Charisma Carpenter Talks THE LYING GAME, HAUNTED HIGH, and the BUFFY Remake

     December 28, 2011


When the ABC Family drama series The Lying Game returns on January 2nd, actress Charisma Carpenter (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) will be a recurring guest star as Char’s (Kirsten Prout) aunt, Anne Rebecca Sewell, who has come back to town after years of being estranged from her family. Having overcome being the girl who was treated poorly in high school, she wants a fresh start after her split from her husband, and returns with a confidence and success that makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

During a recent interview to promote her appearance on the popular show, Charisma Carpenter talked about her desire to find a home on a television series, that she hadn’t been familiar with the series prior to being cast but quickly caught up on episodes, the similarities between her character on The Lying Game and Cordelia from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, that working on the show is one of the best experiences she’s had, and how, although she’s been given ideas for where her storyline is going, she’s specifically asked not to have all of the details. She also talked about how her heart is in television but that she would also love to do more film, how doing a remake of Buffy without Joss Whedon could do more harm to the franchise then good, working with Danny Trejo on Haunted High, reuniting with James Marsters for an episode of Supernatural, and how she would love to do an episode of Bones with her Angel co-star David Boreanaz. Check out what she had to say after the jump:

Here’s the show synopsis:


Inspired by the book series of the same name, The Lying Game follows long-lost twins Emma and Sutton (Alexandra Chando). Separated under mysterious circumstances, Sutton was adopted by the wealthy Mercer family in Phoenix, while Emma grew up in the foster system. When the twins reunite as teenagers, they keep it a secret so that Sutton can go in search of the truth while Emma takes over her life and discovers more secrets and lies than she could have imagined. And, Season 2 is a season of secrets, seduction and life-and-death stakes, as the twins continue to expose the skeletons in their family closet.

Question: What is it about this role that really drew you to it? Were you looking to do another television show, as a regular cast member, or do you prefer doing guest starring or recurring roles?

CHARISMA CARPENTER: I am definitely interested in finding a home, for sure. But, this was a recurring opportunity to be on a show. If more comes of it, it would be a welcome surprise, but that was not my intention. I was drawn to the complexity of a character that is not all that she seems, which I’m a little bit familiar with. With Cordelia, from Buffy and Angel, if I were to compare the two characters, she was way more up-front. She was like a soothsayer. She just said what was on her mind. You always knew where you stood with things. She’d give you advice, even when you don’t want to hear it. I think this character, Anne Rebecca Sewell, is not so forthcoming with what she’s really thinking. You know that there are wheels spinning, behind her eyes. I think that also happens with age. You filter a little better.

Rebecca definitely has her filters and her radar, highly tuned. She’s smarter, wiser and more sophisticated. Apparently, she’s a little moneyed up. She’s lived and survived a lot, especially socially. The way she was treated, when she was younger, affected her in a way that either you sink or swim, and apparently she swam. Now, she’s back to these choppy waters to navigate them and see what she can make out of it. I feel like her intentions are to set things right for herself mainly, but not in a vindictive, revenge way because then that gets into a whole other show, altogether. I think what her intention really is, she never turned heads in the past, and she was really mistreated by her peers, so it’s nice to come back on top. It feels good. I don’t think she’s really going to be willing to let that go, anytime soon. I think you’ll see a lot of similarities between Rebecca and Cordelia, but they’re not, by any means, the same character.

What characteristics do Rebecca and Cordelia share?

CARPENTER: I think they’re both very spoiled. I don’t think Rebecca was always spoiled, but she has come into money, and money changes you. There’s almost an arrogance that comes with it. And, I think that is similar to Cordelia. There’s this sense of entitlement. Rebecca has found herself. She’s made herself successful. Cordelia was very specific and very intentioned in her behavior, and protective of those people in her vicinity, that she grew to love and trust. Rebecca is a hard nut to crack. We don’t really know who she has an affinity for, if anyone. I think she will tell you the truth. She’ll say enough to make a person uncomfortable, which is very Cordelia, but she’s not as blunt as Cordelia. I think she just says enough. She’s like a garnish on a plate. She’s grown, she’s sophisticated, she uses respect and she uses her resources in a way that maybe Cordelia didn’t always know to do yet.

How familiar were you with the whole phenomenon of The Lying Game, when you were first invited to join the cast?

CARPENTER: Not at all. In fact, I had no idea what The Lying Game meant, and I’m still missing the last five episodes of the first 10. I’ve got the first five, and then I’ve got episodes 10 through 16 down, but I’m missing five. I was given the link, but I can’t get the link to work on my Mac, so I’m a little bit challenged, in that regard. I’m not that familiar with that. I’ve been exposed to it a little bit, but I don’t know in what sense it’s a game. I understand Sutton introduced it.

Was there anybody that took you under their wing and helped you get assimilated with the entire universe of the show?

CARPENTER: I would probably say that it started at the top with Chuck [Pratt]. I read the script and called him and told him that I had some questions about her like, “How does she fit in? How will that be explained to the audience? Will that be more confusing or less confusing? Who am I? What did I do?” So, he walked me through it and was pretty generous and willing to tell me whatever it was that I needed to understand, but there did come a point where I was like, “Okay, don’t tell me anymore. I don’t want to know any more than just what you said because I don’t want it to inform my performance, in a way that would reveal too much.” It doesn’t assist you to know more than you should because then you’re not playing it right. You can be informed and you can have the information, but then you have to play against that information, and it becomes more confusing and more complicated than it need be. I just like to keep it simple, and play it very earnestly and straightforward with the information I have at hand, unless I’m told otherwise.

Why has Annie been gone so long, and what is her relationship with her sister, Phyllis (Sydney Barrosse), like?

CARPENTER: She’s been gone so long because when she was there, she was in high school and things did not go well for her. She was treated poorly and not well received. I think some very bad things happened to her, but what those things are exactly has not, at this point, been revealed to me. It’s just touched on a little bit, here and there. But, when she does come back, she is a completely different-looking person in appearance, and she’s better off, monetarily. She was in Los Angeles running a music company with her husband, who she is no longer with. She decides to go back home and start fresh, to everyone else’s chagrin.

How do you approach a character like Rebecca, who knows so many secrets about people?

charisma-carpenter-supernatural-imageCARPENTER: It’s not about them. It’s about her. That’s the way I approach it. It’s about just focusing each interaction, one at a time, and knowing what my overall purpose is to be there. It’s a fresh start, so it’s positive and it’s a good thing. To play it any other way would just be a different show. Part of The Lying Game is that appearances aren’t always what they seem. If you go into it being difficult or giving too much attitude, there are not a lot of places to go with that. She’s optimistic. She wants a change. She’s open to befriending those people that weren’t nice to her when she was younger, and starting new. I think she comes from a place of confidence and success, and she has nothing to apologize for. She’s interested in opening those doors again.

What’s the history between your character and Ted (Andy Buckley) and Alec (Adrian Pasdar)?

CARPENTER: With Ted and Alec, my understanding of their relationship is that they were high school acquaintances. They were cruel and mean to me, but what that means, I honestly don’t know. They played games on me. Maybe The Lying Game started way before Sutton. I don’t know. But apparently, I was not treated well. I was not a confident person. I was not a charming person. I was not attractive, in any way. I guess they must have done something terrible to me, but I honestly don’t know what it is. It hasn’t been revealed to me, and I don’t even know if the writers know yet what it is that they did. More will be revealed, I guess.

How is the chemistry on the set, and how are you enjoying that?

charisma-carpenter-imageCARPENTER: It’s one of the best sets I’ve been on. It’s probably on par with my experience on Veronica Mars. It’s a lot of young kids with a great deal of pressure and responsibility, just killing it, every day. They get it. They’re appreciative. There is no diva. There is no attitude. There are no hang-ups. Everybody has a fantastic outlook. And, in this economy, everybody is really appreciative to be working. It’s not lost on them. It’s really a wonderful thing to see such young people taking on such huge responsibilities and jobs and hours, and doing it with such grace. I really have been impressed, a great deal. And, Alexandra Chando is in her mid-20’s and she’s not one character, but two characters. It’s a fantastic environment. The chemistry is great. The crew is great. I love working with Adrian [Pasdar]. He’s crackly. He’s incensed, like he’s on fire and going to ignite, at any moment. One little bit of accelerant, and he’s just going to blow up. He’s so alive and his energy is impossible to ignore. Every time, he’ll give you a line and you might have in your mind a way that the scene would be going or the way he would say something, but no. And then, you’ll do the same thing again and it won’t be the same way either. That, for me, just brings my level of acting up. When you see the season, you will see what I’m talking about. It’s an amazing work experience for me.

Who does your character have the most chemistry with, and who will she cause the most trouble for?

CARPENTER: I feel like she has the most chemistry with Alec Rybak, but I think that’s on purpose. Some of my scenes are with him. I feel, though, there is very interesting tension between Ted Mercer and Rebecca Sewell. I feel like, whenever he’s around, he’s a cold fish and she revels in that. I think she likes that, but it’s not like it’s mutual. With Alec, it’s mutual interest. With Ted, I can tell that I can ruffle his feathers, and I love it. It is very interesting to see where that may or may not go. I think the most trouble I will be causing is probably with Kristin Mercer (Helen Slater) because she feels threatened, in some way, and she can’t put her finger on why – why I’m back and why I look different. It’s really fun to be back and turning heads. I don’t think that that’s conducive to something you say to a woman who you want to befriend and who’s married when you’re single. I don’t think that’s very comfortable for her. I don’t think Thayer Rybak (Christian Alexander) likes me very much. We don’t know why he’s so resistant because his sister, Mads (Alice Greczyn), is very happy to see me and thinks I’m cool.

charisma-carpenter-imageHave you been given any ideas for your arc on the show, at all?

CARPENTER: Ideas, yes, and I have my own suspicions, but I don’t know what I can say without losing my job. They don’t like it when you give too much away. It’s such a difficult position because I want to give you stuff and make you happy, and I want to give you the interview that you want, but at the same time, I don’t want to lose my job. To be honest, I know things, but I don’t think I really know all of it because I’ve actually asked to not know past a certain point.

With the resemblance between you and Alexandra Chando, do you think you are the twins’ real mother?

CARPENTER: Obviously, I’m wondering, too. It would seem that I am, but I don’t know if I’m a red herring and we haven’t really met her yet, at all. I don’t know. I hope that I am. It would be nice to be around awhile. But, I don’t know for sure. They haven’t told me. We only suspect. Also, if I am the mom, who is the father? Apparently, I’ve had relations. I was a bit of a get-around girl. All I can tell you is that my feeling is that the adults are going to have their time, and they’re going to be competing hard for that storyline for the younger kids. The younger kids are very compelling and it’s the demographic and all that, but if you are a grown-up and are watching this show, you will have your own storyline and be into it. I have every intention of making it super-interesting.

Do you have a preference between working in TV or film?

CARPENTER: Yes, of course, I would love to do more film, and I will be doing more film, but I can’t tell you any more than that. My heart is in television, just because it’s been so good to me. I’ve had the joy of working on critically acclaimed shows, but unfortunately, those shows aren’t always in the Golden Globe or Emmy categories, which bums me out because they are really good, quality shows. So, television is my home. It’s a special breed of person that can do nine months on and three months off, with 22 episodes of one-hour shows. It’s very hard work. It can be a grind. It’s not a grind for me. I relish in that. But, there are very few of us that can handle that. When movie people go over into television, it’s a little bit of a shock. It’s much faster-paced. Everything is really last-minute. You won’t know your schedule for the next episode until the last minute. You don’t know if you’re going to be off for Christmas. But, it’s familiar and good for me. I like having a steady job, and all that goes along with that.

There were rumors this past year about a Buffy remake. How do you feel about that?

charisma-carpenter-imageCARPENTER: I get asked that a lot. I talk about it on Twitter a lot because it inevitably makes it on my timeline. My feeling is, “Of course, they’re doing it. It was successful.” But, to do it without Joss [Whedon], it’s just going to be really disappointing. I feel like it could do more harm to the franchise than good. Maybe it’ll make people appreciate the original more. I don’t know. But, it doesn’t make much sense to do that, without any of the key players involved. Why call it Buffy? They should just call it something else because it’s not going to be the same thing.

What is Haunted High, and how was the experience of doing that?

CARPENTER: I’m in Haunted High with Danny Trejo. He is an amazing man, and he looks so fit. He’s on my favorite show, Sons of Anarchy. It’s just ridiculous. The man is so accomplished. He just is everywhere. I love him. He’s a doll. He’s bad to the bone. I want to be him, sometimes. I imagine, “What would Danny do?” If I could embody him, it would be really nice, sometimes. Who’s going to say no to Machete?

What was it like to work with James Marsters again on Supernatural?

CARPENTER: Oh, it was a lot of fun. What was so great about it was that we didn’t spend time together before, at all. I never really had scenes with him. We’ve been orbiting the same areas and various conventions since then. So, when we were on set, I really feel like I get backstory and I know what’s going on in his life. I know he has a kid. I know they love music. I know they play together. I know he’s involved. I really felt like I got to connect with him, and talk about the old days and what our experiences were, and reconnect, in a trusted way. It was really special to me.

Would you ever consider going on Bones, with David Boreanaz?

CARPENTER: I hear such wonderful things about that set. I have friends that have worked on the show. I am in touch with David, and Julie [Benz] and I have tweeted about doing episodes of Bones. I think it’s been brought up to the executive producers, I’m totally, absolutely game. I adore David. He’s like my brother. I know him really, really well. I love him so much. Julie is one of my closest friends. For us to get together again and play, whether independently or all together, would just be so much fun. I really want to work with Emily [Deschanel] because I hear wonderful things about her. She’s one of the nicest people around, and she and David have such wonderful chemistry. I want to meet this woman that has been so wonderful to my friend.

charisma-carpenter-imageHave you had any really interesting or strange fan encounters?

CARPENTER: I have had some fan encounters that were interesting, but most encounters are actually quite pleasant and endearing. But, it was a little unsettling when a very sweet young girl actually did pee her pants. That was a little odd. You hear about that happening with people like the Beatles or Michael Jackson, or something like that, so it’s a little unsettling to know that that level of excitement or emotional intensity is being caused by you. It’s flattering, but unsettling, at the same time. It’s like, “It’s just me. I’m just a person.” It’s a little odd. I don’t know how Justin Bieber deals.

Being involved with Twitter, how does the interaction with fans come into play with your projects? Is it a great way for you to not only interact with fans, but also promote the projects you do, or get that instant feedback about your projects?

CARPENTER: Social media is a double-edged sword. I’ve gotten in trouble for announcing, too soon, something that the network or the studio wanted to do, and it steals some of the thunder, so to speak. I don’t mean to do that, but it’s hard because I want to give my fans what they want to hear.

In addition to The Lying Game, do you have any other upcoming projects in the works?

CARPENTER: Yes, there is something, but I’m not allowed to say and I won’t get in trouble. I can’t get in trouble. It will be announced very soon, and it’s not TV.