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Chelsea Handler is not herself in 'Are You There, Chelsea?'

January 6, 2012 |  4:21 pm

NBC's new series "Are You There, Chelsea?" is based on Chelsea Handler's books of humorous essays based on her wild life. Handler has a recurring role in the sitcom, but she's not playing herself — she's playing her sister. Laura Prepon is playing a younger version of Chelsea Handler, and has several scenes with the real Chelsea.

Got it?

Handler, Prepon and the producers of the series acknowledge that there might be a bit of head-scratching about the show during their session at the NBC portion of the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena.

"Everyone was a bit confused at first, but we're doing promos and I think we're doing a good job of getting the word out," said Prepon, who is best known for her starring role on "That '70s Show."

"Are You There, Chelsea?" stars Prepon as the twentysomething Chelsea, a brash, fun-loving cocktail  waitress who "lives life to its fullest," with the help of her friends, colleagues and family. Handler, who is also an executive producer of the series, plays Chelsea's sister Sloane, who is a conservative new mother who has little in common with her more carefree sister.

Handler says the series' Chelsea is inspired by her but is a softer version.

"I was a lot angrier than she was," said Handler. "I was just barreling through life with no rhyme or reason. There is an essence of that, but we also license Laura to do what she wanted with the character." She quipped, "I like myself much better than her."

Tom Werner, who produced several groundbreaking series during his time with Carsey-Werner, compared the Chelsea character to the main character in "Roseanne." "She's not sweet. She's brave and unapologetic." 

Even though the character is based on her, Handler never considered taking on the role of Chelsea. She's too busy hosting her late-night "Chelsea Lately" on E!, producing other series such as "After Lately," doing comedy concerts around the country and writing books.

"I didn't have time to star in my own show," she said. "I really like my E! show. I like being under the radar."

Lenny Clarke, who plays Chelsea's father, praised Handler for juggling so many projects. "Plus, she's hot!" he proclaimed.

Not missing a beat, Chandler told Clarke she was not having sex with him. Her actual words were much cruder.


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Photo: Chelsea Handler (3rd from left in front row) and Laura Prepon (4th from left in front row) with the cast and crew of "Are You There, Chelsea?" Credit: Chris Haston / NBC