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5 Questions With Charisma Carpenter

November 17, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ Her name isn’t a household word _ yet. But fans of ``Buffy the Vampire Slayer″ will recognize her as Cordelia Chase, the snobby rich girl who left Sunnydale, Calif., and moved to Los Angeles, where she works for a 244-year-old vampire.

She is Charisma (her real name) Carpenter, one of the stars of ``Angel,″ which follows the cult hit ``Buffy″ on the WB network on Tuesday nights. The show _ more adult and a bit darker than ``Buffy″ _ was recently picked up for a full season.

On a sunny November day, the lovely, dark-haired Carpenter, 29, is doing a round of media interviews, fashionably attired in a white coat over blue jeans and a green turtleneck.

She is thrilled with audience reaction to the series (``we’re doing so darned good″), which also stars David Boreanaz, 29, as the vampire Angel; and Glenn Quinn as Doyle, a disreputable demon.

``I think that David makes such a great leading man and such a great superhero-type character,″ she said. ``There’s nobody really his age doing this type of show, where he’s like the hero, you know, he fights, like Batman, he’s fighting evil, and even his own evil, his own evil side. A vampire with a conscience.″

In the spinoff, Carpenter works as Angel’s Girl Friday while pursuing her acting career. She answers the phone with a cheery, ``Angel Investigations. We help the helpless.″

But Cordelia hasn’t lost any of her snap. In a recent episode, she confronts a nasty ghost who wants her dead.

``Cordelia hates her digs,″ Carpenter explained. ``She’s lost her fortune; she’s much humbler now. So basically she lives in a dump. She’s broke. And it comes about that she can live in this apartment, this phenomenal apartment, and it’s exactly the image that she wants to project. She has to have this apartment at any cost. And it turns out, it’s haunted, which she doesn’t want Angel to know, she doesn’t want Doyle to know, she doesn’t want anybody to know that it’s haunted.″

Why doesn’t Cordelia just ask Angel and Doyle to cleanse the apartment and put the ghost to rest?

``Because she’s certain she can deal with it, because `it’s OK, I just have to live here, and you know what, I’m not afraid, I grew up in Sunnydale, I’ve dealt with demons, been there, done that,‴ Carpenter said.

When push comes to shove, Cordelia refuses to give up her furnished, rent-controlled, one-bedroom apartment (New Yorkers can relate), where she can put her Queen of the Winter Ball trophy on the mantel. She tells the menacing poltergeist:

``I’m not a sniveling, whiny little cry-Buffy. I’m the nastiest girl in Sunnydale history. I take crap from nobody. You think you’re bad? All mean and haunt-y, picking on poor, pathetic Cordie? Well, get ready to haul your wrinkly, translucent (butt) out of this place.″

Carpenter, minus the nasty attitude, displays the same determination.

While sipping hot tea and dining on an egg white omelet at a midtown restaurant, she recalled the ``a-ha!″ moment when she realized that acting was her life.

She was auditioning for a part in a film that starred Jeff Goldblum.

``It was a thriller film, the name I don’t recall, but I read for it like years ago, and when I read for it, I had the most amazing moment of clarity and realization that that’s definitely what I want to do with my life. I found my niche. And I’ll be good at this. I loved it. It was very fulfilling,″ she said.

Her first big acting break was the role of Ashley on the TV series ``Malibu Shores.″

When the series folded, Carpenter was signed to play Cordelia.

Carpenter, who recently purchased a home in Los Angeles, is engaged to be married next summer. Meanwhile, she is busy filming future episodes of ``Angel.″

1. How would you describe your character on ``Buffy``?

Carpenter: On `Buffy’? Cordelia? Uhmm. Resourceful. Uhmm. Self-involved. You have to name these things in threes, don’t you? And the third one, fashion conscious. A fashionista.

2. You describe ``Angel″ as a ``dram-edy,″ a combination of drama and comedy. Does the comedy emerge mostly in your relationship with Angel?

Carpenter: I’m kind of like the ray of sunshine in a very dark show. You have this dark, brooding character who’s not a man of many words, Angel; he’s a minimalist, keeps it simple. I’m the yapping Chihuahua nipping at his heels, and he’s just constantly trying to stay out of harm’s way. Overwhelmed. He doesn’t know what to make of me. And that’s where the comedy comes in, that dynamic creates the situation.

3. How has Cordelia changed in ``Angel``?

Carpenter: I think I’ve met my challenge now. They’re fleshing out her character more, making her more three-dimensional, having all these personal moments, making her more of a human being, with real issues, someone that the audience can relate to a little bit more. But she’s still sassy. Which makes her so much fun to watch.

4. Is there any of Charisma in Cordelia?

Carpenter: I think now with `Angel,′ there’s a lot of me. And I think that I realized how truthful I am and how honest I can be because I saw it in her. I’m a no-nonsense kind of person; I tell it like it is. I’m the type of person that you want to go shopping with because I’m going to tell the truth. Like what do you think? `Well, you know what? We can do better.′ But then on the other hand, nobody really likes to hear the truth (laughs).

5. What kind of roles would you like to do in the future?

Carpenter: The offers have been along Cordelia’s lines, like playing the same thing, but I kind of would like to do more independent departures from my character, otherwise it’s not fun. I’ve been doing Cordelia for three years, I’m about to do it for another year, it would be four years of doing the same person. I’d like to spread my wings a little bit, which I think when the powers that be in Hollywood see what’s asked of me and I’m not so one-dimensional, then I think those other goals will become more readily available.

5 1/2. What roles would you like to play?

Carpenter: You know, a nice girl. The girl that gets the guy. A romantic comedy would be great. I think I have a knack for that.

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