TODAY   |  March 13, 2013

Jennifer Esposito goes from film to reality TV

Actress Jennifer Esposito has been wowing audiences with her screen performances for nearly 20 years. Now she’s displaying her culinary skills in a new reality series called “Playing with Fire.” She tells TODAY’s Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb about her fight with celiac disease.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> actress jennifer esposito has been turning heads for 20 years, now she's taking her talents to the kitchen, opening a gluten-free bakery right here in manhattan and appearing in a new documentary reality series called " playing with fire ." it.

>> it focuses on the lives of chefs trying to make it. and jennifer turns up the heat. take a look.

>> this looks good. yeah. what do i have? i have no measurement on salt. it just says salt.

>> i never heard of a baker that doesn't measure.

>> honestly i do things my way. people say to me to be a baker everything has to be so precise, and i'm like, yeah. look, that looks like a gnocchi.

>> you're in a time --

>> you're repulsed by me, i know.

>> hi. good to see you.

>> thank you.

>> happy to have you with us.

>> thank you.

>> you took a lemon that you were given, this silly diagnosis, and you turned it into lemonade.

>> i had to. it was years of trying to figure out what was wrong, and it was to the point where i was -- i lost a tooth, my hair was falling out. yeah, i couldn't stand up. i had such a severe panic disorder.

>> it's an autoimmune disease . pea don't understand that. it took a year to try to understand what was even happening. little by little , i realized not only did doctors i was seeing not really know, but i didn't know, so i had to learn. and if i felt this way, there were people that felt like this outside as well.

>> i don't know, how did you work and live and function in that not-knowing period? you must have thought i'm tired --

>> you know what it is? i saw my mother suffer like this, so i thought this was a delicate stomach, or i had, you know, i just had a weak immune system, i had to take care of myself more.

>> tell us your symptoms so people at home, it might put a name on what they're suffering with.

>> has been helpful, and i say that because it's not the same symptoms.

>> a blood test?

>> i think it's an endoscopy, you have ton a biopsiy of the small intestine, from stomach problems to skin allergies. it's so varied. that's why there's so much misinformation. i'm just trying to get the word out there about this disease and what to do, because seriously, people think it's a gluten-free diet and that's it. that's not true.

>> you even wear gluten-free makeup. if there's anything in your mouth or gets into your skin affects you.

>> i was having such insane scalp fire, that's all i can say. it literally felt like -- i realized the shampoo i had had gluten in it, and i took it out, and it felt better.

>> you turned this problem into something productive. tell us about the show.

>> " playing with fire " was an awesome opportunity that came up. i've been talking about pitches a show for a while about celiac disease and talking about it, but unfortunately no one wants to hear about a disease. so i said let's focus on the food portion.

>> more and more people are trying to go gluten-free.

>> and i want to focus on doing it the right way. the show came along -- oh, hello.

>> hey.

>> we have a little -- you brought us some stuff.

>> yes, i did. people think it will be cardboor if it's gluten free .

>> and i know you're lactose intolerant. these are completely vegan. those are devil food cakes. they taste like the old hostess cupcakes. i wanted it to taste like it used to taste when i was a kid. even we have a bread. there's a chocolate chunk cookie and a vegan chocolate chip .

>> delicious.

>> what's the bakery called?

>> jennifer's way bakery, in east village on tenth.

>> great to see you.

>> glad you're turning this into something so positive.

>> absolutely. thank you very many.

>>> it premieres this sunday at