Jasmine Guy (search) is perhaps best known as glamorous, snooty Whitley Gilbert on the old NBC sitcom "A Different World." (search) Now, more than a decade later, she's in a different world as the tough-talking Roxy, one of the grim reapers on Showtime's "Dead Like Me." (search

The dramedy, which begins its second season 10 p.m. Sunday, stars Ellen Muth as a teenager who was killed by a toilet seat falling from the disintegrating Mir space station.

She's part of a group of reapers, which besides Roxy includes a philosophical taskmaster (Mandy Patinkin), an ex-druggie (Callum Blue) and a Hollywood starlet (Laura Harris).

Their assignment: to reap the souls of those whose deaths -- by accident, suicide or murder -- are presaged by weird, spooky creatures called gravelings. The saved souls can then move on to whatever it is that lies ahead.

But until they've filled a quota of saves, the reapers must remain in limbo, where they have a visible presence among the living and hold jobs but are unrecognized by anyone they knew in life.

When Guy started playing Roxy, she didn't know the character had been a dancer, let alone one who'd been strangled in 1982 by one of her own leg-warmers.

It wasn't revealed until midway through last season that she was murdered by her greedy roommate, who spotted the financial potential in leg-warmers, which Roxy had just invented.

Learning the details of Roxy's death helped Guy understand more fully the character's anger and desire to be in control, but she was initially resistant to her being a dancer.

"I'd just never seen her as a dancer," says Guy, who was a member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center and in recent years toured as the murderess vamp Velma Kelly in the musical "Chicago."

Guy was miffed because she thought: "That's my life. Why are they pulling from my life?"

But she noticed everyone who read the script for the episode "started laughing," and she realized, "It's not the first time I've read a script and thought 'This isn't going to work' and been wrong!"

The role of Roxy, who's been working as a meter maid, appealed to Guy because she was "different from anything I had played. She was hard. She was asexual. She didn't have much to say, but when she spoke it was potent, and I loved that."

Born in Boston, Guy, 40, grew up in Atlanta, where her father is a Baptist minister.

"I really wanted to be Ruby Dee ... I loved Ruby Dee in 'A Raisin in the Sun.' I hadn't seen anybody else (onscreen) that like me. I had heard about Dorothy Dandridge, but when I was a little kid I hadn't seen her work."

Guy was taken by her parents when she was about 10 to see the Alvin Ailey company perform. She then became "single-minded" in her determination to be a dancer.

Guy met her husband, businessman Terrence Duckette, when touring with "Chicago" in Chicago. They now live in Los Angeles with 5-year-old daughter Imani.

Earlier this year, Guy had her first book published, "Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary." It's a record of the conversations she had over many years with her friend, the mother of slain rapper-actor Tupac Shakur. It explores Afeni Shakur's journey from being a Black Panther, through periods of drugs and despair, to recovery and pride in the legacy of her late son.

The second season of "Dead Like Me" begins at 10 p.m. Sunday on Showtime.