use the entire ensemble really well, so there's a lot of all of us," said Brown, after a CBS press conference in January.

Ratings so far have been healthy - following "The Big Bang Theory" doesn't hurt - but Brown takes pains to point out that her request to be released from "Community" was made for personal reasons, not professional ones, and that she didn't have the second job when she left the first.

("Community," after five seasons on NBC, makes its debut online at Yahoo Screen on March 17.)

Working on "The Odd Couple," which, unlike the single-camera "Community," is shot in front of a studio audience, means working "like 25 hours a week, as opposed to 80," Brown said.

"What's amazing to me is that you can make a choice for the family, and God can bless you," she said. "We shoot five minutes from my house. I can go home and see my dad at lunch, make sure he's OK, you know, bring him back with me if I want to. He can come to the tapings. It's just an easier, more relaxing type of environment. And he needs me."

It also may be easy for the rest of us to assume that actors all have "people" to handle life's heavy lifting.

"I don't have any people," Brown said. "It's me and my dad, in a house. I'm the one who gives him his medication, I'm the one who cooks his food, I'm the one that makes sure he's OK. If he's having a tough day, I get up and sit with him.

"He's my dad. This is my journey, with my dad. And if it ever comes a time where I can't care for him, I will get help. But I don't know of a time when he wouldn't be with me . . . And so this is my offering. He was there for me."

Her approach to weight loss is equally matter of fact.

"It is nice to be able to shed a little of Shirley, but . . . I got diagnosed with diabetes, so I had to put the doughnuts down and start getting on the treadmill," Brown said.

"Before I eat something now, I go, 'Is it worth your feet? Is it worth your feet? Do you want to walk? Or do you want to eat that?' And I kind of want to walk. And also, having my dad, I want to live longer. I have to take care of him so I have to take care of me."

"This wasn't about vanity, this was about health," she said. "And I want to make it clear to those who are rocking the [size] 16s like I was [that] 16s are great. Like rock it, if that's you. And if I hadn't gotten diabetes, I wouldn't have lost a pound."

Even a change of hairstyle is about doing less, not more.

"This is actually my own hair, finally. I'm being myself," she said. "I'm just letting my own hair do what it wants to do, and it wants to be wild and crazy."

Her "Odd Couple" character is a tad less conservative than Shirley, the mother and student she played on "Community," and maybe a bit more outspoken, too.

"I'm really surprised Dani keeps her job," said Brown. "She's really very opinionated. I will say this: Out of everyone I've played in my life as an actor, Dani is the closest to me. She has my voice.

"Because Shirley didn't sound like me, Helen [from Nickelodeon's "Drake & Josh"] didn't sound like me. Dani sounds like me . . . She's the one I'm willing to give my hair to, my voice to."

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