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Cheers and Jeers
CHEERS to quiet successes.  The December 14 episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, titled "Hush," was a masterpiece of suffering in silence and one of this season's best episodes-- of any series.  Written and directed by the show's creator, Joss Whedon, "Hush" was a largely wordless nightmare, thanks to some voice-stealing demons called Gentlemen who float around doing some literally unspeakable things to victims who can't yell.  Whedon devised any number of ingenious ways to propel the plot without dialogue, proving that the unsaid can be scarier than all the screams in Hollywood.
 

CHARISMA PERSONIFIED

AS VAMPY CUTUP CORDELIA, CHARISMA CARPENTER HELPS A DARK ANGEL LIGHTEN UP
BY JENNIFER GRAHAM

    Last July, when Charisma Carpenter purchased her first house in Los Angeles, she brought her boyfriend, her furniture--and her sage. "I went through the whole place with it," she says.  "It's a cleansing element the Indians use to clear out bad energy.  Then I took holy water and sprayed every window, every door, the yard, the whole property.  I'm not paranoid about it.  But I think there are unrested spirits, things that you can't allow into your home."
    The 29-year-old actress relays this anecdote with Wednesday Addams aplomb--and a bright smile.  She has a knack for shooting the macabre breeze, especially given her three-season run on the WB's campy-creepy hit Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  This season, she costars in its spin-off, Angel (Tuesdays, 9 P.M./ET), which has proven equally adept at slaying viewers.  Carpenter's character, Cordelia Chase, is a material girl so snobby she'd insult a demon's fashion sense before fleeing for her life.  In person, Carpenter is so exuberant that actual, angst-ridden spirits don't steal her sunshine.
    While the new show hovers around Angel (David Boreanaz), producers wanted Cordelia to accompany their undead hero to his new haunting grounds, Los Angeles, right from the start.  "What happens when you put Judy Holliday in with Batman?" asks executive producer and cocreator David Greenwalt, rhetorically.  "If he was only 'brooding guy,' it would be tedious."  And Carpenter, who plays Angel's office assistant, has the looks to enhance that Batman vibe.  "There aren't many people who are that beautiful and that funny," he says.  "She can do every color of the rainbow."
    Fittingly, she's now occupying a table at Color Me Mine--a pottery painting store in Beverly Hills (there's no room to talk at the coffee shop next door).  She's arrived makeup-free--in olive cargo pants and a white tank top--and sweetly fields questions like "How is working on Angel different from Buffy?"
    "Testosterone!" she cheers.  "It's a manly crew," she says.  "David's always saying to the guys, 'Did you catch the game last night?'"  But these boys know a siren when they see one.  Boreanaz graciously refers to cArpenter as "full of energy and spontaneity."  Glenn Quinn--who played the half-demon/half-human Doyle for the first nine episodes--is less subtle.  "Well, come on," he says, laughing.  "You just want to grab her!"
    Quinn departed the show abruptly, a surprise move Greenwalt calls strategic: "Early in the game, we thought it would be really cool to kill a main character, to show nobody is safe."  Carpenter was shocked at the news.  "It confirmed for me there is no such thing as job security [in this business]," she says.  Despite a multiple-year contract, she adds, "Not being able to take care of myself is a huge fear of mine."
    In fact, she's been honing her survival skills since her youth in suburban Las Vegas, where she staved off teasing classmates by tossing the name Charisma (which she'd received straight off the label of her mom's Avon perfume) and going by "Chrissy" until the eighth grade.  ("How can you call yourself Charisma when you go to a [strict private] school and your mom dresses you in hot-pink pants?")  She was uprooted at 15, when her father found work in Rosarito, Mexico.  She will reveal little about her family, allowing only that she has two older brothers and that her parents, Don (salesman) and Chris (a bird-sanctuary worker), have since divorced and now live in Chicago and Florida, respectively.  Back then, she crossed the border to study ballet at Chula Vista High School performing-arts program in San Diego.  "But I never had any delusions of being a dancer," she says.  To wit, she dismisses a 1991 stint as a San Diego Chargers cheerleader as "one of a bunch of things I did after high school."
    In retrospect, the smartest thing she did was follow her then boyfriend to L.A., where she waited tables and did commercials--"I was best known for Secret Ultra Dry.  'No residue!'"--to earn college tuition.  She intended to go to UCLA for a teaching degree, but, she says, "I ended up getting the acting bug."  And while the romance cooled, the commercial work kept coming.  Then came eight soapy episodes of Malibu Shores, an Aaron Spelling flop that helped launch the TV careers of two actresses: Carpenter and Keri Russell, now the star of WB's Felicity, Carpenter's favorite show.
    These days, it takes more than her own successful TV series to exhaust Carpenter's boundless energy.  So the DMV can expect a visit from her soon, when she applies for her motorcycle license.  "She's always pushing herself, so I wasn't surprised to hear about that," says Alexis Denisof (Buffy's Wesley), who's now a suitor of sorts for Cordelia on Angel.  Carpenter counters, "It's not gonna be an 800-pound bike, all chromed-out and stuff."  She speaks as one who's already been reassuring her live-in boyfriend, Damian Hardy, whom she met in acting class a year and a half ago.  "Damian's a little worried because it is L.A., and there's a lot of traffic," she says.  "But I'm going to be cautious."  One can never be too cautious in L.A., after all.  She should know.


The Usual
The Usual

Random Quotage:

One of us is very confused, and I honestly don't know which.
-Xander (The Prom)


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