Denise Richards almost missed out on the starring role in new drama Socio because of her relationship with ex-husband Charlie Sheen.

The actress - who has two daughters, Sam, eight, and seven-year-old Lola with the actor - won the lead part in the pilot of the hour-long family drama but bosses didn't want her to audition because they felt her association with Charlie wouldn't be good publicity. To put it mildly.

A source said: "ABC Family didn't want to even consider her for the role, and actually turned her down for an audition [because of Sheen]. Press like that can hurt an actress." An actress, yes. An actor? Probably not so much.

However, Denise - who stood by Charlie during his drug-fuelled "lost year" between late 2010 and 2011 - impressed bosses so much they decided to give her the role of the mother of Danny Ryder, who's freed from jail after serving time for murdering his aunt.

In short: "She killed" the audition.

Denise's character is described as a mother "who once ruled the town's social scene but now struggles to put on a brave face with her son's return."

An insider added to the New York Post: "Denise will bring great depth to the role of Danny's mother and is a wonderful addition to the cast. ABC Family is thrilled to have her as part of the drama pilot."

Denise - who also has a 17-month-old adopted daughter, Eloise - split from Charlie in 2006 and despite a messy divorce, they put their problems behind them for the sake of their daughters.