BURBANK, Calif. – Actress Virginia Madsen was convinced she was hard as nails when she survived the loss of her first love. “My goodness, I was only 19 but I was very aware of my change and what that did to me,” she says in a lounge at the Disney Studios here.

The star of such films as “Sideways,” “The Ghosts of Mississippi” and “The Rainmaker” turned out to be soft as satin and a determined romantic.

“God, I hope I fall in love again,” she says. “I wish he’d get his act together and come get me or maybe I’m supposed to go get him. But I have a lot of work to do right now and I’ve been raising my son and it’s hard for guys to be involved with an actress. And I get that.

“But I’m patient,” she sighs, “and I know that love will arrive in its own time. That old song, ‘You Can’t Hurry Love,’ and you can’t. So all I can do is know what I want because I believe it will manifest itself in my life, and that’s how it’s worked with everything else.”

Well-meaning friends tell her to seek out love, others advise her to wait. “So, oh, my gosh, I’ve done everything. So I’ve gone back to the idea that you can’t try and you can’t hurry love, that I’m just going to wait for him to walk in the door. I have a lot of friends who are longtime couples, and I sort of look to them because that’s what I want,” she says.

“And I think it is that moment when someone walks in the room and there may not be an instant love, but there’s a recognition, there’s a moment, there’s a connection — so I’ve gone back to the belief that the knight in shining armor will walk into the room or he’ll see me walk into the room. ‘You may see a stranger across a crowded room,’ it’s the fairy tale.”

Madsen is in the business of spinning fairy tales and her latest is ABC’s “The Scoundrels,” in which she plays the mom of a brood of lawbreakers whose dad (David James Elliott) is sentenced to jail, so she must invent a new “family business.” “I loved that it was about a family and I know a bit about that,” she says, her blond hair clustered around her oval face.

“I loved that I’d be working with very young people, not little kids, but young people who are so passionate about what they do. That inspires me and having a leading man like David James Elliott who’s so much fun to work with and so open. He’s not got a lot of nonsense going on about him. He just loves to be at work. I love to have this feeling of an ensemble, it’s my most favorite way to work. And I’ve also been studying and working on comedy for the last four years so this gave me the opportunity to dance between drama and comedy and learn as I go … I’m also an artist so it’s important to always be expanding my work and always delving into different areas that are out of my comfort zone.”

She’s wanted to act since she was a “wee tot.” Both she and her actor brother, Michael Madsen, were determined, she says. “There was nothing they could do to stop us — my brother and I were both very, very serious about it. I was very, very serious about it as a profession. I didn’t have the dream that I was going to jump on a bus and get off at Hollywood and Vine and be a star. I knew that’s not how it worked. I saw it as an industry and as a career. And I went after it like it was bound to be since I was 5 years old.”

Her mom allowed her to stay up late to watch silent films on PBS. “But I was studying them. I was obsessed with film. I loved everything about movie making. I think that’s why I gravitated toward film rather than the stage. I just never dreamed I would be this long without having done a play. But I was raising my son and movies are done. After a couple of weeks or couple of months you’re done, and I could raise my kid.”

The romantic Madsen was married to actor Danny Huston and has a teenage son with ex-sweetheart Antonio Sabato Jr. She doesn’t take credit for all the parenting of her son, who’s a freshman in high school.

“I don’t consider myself a single parent because Jack’s dad has always been in the picture, and we live around the corner from each other and we parent together. He’s been a great help to me being away for so long (for the show) because I’ve never had to be away for this long. So Antonio has taken parenthood on. He’s done full-on high school parenting while I’ve been away having a great time. So I’m very grateful to him.”

Combining a sizzling career and motherhood is not so difficult, she thinks. “This life is not hard. It’s joyful and an adventure. If you live an adventurous life there’s going to be a climb, but at the end of each climb is a beautiful vista. At the end of each adventure there’s lessons learned and there’s lots of celebrations. If you live a passionate life you’re going to have highs and lows, but I try to live in the gray areas as much as I can. When I was in my 20s — Oy! — being up and down and everything was so intense or dreadful … When you start getting older things level out, and I like living in that level place.

“I’m prepared — going either way.”