Special to The Times

MOST Hollywood actresses won't tackle their "Raging Bull" moment until they've established their actual comely credentials somewhere on record. Minnie Driver is not most actresses. Thirteen years ago, she launched her film career as the chubby, awkward girl least likely to snare the cute boy in "Circle of Friends," garnering stellar reviews. In 1998, she received a supporting actress Oscar nomination for "Good Will Hunting" along with Matt Damon as sometime boyfriend.

A decade later, she is not only a recording artist, now out with a second, self-penned album, "Seastories," she is also earning even more accolades -- for FX's "The Riches," in which husband-and-wife con artists (known as travelers) Dahlia (Driver) and Wayne Malloy (fellow Brit Eddie Izzard) assume a dead couple's middle-class lives while juggling three children. Last year, Driver was Emmy-nominated for the role as lead actress in a drama series. This year, she's expecting her first child right around award time


Season 2 of "The Riches" ended last month. Are you busy now on your "babymoon"?

Sort of. I'm in boiling London watching my naked nephew eating his first coconut and running through the sprinklers. I'm here on tour [for "Seastories"] then I'm making "Motherhood" with Uma Thurman for a couple of weeks in New York.


Are you worried your water's going to break on Uma's shoes?

Oh, God. That would be awful. I'm going to be sort of nodding off before takes as it is. I've become vaguely narcoleptic since I've been pregnant.


What's the news on "The Riches" Season 3?

It's up in the air because we've been completely scuppered this year by the writers strike. I pray they give us another season so we'll have a fair shot at really developing our audience. The people who have discovered it love it with a compelling passion.


What about Dahlia grabbed you initially?

She's a million miles away from me, and her unpredictability. I like that she's constantly on tenterhooks, on the edge but trying to be a serious parent. All these things are in conflict, plus she's funny and caustic, but also vulnerable and sort of pathetic.


Season 2 was perceptibly darker in tone and saw Dahlia, previously full of bravado, becoming quite unhinged. How was that to play?

Magnificent. But the pilot was way darker than the first season turned out. I think they got nervous and felt, "It's too dark, it's not going to connect." So we lightened it up without losing its integrity or making it mawkish. But when I started reading this stuff, I was so happy. It's fun to go to those dark places.


Isn't it the love story, which operates on so many levels, that keeps us rooting for the Riches?

Totally. For all the marauding, the cons and the moral high jinks, they really love each other and that brings them back to being relatable.


You have an unlikely but mesmerizing chemistry with Eddie Izzard.

But I didn't think it when we first met each other. Now I think chemistry comes from recognizing a like-minded soul playing in the same arena. Ed is wonderful. I wouldn't have anyone else as my de facto husband. But I think people think we're a bit mad on the set.


How thrilling was it being Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated for the show last year?

Pretty incredible. On "Good Will Hunting," the truth of the matter was Matt and Ben [Affleck] wrote a really wonderful version of me. No one was casting Minnie Driver as an ex-convict drug addict traveler from Louisiana. Now I feel I'm being congratulated for being an actor.


Your song lyrics are very personal. Aren't you worried about exposing yourself in a sense?

No, because when 90% of what you read on the Internet or in the tabloid press is complete fabrication and untruth, it is so nice to stand up with the truth of who you are.


Speaking of dishonesty, have you ever been conned by a traveler?

I haven't. Even at the fair today, the lovely ones running the coconut shy [similar to a carnival ball pitch] were fantastic.

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