By Derek Lawrence
March 27, 2019 at 11:47 AM EDT

A girl walks into a bar…and stars in her very own NBC comedy.

After years of scoring laughs as a guest-star or member of the supporting cast on Parks and Recreation, Trophy Wife, and The Grinder, Natalie Morales is finally being put front and center for Abby’s. Well, front and center and behind the bar.

In the new series from creator Josh Malmuth and producer/Parks co-creator Mike Schur, the 34-year-old actress stars as Abby, the owner and head bartender of Abby’s, the neighborhood bar she opened in her backyard, which really is a backyard as filming takes place entirely outside. There are a lot of other things to know about Abby: she’s a former Marine, she’s bisexual. and she hates Mai-Tais (“I have no personal problem with Mai Tais,” clarifies Morales with a laugh). But it was the chance to reunite with Schur, the man also behind Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Good Place, that made Morales desperate to land the role.

Justin Lubin/NBC

“I read the script and I found out that Mike Schur was attached to it,” she tells EW, “and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I need to audition for this, and I need to get this, because I need to be involved with whatever Mike Schur is being next.’ I’m such a huge fan of his work. He’s so talented and he’s so wonderful to work with.”

It also surely didn’t hurt that the role wasn’t the wacky best friend or the love interest — it was the lead. I mean, she’s the title character, right? “I guess it sort of seems that way, but Abby’s is just the place that we all hang out at; it’s the name of the bar, it’s not my name,” corrects Morales, trying to deflect the spotlight off of just herself. “But I guess it’s close enough. It’s absolutely thrilling. It’s great to get to work with people that I really, really admire and have them trust me in bringing more to the table — and I’m more than willing to give it.”

But despite her prominence — and her character’s name at least being part of the title — Morales insists that Abby’s is “a complete ensemble show,” pointing to her supporting cast, which includes New Girl alum Nelson Franklin and Scrubs and The Middle star Neil Flynn, who with Abby’s will now be on network TV for the 18 consecutive year. And having a strong group like this is exactly why Morales believes the show is worth a watch.

“It feels like you’re hanging out with your friends, which is all of my favorite TV shows,” she says. “And especially if you’re a fan of the TV shows that Mike Schur has created, like Parks and Rec and The Good Place, then you know the kinds of characters that he builds and that’s what we have here, and I’m so lucky to be a part of that and I think it’s a really fun time. It’s also people on TV and situations on TV that you maybe have never really seen before. That’s our hope at least.”

We’ll take another round.

Abby’s premieres Thursday at 9:30 p.m. ET.

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