(Click here to see the article as published in Statement magazine.) 

Despite her glamorous leading lady image and polished exterior Melora Hardin admits she prefers playing flawed characters such as the emotionally high strung “Jan” on NBC-TV’s “The Office.” This fall she'll return for her fifth season as Steve Carell’s dysfunctional love interest and former boss.

 "Jan's just trying to figure it all out. I like her sexuality, her femininity, her masculinity—her drive and ambition. She’s a very rich character,” says the 40 something actress. “All of her seams show. She’s not a tidy character. I thrive on the messiness of her.”

Off-screen, however, Hardin prefers more structure. She comes from a show biz family: dad Jerry is a prolific character actor and Mom Diane is an acting coach.

"I'm attracted to things where you have to be disciplined, there’s a lot of reward in that—to figure out a technique and then release it," says Hardin, who studied with the Joffrey Ballet in her teens and learned equestrian in college.

That work ethic paid off. From the age of eight Hardin frequently popped up in scores of ‘70s TV shows such Little House on the Prairie and Diff’rent Strokes.

As she matured she developed a reputation for her solid dramatic performances on shows such as Quantum LeapJudging AmyBoston Legal and MonkBut all the while Hardin also studied voice, hoping to make her voice as recognizable as her face. She recently released two CDs of original vocal stylings (her latest is inspired by singers from the ‘50s such as Doris Day) and performed at a number of venues including the Hollywood Bowl and LA’s Catalina Jazz Club.

After appearing in Thank You For Smoking and 27 Dresses Hardin has scored more film roles including the upcoming Seventeen Again and Hannah Montana: The Movie in which she had a chance to draw on her Texas roots, where her grandfather was a rancher.  In 2007 she directed You a feature film and family drama written by her husband.

With her range of talents Hardin hopes she’ll never become pigeonholed into any one thing.

“I consider myself a character actress even though I’m a leading lady type. I like inhabiting different people. I don’t mind looking bad, weird or good. I like to change it up. I’m drawn to things that expand me.”