Cheers and Jeers
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
AS VAMPY CUTUP CORDELIA, CHARISMA CARPENTER HELPS A DARK ANGEL LIGHTEN UP
BY JENNIFER GRAHAM
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."
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.
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."
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
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!"
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."
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."
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
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