By Sandra Gonzalez
Updated October 07, 2011 at 08:25 PM EDT
Credit: Adam Taylor/FOX
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Not long before she was scheduled to get on a plane to Sri Lanka, a call from House executive producers David Shore and Katie Jacobs put Charlyene Yi’s plans to visit orphanages on hold. The irony has not escaped her.

“I was like ‘I don’t know if I should take this job because I was soul-seeking and trying to do something meaningful,'” she said. “But I realized I’d be broke if I left and went for that Sri Lanka trip. And I thought if I took this job — aside from being interesting and an awesome opportunity — I could use that money I got pretending to help people and help people in real life. I thought that’d be really fun.”

And it has been, especially, she says, since her role as Dr. Chi Park is quite the departure from the awkwardly disconnected and — she admits — “stoner roles” she’s usually offered. “They pitched me this character who was uptight and doesn’t know how to deal with her emotions and I thought that was interesting because I don’t act that much, but all the times I have been offered or asked to audition for something, it’s kind of a quirky, spacey, dumb character,” she says. “So I [liked that] this character was intelligent and she’s dealing with emotional problems and aggression.”

Her character’s aggressive nature is one that Yi says she actually relates to, much to the surprise of many — including her now co-star Hugh Laurie. “I use to get in a lot of fights in high school,” she says. “When I met Hugh Laurie, we were talking about if we’d ever been in fights. And he asked, ‘Have you ever been in a fight? You seem so innocent.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, God. You have no idea. I’ve been in so many fights.’ People have so many layers.”

Yi teased that viewers will get to see all the layers of Dr. Park, including one storyline that will, by the end of the second episode, leave her career on the brink. “It’s very high stakes,” she says.

For now, Yi says she’s thankful to have secured a job with one of TV’s best ensemble casts. “I’m hoping I’m doing a decent job. I’m working with an acting coach and trying so hard to keep up with them,” she says. “I feel like they’re this orchestra playing beautifully, and I’m just tooting along. I was ready to cry the first day.” And to add to the pressure? A makeup mishap. “I guess I’m allergic to a certain kind of makeup, so I got this rash around my eyes. So not only was I intimidated by all these great actors, but I had a rash around my eyes. So, watch out people who have HD.”

Follow Sandra on Twitter: @EWSandraG

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