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For Legion star Adrianne Palicki, defending the world from destruction is just another day at the office.

ADRIANNE PALICKI IS READY TO SAVE THE WORLD. Or at least her character in the new thriller Legion is. In real life, Palicki might be more apt to watch an episode of Top Chef and whip up a meal for a friend-packed dinner party. But with a little help from the magic of Hollywood, the 26-year-old beauty will be determining the fate of mankind at a theater near you.

“In the movie, I’m a pregnant waitress who lives in the Mojave Desert,” Palicki says. “I find out this baby is more than what I thought, and there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with it.”

That’s quite an understatement. In fact, Palicki’s character discovers that her unborn child might be the savior of the human race. Knowing this, she must protect herself and the baby she’s carrying when a legion of angels descends to wreak a global apocalypse. It’s pretty heavy stuff, and not a bad spotlight role for Palicki, who’s best known for her work on Friday Night Lights. The movie’s cast — which includes Paul Bettany and Dennis Quaid — isn’t a bad bunch to be sharing the screen with either.

“Paul Bettany is fantastic. He’s such a theater actor, so you never think of him as this action star. But there are scenes where he makes Arnold Schwarzenegger look like a wuss,” Palicki raves. “It was just an ego-free, lovely, lovely set.”

Palicki, a native of Toledo, Ohio, knew from the age of five that she wanted to see her name in lights. As soon as she finished high school, she headed for New York, where, she remembers, she was broke and subsisting entirely off of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches . She eventually traded coasts, landed an agent, and got a lesson in patience. “It took me two years to land something,” she says.

Small parts on CW shows Smallville and Supernatural led her to Friday Night Lights, which is consistently lauded for its realistic portrayal of small-town Texas football players, parents, and coaches. It was through her experience on the show, she says, that she got her best acting training.

“They just let the cameras roll,” Palicki says. “If you get done with your lines, you improv, and they just let you keep going. That’s when you find a scene; that’s when you really get someplace.”

Though her bad-girl-gone-good character, Tyra Collette, went off to college last season, Palicki promises fans that they haven’t seen the last of her yet. “You will see Tyra back,” she says. “Very briefly, but she’ll be back.”

When she’s not working, Palicki spends her days hiking with her boyfriend, actor Alan Tudyk , and catching up on Bravo. “I absolutely will not miss Top Chef,” she says. “And let’s not even talk about The Rachel Zoe Project. It’s bananas. I love her.”

She also spends time with some of her Friday Night Lights costars when she can. “Connie [Britton] is one of my best friends, and I’m close with Kyle [Chandler] and Taylor [Kitsch],” she says. “And Jesse Plemons! He is one of the loveliest guys on the planet.”

But it’s not all play for Palicki — she’s working plenty hard these days. Despite having just fought off a throng of evildoers in Legion, she has another world to save: She’s currently filming the remake of Red Dawn, in which a group of young people must protect their town from invading soldiers. Another day, another apocalypse.