12/24/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Natascha McElhone As Muse, Creator, Now Widow

On television, she plays the steady hand in a show about unsteady people, the muse to David Duchovny's tortured-writer protagonist in Showtime's saucy Sunday night series "Californication."

She's also played apple to the eyes of Anthony Hopkins in "Surviving Picasso," Jim Carrey in "The Truman Show" and George Clooney in "Solaris." But you probably don't know much else, because 36-year-old Natascha McElhone has always kept her two worlds -- the professional and the private -- further apart than most, flying to the U.S. for film and TV projects, then returning to the U.K. to play mom.

And being a mother now is more important than ever. Her 43-year-old husband, a prominent surgeon in London, died of a heart attack in May. His death came just after the couple's 10th wedding anniversary -- a union that had brought them two children and a third on the way.

"I still feel like the luckiest woman alive, even though he's not here," she wrote in a British newspaper four days after his death. "To have been given such a love, to have had ten years of utter bliss waking up next to someone who made my heart flutter, I could never in my wildest dreams have wished for more."

She'd returned briefly to London, then immediately flew back to Los Angeles to resume "Californication's" second season. "They gave me a choice," she said. "But I'd very suddenly become the only provider in our family and I also would never let down a production in that way. I also wanted to complete the summer as I'd planned it for my kids; they were in all these summer camps and various activities. . . . It seemed necessary to keep things on track."

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