What's 2 Broke Girls about?
"It's about two girls from very different worlds. In actually a very modern sense, one of them is a street smart girl who doesn't know who her father is, kind of on the low end of the financial scale, who has to do everything herself. A very independent woman.
"And another woman who was an heiress to a huge fortune, whose father is based on a Bernie Madoff type character who's indicted for a Ponzi scheme and stealing all this money, so she became broke as well. The show's the two of them hanging out and meeting each other and both trying to make it with a brand new cupcake business."
And you're playing Oleg.
"Yeah, I'm playing Oleg the Russian cook. The majority of the show takes place in a diner in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. They work as the two waitresses there, and there are three men that work with them. I play Oleg, the Russian cook that mans the kitchen."
We've heard him described as "overly flirtatious"...
"I don't think he's overly flirtatious - I think by American standards. What's great about the show is that two of the three guys there are immigrants, so I think there's a very sexual vibe because he's European. I think he's more comfortable in his skin than I think maybe we're used to, a little bit more risqué, but I don't think he sees it as out of the ordinary. I think this is probably just where he comes from and this is how he is with people."
Has that been fun for you to play?
"Oh, it's been amazing. I mean it's unbelievable. I actually grew up in Skokie, Illinois, which is right outside Chicago, and there's a huge population of Russian Jews. A lot of my friends were first generation - there's a lot of things that I think especially their parents had to get used to.
"I like the fact that there's nothing just straight about Oleg - he has so many dimensions. It allows him to be fun and carefree and charming. When there's a tense moment, the writers have been unbelievable in writing a crafty way for him to come in there which would be unnatural, I think, if someone was American. It would seem really forced.
"But I think because that's his nature he really helps to tie some scenes together. They're not just using a generic cook - it's specific to this guy and where he's from and how he can help with the problems."
How does Oleg get on with Max (Kat Dennings) and Caroline (Beth Behrs)?
"I think that they like him. I think they're kind of like, 'It's another day with Oleg'. He's used to flirting with them and they're used to turning him down, but he never stops! He's one of these guys that's relentless.
"I think he's charming about it - I think that's what they like about him. There's nothing scary about him. He's the sweet guy that works with them who has a hell of a lot of confidence - probably more than the general American man - so I think it's something they're not used to and I think it's something they find charming about him."
Are you having fun with the Russian accent?
"Yeah. Whitney Cummings, one of the executive producers - who is an amazing talent - she actually said when I went in for the studio test and network test, 'Don't speak in an American accent'. A lot of people didn't understand that I wasn't Russian until they met me and I went, 'Hey, what's going on'.
"I think a couple of people were like, 'Damn!' It's really cool because a lot of the crew have come up to me privately and been like, 'Oh my God, when I first met you man I thought for sure you were Russian'."
Are you worried about taking the accent too far? Do you try to keep it realistic?
"That's a really good question. I think today with the way sitcoms are moving, one camera is The Office and stuff like that, and then being a four camera, I think that's a great challenge for me to make this guy very realistic.
"Kat Dennings, she's a film star and she's so good at making it real and I think she really grounds the show. It sets a great template of where we need to be, even though there's a live audience, even though there's going to be a lot of snappy jokes.
"I think the sitcom has evolved. I mean, it's 2011! We are witty people on television, it's not just people in a lot of funny situations. Our characters are super clever. So I think that to get to the root of what makes it funny and special and unique, I think that playing it real is kind of the only way to go."
You mentioned the live audience - what's it been like filming in front of them?
"It's been ridiculous! I come from a theatre background - the audience is half the show. We're trying to give it to them and hopefully they give it back to us and I think it's a constant back and forth.
"The amazing thing about having an audience is you know if a joke isn't working, which I think is great. Stuff that kills, you're like, 'Perfect', but then every now and then you're like, 'Oh man, I guess that was funnier in runthrough'. So to have that immediate Litmus test I think is invaluable. We don't have the season prewritten - everything is coming to us and we're developing these characters together, so it's helping us to shape what's really working about these guys."
How have you been getting on with the cast?
"Amazing. The five of us get along really well. I think it's clichéd and cheesy that everyone gets along but I think I would like to say we are as clichéd and cheesy as it is to say that. We're friends. We hang out.
"None of us knew each other before the show but I think somebody came to the first day and asked the two girls how long they'd been friends because they legitimately seemed like they'd known each other forever. I think it's because we have a real respect for each other and they're just the nicest people, seriously."
What are your cooking skills like? Could you do Oleg's job?
"I had that job in college! I was a grill cook. There was this restaurant I'd always loved eating at and I thought, 'Damn, I spend enough money here anyway, I might as well be on the payroll'. I went in there and I got a job that is exactly what Oleg is doing. So I would say my fry cook abilities are probably pretty damn good, but I think my real cooking abilities... They would not be offering me a show on the Food Network."
Your premiere is following Two and a Half Men and there's a lot of buzz around 2 Broke Girls - are you feeling under any pressure?
"No. I think that's the pressure that every actor dreams of. I think Two and a Half Men is going to be unbelievable - I mean, Ashton Kutcher is a star. Even if you just look at his TV track record, he was amazing on That 70s Show.
"I can't speak for everybody, but I imagine that we are pretty excited. Being on CBS when it's at the level that it's at right now with all the success it's having, I feel pretty honoured, actually, to be a part of it, because I think there's a rich tradition. Knock on wood, but everything is going so well with all their shows."
You also do a lot of impressions - what's your favourite?
"Probably either Vince Vaughn or Tom Hanks. Vince Vaughn and I grew up in the same area and I just like what he brings to the table. I think he's really funny - I'll watch anything he's in. I admire his timing - he makes things work that may not have worked because he's so good at what he does. It seems so effortless, so I really admire him.
"And Tom Hanks is one of my heroes. Growing up, Jim Carrey and Tom Hanks were the two guys that I really looked up at. I got in the game for storytelling and I think it's amazing that we get to do this because we're chronicling the human existence - whether through sitcoms or movies or whatever - and I think Tom Hanks does that really, really well. You feel that he is telling someone's specific story every time and I think that's one of his many gifts to the world.
"My parents took me to Big when I was a kid. His early stuff I was just such a fan of, then when he started getting into dramas I was like, 'Wow, there's nothing this guy can't do, it's unbelievable'."
So your impressions are tributes rather than mocking people?
"That's a really great question. I think I have done stuff where I've mocked someone - I've been hired on jobs to do impressions of people that maybe I wasn't a fan of. But the first impression I ever did when I was a kid was Peter Lorre, the old Hungarian movie actor who's from Casablanca among many things.
"My father was an old time movie buff and we used to watch the classics when I was growing up. I just thought that guy was so magnetic - I just thought everything he did counted. I really admire these people and because my parents really loved them I did impressions."
So why should we tune in for 2 Broke Girls?
"I think the show is an incredible mirror of what's happening today in the world and especially in America, with the economy and just the way people are feeling. I think when we are in a depression or recession or whatever, that's when the best comedy comes out of it. I think people need to laugh right now. I think in the country we're feeling a lot of things right now - hurt, angry, sad. I mean, a lot of stuff. I really like being able to take something that's tough for people and I think comedy helps people deal with that.
"Something like this couldn't have come at a better time. I don't think there's anything like it on TV, and honest to God the two girls, Beth and Kat, they're ridiculous. I think people know Kat Dennings - she's a star, she's incredible. But this new girl Beth Behrs, I mean, by the time this conversation is over she's a star. It's unbelievable that the world has been waiting for this woman and they didn't even know it. That's how talented she is."
2 Broke Girls premieres tonight at 9.30/8.30c on CBS.