Three things you probably didn’t know about Minnie Driver: 1. Her birth name is Amelia Fiona J. Driver (her sister dubbed her with her more commonly known moniker). 2. Though she once played an awful lounge singer in GoldenEye, she’s released three albums and performed at the SXSW music festival. 3. She put on 25 pounds to play Benny Hogan in Circle of Friends, the movie that pretty much launched the London native’s career.

Her latest starring role, in ABC’s Speechless (Wednesdays at 8:30/7:30c, premiering tomorrow night), proves she still has no fear of a challenging gig. She plays Maya DiMeo, the outspoken advocate mother of a nonverbal teenage boy with cerebral palsy. That character may sound saintly… until you watch her go ballistic on school officials when she learns that the building’s only wheelchair-accessible entrance is a garbage ramp.

We caught up with her to learn how she pulls it off.

“You can get away with a lot more when you speak with a British accent. You can say very rude things and make them sound charming.”

Were you looking for a series when this came up?
I had PTSD after About a Boy was canceled because I loved that show so much and I didn’t think I could love anything ever again, and I did lots of other things in the year that I wasn’t working. When I got the script, it was presented to me as, “I don’t know if you’re really going to want to go down this road because she may well come across as unlikeable.” I was like, “Unlikeable? Don’t be ridiculous. Let me see that!”

So you took it as a challenge.
Yeah. It is hard because she is pretty awful sometimes. She’s also dropping the ball with her other two kids, so she’s failing miserably as well as succeeding for one of her children. Like most parents, she’s not batting a thousand. But she’s also fantastic, and there’s something good about that. It is hard to make that kind of person likeable, so we’ll see if I can pull it off. I’m quite nervous because there’s a lot of anticipation for this show. When you’re speaking for a community that has not previously had a voice on television you want it to be good.

What do you relate to most about her?
I understand her. I’m a mother. All mothers fight hard for their children. To have a child with special needs, you have to fight so much harder, from everything that I learned. You do leave often quite a lot of burned bridges because you have to push hard. Things we would take for granted, a person in a wheelchair cannot. Just getting around is so difficult. It’s horrible. It’s really much harder than a typical person would imagine. So I was up for the challenge.

Has the fiercely protective side of you ever come out in public?
Oh my God, yes. When my son Henry was about three, he was saying hello to a baby in a coffee shop, and the father pushed him away from the baby. I got aggressive, and I did it in French, because he was French. It comes of nowhere when it’s about your child.

Was your mother like that?
She was extraordinarily protective of all her kids, but she wasn’t like Maya. We would go out on our bikes at lunchtime and she’d shut the door and say “Come back when it’s dark.” She was very much, “Do what you like. Do what feels good, finish school, but if it feels good do it.” I think we have an obsessiveness about our children and curating their every moment. I don’t think it helps the kid. I like to let Henry climb the rocks and to go surfing. I like to let him skateboard and ride his bike and do his thing.

Did you ask to use your real British accent?
We tried it both ways. We tried reading it American and British. But the real truth is you can get away with a lot more when you speak with a British accent. You can say very rude things and make them sound charming. And you can offend people, and they will smile at you, and only subsequently realize how offensive you were. And I think seeing English people get angry is always funny.

Looking back on your career so far, what are you proudest of?
That I’m still doing this 25 years later, that I’m still having the opportunities. It’s very difficult to maintain a career in this industry, particularly as a woman. There are lean moments where maybe you don’t work for a year or two and you take the best thing that’s offered. But I’m proud that I’m still making things I love.