Heche plays Beth Harper, a woman who wouldn't make the Top 1,000 list for the wife or mother of the year. But that changes when she sees the light -- literally -- after suffering a dramatic near-death experience.
She returns to the land of the living with an open line to God. Her husband (Michael Landes) is skeptical; her teenage daughter (Madison Davenport) horrified.
"By the time we come in to meet her and she's choking on a hoagie, her life isn't great," Heche said. "She gets a second chance to do it again. And I love that because I've been so blessed with many chances in my life that I get really excited by being able to play women that get to do it all again.
"We do come to points in our life where we need something to believe in. Wherever we get our strength from, I think we have so much courage, everybody, to walk through this life and try to make it right."
Heche found the courage to keep on going -- even after a wacky visit to the Fresno area in 2000 when she wandered confused and disoriented down a remote dirt road before getting assistance from a farmworker's family in rural western Fresno County.
The odd behavior didn't stop her career. Heche went on to appear in TV shows such as "Ally McBeal," "Everwood" and "Men in Trees." She's also appeared in films and on Broadway, further examples of the second chances she has had in her life.
The 43-year-old Ohio native talks in very positive terms, saying she shares the same determination to make people happy that Beth gets after the TV character's close encounter of the terminal kind.
"She's a really positive person. This connection that she has with God has filled her with the joy of life. And she wants to give it to everybody like a gift.
"Sometimes when you have that big of a gift, sometimes people don't want it," she said. "It doesn't always work out perfectly for her, but she is really trying to figure it out in a positive way.
"And I love all that about her. She's a total goofball, and so am I."
Heche hopes the show will make people feel good when they watch it.
"God is something that I have confronted, questioned, dealt with, looked at, experienced, rejected, embraced my whole life. I've had a give and take with this God identity.
"I think everybody talks to God sometimes. I think everybody tries to figure God out," Heche said.
"This is a story about a woman who's dealing with that every single moment of her life, and wanting the best for everybody and wanting to use that experience of God to help people.
"So I hope that people feel like God's out there helping them out. If you can find God in a friend, if you can find God in a smile of a stranger, it's here you know? It's here.
"Save Me" premieres at 8 and 8:30 tonight on NBC
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