Merrin Dungey has only one complaint about her role as Jennifer Garner’s best friend on ABC’s Alias. Because her character, Francie, doesn’t know about Sydney’s secret life as a double agent, she can’t get in on the butt kicking. ”When you’re on an action show, you want to be part of the action,” she admits. Creator J.J. Abrams is empathetic, up to a point: ”Merrin wants nothing more than to be a spy, but at the moment she’s going to remain a non-pro.” At least Dungey, 30, gets plenty of action outside of Alias. She currently recurs on Fox’s Malcolm in the Middle and CBS’ The King of Queens, and she’s guested on some of TV’s biggest shows. EW asked the busiest woman on television to take a walk down resume lane.
FRIENDS (2000) As an official at a museum where Courteney Cox Arquette considered holding her wedding ”I’ve seen every episode three or four times. I’d auditioned six or seven times, and when I got that part I burst into tears. I like to know that I’m part of the mythology.”
THE WEST WING (1999) As Moira Kelly’s assistant ”I was supposed to recur, but after Moira got the job at the White House, I somehow disappeared. I’m lost in the halls of the West Wing somewhere.”
MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE (1999- ) As Frankie Muniz’s teacher in the pilot, then as his classmate’s overprotective mother ”We had such a blast working together, they asked me to play Stevie’s mom. I said, ‘Sure.’ They said, ‘Let’s just never mention you were Malcolm’s teacher.”’
THE KING OF QUEENS (1998- ) A meaty recurring role as the recently estranged wife of Kevin James’ best friend ”I got that job in the nick of time. I was working three day jobs—I was delivering Zone food to people like Hank Azaria, I was a personal assistant to an executive at Warner Bros., and I was working at a bar. After the first season, I was able to quit them all.”
SEINFELD (1998) As a cashier in one of the final episodes ”It was madness. There were reporters lurking outside the studio. The crowd rushed the stage. I’m like, ‘Am I at a Beatles concert?”’
BABYLON 5 (1996) and CAROLINE IN THE CITY (1997) As ”Security Guard #2” and ”Female Prostitute,” respectively ”Those nameless roles were certainly not thankless because they came at the beginning of my career, when I was grateful for any part. I’d tell everyone to watch, although I still have never seen that Babylon 5.”