By now, eight episodes into Season 4 of Desperate Housewives, Dana Delany has become a Wisteria Lane fixture, as super-secretive new hausfrau on the block, Katherine Mayfair. But when the actress -- who was show creator Marc Cherry's original choice to play Marcia Cross' role Bree Van De Camp -- showed up on set for her first day of work, the rest of the cast was floored. "I forgot to tell anyone about landing Dana because the wedding was so extraordinary," says Cherry in the December 3 issue of TV Guide (on newsstands November 29), who closed Delany's six-year deal from Paris last July -- the night before he and the cast gathered to watch Eva Longoria (Gaby) marry NBA superstar Tony Parker. "I left the day after that and didn't speak with any of the actors until the first table read of the new season. People came in and saw Dana and were like,'re here now?"

Did he really forget, or was he possibly avoiding conflict until the last possible moment? Admittedly, he was concerned about Cross' reaction, since she'd always known Delany had been offered Bree first. So how did Cross take the news? "She was fine with it. But she did say to me, "Gee, I wish you could have whispered something in my ear!'"

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Delany understands. "In hindsight, maybe they should have been warned," she says. "I would have been asking the same question. It's a large cast to begin with -- why do we need one more character?"

Fortunately for Cherry, Delany played her cards just right and eased in seamlessly with the rest of the housewives. "A lot of other name actresses would have come in and bulldozed their way over everybody, and I don't know that my women would have responded well to that," Cherry says. "I love what Dana did. She came in quietly and professionally and endeared herself to everyone."

Delany claims she wouldn't -- and couldn't do it any other way. "I'm a dramatic actress who can't stand drama," she says. In fact, just before she joined Desperate Housewives she was toiling off-Broadway in a Neil LaBute one-act play that earned her just $300 for six weeks of work and had her sharing a dressing room with six other actresses. It's this same uncommon attitude that had Delany turning down Desperate Housewives to being with. When Cherry was casting the series in 2004, he met with Delany and offered her the role of Bree Van De Camp. She mulled it over but ultimately declined. "I have always lived frugally and never taken a job for money," Delany explains. "I go with whatever my gut instinct is at the time, and I just didn't want to do it."

But now, she's delighted to be Wisteria Lane's newest desperate denizen. "It's nice to be on a big hit. This is a whole new experience for me. Not even China Beach was a hit, except with critics. It feels like it was all meant to be."

It would seem that it was also meant to be for Cherry, who in the end landed both Delany -- albeit three seasons later -- and the perfect Bree. "Marcia Cross took Bree in a direction I never could have imagined, and now I can't imagine anyone else in that role," he says. "I state this with only a touch of irony: God was my casting director on this one."