411's Al Norton sits down for an exclusive interview with Charisma Carpenter to discuss her role on ABC Family's The Lying Game, what sort of parts she is hoping come her way next, and of course Buffy and Angel.
While Charisma Carpenter will always be best known for her portrayal of Cordelia Chase, first on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and then on its spinoff Angel, her resume is quite packed with other work, including the big screen franchise The Expendables and stints on Charmed, Veronica Mars, Big Shots, and Greek as well as guest spots on Supernatural, Burn Notice, and CSI. She has joined the cast of the ABC Family hit The Lying Game, which begins its second season this Tuesday at 9pm.
Al Norton: Do you not get scripts sent to you for characters who are nice and sweet and not in physical danger or do you just not like playing those roles?
Charisma Carpenter: (Laughing) You've got to go where the love is, you know? They send the script, they want you because they think you're pretty good at it, you do it. I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel here, I'm just trying do work. I love acting and that's what the people want, what the executives want because they're happy with my work in that genre, I go with it.
I would like to do more comedy, that would be fine; I'm trying to find a way to infuse some comedy in Rebecca (her Lying Game character) but I don't know.
Al Norton: Did you know who she was in the grand scheme of the story of the show when you took the part?
Charisma Carpenter: Yes, I did. They made me take a blood oath to not tell anyone and I wanted to keep my job so I was happy to oblige, but it was really hard because I'm very verbal.
Al Norton: When you're playing a role like that, one that is so key into the mythology of the show, would you rather not know and have it affect the way you play scenes or would you rather know and have that in your head?
Charisma Carpenter: I'd prefer not to know. I've said to Chuck (Pratt, the show's executive producer), "don't tell me, don't tell me until you absolutely have to tell me." Most of the time I read the scripts I think, "ohh, that's good."
Al Norton: When you get a role on a show that's already on the air do you do a marathon of the episodes you missed so you have an idea of what's going on?
Charisma Carpenter: I do. I do my best to get a feel for it but in this case I wasn't able to. I was in Europe when I got the call and wasn't able to do a lot of back story so I just relied on the powers that be informing me of who everyone was and what my relationship with them would be. When I got back to stateside and was settled I went to ABCFamily.com and did some background, reading up on all the characters and their relevance to each other. You've got to do your homework, for sure.
Al Norton: I'm sorry, I'm just flipping out because, with no prompting by me, you just used the expression, "the powers that be."
Charisma Carpenter: Yes, I did (laughing).
Al Norton: We talked a couple of years ago and you told me the story about showing Sylvester Stallone the last scene of You're Welcome as your audition, and I had a piece on my column's Facebook page asking people what TV scenes they could watch over and over again and that scene ranked very high.
Charisma Carpenter: Wow, what a compliment that is. I do get that a lot on Twitter. Two things seem to be the them on Twitter with Buffy and Angel fans; the first is along the lines of "You're Welcome blew my mind and I still cry every time I see it even though I know the ending" - and that's the highest praise you can give someone who does what I do for a living – and then the second is, "oh, I forgot how funny you were." It always makes me so happy to hear those things, I love getting that fan response.
Al Norton: Do you know when you're doing a scene like that how good it is?
Charisma Carpenter: That's a really good question. There's a scene coming up in The Lying Game that I can't tell you much about but is similar to what we're talking about. It's really powerful and heavy and all the cards are laid on the table. With Cordy and Angel in the You're Welcome scene, she's saying goodbye to him but we always wanted them together and here she is walking back in and laying a kiss on him, helping him get back on track and telling him all the things he's meant to her, really verbalizing it. She gets to say "this is what you mean to me, what you've always meant to me", and at the same time she knows she's never going to get it, and that's an awful horrible terrible thing and I think people really related to that. She was such an endearing character in her growth over the seasons and when you mix those dynamics, when you finally get to say what needed to be said so long ago, it's so powerful.
The scene I am thinking of in The Lying Game is something fans have been waiting to see, you've been waiting to see these two people together and for these things to be said, and it really is special and I can't wait to see it.
Al Norton: What do you let your son (9 years old) watch on TV?
Charisma Carpenter: Right now he watched a lot of Disney and Disney XD but I have to say I'm a little bummed because those kids are a little sassy and he starts to get sassy when he watches. Those kids are just so precocious and so articulate. Fortunately he's starting to get really into sports, watching a lot of soccer and NFL.
Al Norton: What of your work has he been able to watch?
Charisma Carpenter: We started to watch Buffy and we've seen the first five episodes of the first season. He really likes it but I don't cram it down his throat. I really am looking forward to rewatching it but I don't want to watch without him. He still scares easily so I am going slow as far as Angel goes.
Al Norton: If you could control the universe and guest on any show on TV, what would you choose?
Charisma Carpenter: Well obviously Mad Men, because I love that show. (Former Buffy & Angel writer/producer) Jane Espenson is working on Once Upon a Time now and that's also an ABC show, so that would work out great.
Al Norton: Plus you'd likely be able to bust out your ass-kicking skills on that show.
Charisma Carpenter: Damn right. Those skills are underutilized. I want more comedy and more physicality.
Al Norton: For people who didn't watch season one of The Lying Game, why would they want to watch and what about the show might surprise them?
Charisma Carpenter: I think the big surprise about The Lying Game is the mass appeal, from 15 – 80. There's something in it for the adults, something in it for the kids, and they do a really good job of weaving the characters together, adults with kids, so you don't tune out when only one group is on the screen. They're so dependent on each other that the relationships all impact each other, so you have to pay attention throughout. I think that's a surprising dynamic for the show on the whole.
I think it also provides a good opportunity for parents and kids to talk when they watch and also just be entertained next to each other on the couch.
By Al Norton