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the women of cult television

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a bitch in a bikini

29 august • seattle post-intelligencer


• charisma carpenter just wants to have fun in a mean-spirited role

When it's time to kick a television series up a notch, smart producers know what to do: Add bitch, stir well.

As for who is best for the job, that depends. Those requiring a well-seasoned snake get Heather Locklear on the line. Anyone looking for a knife behind her back, however, can't do better than Charisma Carpenter. The fan favourite returns to television this fall on UPN's Veronica Mars playing vampy trophy wife Kendall Casablancas, Neptune's latest manifestation of pure evil.

To meet her, you wouldn't think she'd be up to the task - bringing us to well-known fact No. 2: Like most actresses skilled in bitchery, Carpenter is, in fact, 100 percent sweetheart. Happily married and loving life with her toddler, Donovan, "that keeps me grounded," she said in a recent interview in Los Angeles. "It's really hard to have a tough day when you have a 2-year-old running around."

Enough with nice, back to nasty. On Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, Carpenter was Cordelia Chase. Seven years with Cordy ended when producers wrote her out of Angel in the fourth season, incurring the wrath of longtime viewers. Fortunately she stayed busy. Carpenter appeared on Miss Match as the shallow Serena Lockner, then turned up on the The WB's Charmed as the testy demon seer Kira.

In comparison, Kendall is grounded in reality. That didn't prevent her from popping up at this year's Comic-Con in San Diego, though:

P-I: You have a story to tell about Comic-Con. Someone asked you about Veronica Mars, and I heard your answer received thunderous applause. What did you say?

Carpenter: The question was, "What do you play on Veronica Mars?" And I said, "A bitch." And everyone was like, eek! And then I said, "... In a bikini." And then they went crazy. I think that people are excited to see me reprise that role, because it's campy and fun. You can't take your eyes off her. You can't stand her, but you can't stop watching.

People keep connecting you with the Buffy legacy. You've clearly moved on, but Cordelia Chase is still informing the roles you've been getting. Do you mind that at all?

No. You know why? When I was younger I did. When I was first starting out, and I was less established, I was really concerned about being typecast. And now, I just think, let's have fun. Let's just have fun and get paid too, you know? I think that if the character's well-written, that's the thing that I'm concerned with. I don't mind playing the same character, but if it's not well done, then I'm not interested. I've been fortunate to work with some really great writers like Joss [Whedon], and David Greenwalt, Tim Minear, Marti Noxon, David Fury and now [Veronica Mars executive producer] Rob Thomas.

Is it true that you're trying to make the transition from hourlong dramas to sitcoms?

Yes. I had developed a sitcom with UPN, but it wasn't picked up. I want a half-hour, but we'll she how it goes. I had seven years of one-hour shows, with late-night shoots, lots of action, you know, and special effects. It's a very time-consuming process that's hard on the body, and it's very difficult to be present for family when you're working like that. I put my dues in, and I want a half hour, so that's where I'm heading.

So, what are the differences between Cordelia and Kendall Casablancas?

Kendall is a little bit older, she's 28. She's honed her skills a lot more, so she's way more manipulative and hip to how it all works, how to get what you want when you want it. Cordelia was good, but it was on a high-school level. As Cordelia changed and evolved, she started to mellow out.

She gained insight.

Right, and there was more humanity to her and she became more fleshed out, three-dimensional and complicated. That's key for any character to be redeemed, if you're going to keep them around. But Kendall could totally take her. This fall I'm really looking forward to just causing trouble and having some fun and being mean! back to the top

alba eyes "jeannie" over "four" sequel?

22 august


• "she'll get to show a lot more skin "

According to the New York Post's Page Six column, Jessica Alba may forego an expected sequel to Fantastic Four in favour of a proposed movie version of 60s sitcom I Dream of Jeannie.

"After starring in the first flick with Michael Chiklis and the lesser-known likes of Ioan Gruffud, Chris Evans and Julian McMahon, the sexy starlet is uncertain the follow-up would be a judicious career move," the column reported. "Instead, we hear Alba has agreed to star alongside Jimmy Fallon in the movie remake of the classic sitcom I Dream of Jeannie. She'll get to show a lot more skin than Barbara Eden, who was forced to censors to cover her navel. Alba declined to comment."

If Alba does take the role, I Dream of Jeannie would be a rarity in modern Hollywood - a remake featuring a female lead who isn't Nicole Kidman (c.f. The Stepford Wives, Bewitched, Invasion). back to the top

"charmed" magically stays alive

21 august • zap2it


• "that door is not closed"

Last April on the set of The WB Network's Sunday-night supernatural drama Charmed, tempers were a bit frayed. The seventh-season finale was in production, and there was no word yet on whether the show had been renewed.

Holly Marie Combs, who plays Piper, was getting a bit cranky. "I'm not going to sugarcoat it," she said at the time. "I am not pleased. After this amount of time on a network, we deserve better."

Brian Krause, who plays Piper's husband, Leo, was more optimistic, saying, "I think they'd be silly not to bring us back."

"Whatever's going to be is what's going to be," philosophised Rose McGowan, who plays youngest sister Paige.

Alyssa Milano, who spent the better part of her 20s playing middle-sister Phoebe, worried more about the fans, saying, "I don't get ... not giving them what they deserve for hanging in for seven years, because that's going to lose more audience."

The word finally came at the 11th hour, right before the network was to announce its fall schedule to advertisers in mid-May. Apparently, The WB was not willing to toss out the show's 3.5 to 4 million weekly viewers (who would then see promos for The WB's new fall shows). The new season begins on Sunday, 25 September.

Says network entertainment chief David Janollari (to whom executive producer Brad Kern had made an impassioned pitch for the new season), "The pickup of Charmed, which has long been a terrific performer for us and held its ground really nicely in its seventh season, was a matter of saying, 'Let's continue to have an 8 o'clock show to anchor the night that we know performs and has a loyal audience."

The decision was also made to add a new, younger witch, Billie, played by Kaley Cuoco (8 Simple Rules).

With Billie, Janollari wants to "spice things up a little bit, to bring potentially a new and somewhat younger audience into the show."

And, as hope springs eternal in the network breast, Kern points out, "Janollari has some hope, however much of a long shot, that Kaley's character, in combination with any one of the sisters, may want to come back, could keep the show going. There's always that possibility. That door is not closed."

All this happy news meant, of course, that Kern now had to dig himself out of the deep dramatic hole he created for the finale.

He had allowed the sisters, collectively known as The Charmed Ones, to wipe their slates clean and start new lives with new identities (played by different actresses), while also protecting the secret of their magical abilities.

"I didn't know we were coming back," Kern says. "What was I supposed to do? It was more of a series finale than a season finale. But there were more than enough elements in there, building blocks, to help me and the writing staff dig out of it, and we have. We've got the first six scripts written as we speak."

One might wonder, with three witch sisters and another witch on the way, why Kern doesn't simply have someone cast a spell and undo everything? According to Kern, that would be cheating, and the fans would resent it.

"Magic might be a Band-Aid," he says, "but it won't be the solution. Our folks wouldn't stick with us if they saw us do, 'Oh, never mind, that didn't really happen.' We have to get out of it authentically. We have to earn it.

"That turns out to be fun for the first third of the season, watching how the girls live their lives after having feigned their deaths and realising that maybe the identity they left behind, or some part of that identity, they want back."

Unfortunately for Kern, there won't be any magical solutions for his practical problems either. Although the sisters abandoned their old lives, budget restrictions mean Kern must retain all his standing sets, including the sisters' Victorian house in San Francisco.

"Frankly," Kern says, "our budget was cut back substantially in order to come back. That forced my hand tremendously as far as creative choices. It's funny, that was actually my biggest concern, how can I back the stories and the characters into this new, restricted budget and not have it show?"

Kern also has to find room for some new characters, starting with Billie. When original cast member Shannen Doherty left the show, her character, eldest sister Prue, was killed off, and McGowan joined the cast as long-lost half-sister Paige. Billie, though, won't be a member of the family.

"I think we've brought in enough family members over the years," Kern says. "She's just a young witch who has just come into her powers and thinks it's pretty cool to use them, thinks the world is one big video game.

"In order to preserve some semblance of a normal life, the girls are going to wind up having to recruit her to do some of the demonic heavy lifting. At the same time, they're going to have to teach her what a moral compass is."

Originally, Kern was planning to bring in Sugar Ray frontman and Extra host Mark McGrath as a new love interest for Phoebe. But scheduling conflicts made that impossible, so now former model Jason Lewis (Sex and the City) will do a six-episode stint as Dex, who'll be on Phoebe's romantic radar - and it may get serious.

"We prophesied in earlier seasons that Phoebe's character is meant to have a child," Kern explains. "That'll have a lot to do with the first six episodes. She's going to realise that if the vision's supposed to happen, she'd better get busy soon." back to the top

angelina jolie to play evil queen in "beowulf"

19 august


• "a Dark Ages 'Trainspotting', filled with mead and blood and madness"

Angelina Jolie is set to play a "queen of darkness who tempts a Viking during his quest to become king" in a film version of the epic poem Beowulf. This might be a character called Thryth, a queen who has those who look at her killed, because the description does not match that of the most famous woman in the poem, Grendel's mother.

According to Daily Variety, Jolie will join Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Brendan Gleeson and Robin Wright Penn in the Robert Zemeckis directed film. The screenplay was written by Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman. Gaiman has described it as "a sort of Dark Ages Trainspotting, filled with mead and blood and madness."

The actors will appear as animated versions of themselves utilising so-called performance-capture technology as used by Zemeckis in The Polar Express last year. This will allow film-makers to depict the story in ways that would be physically impossible.

Zemeckis said yesterday: "Beowulf is a timeless, epic tale of heroism and triumph. Digital rendering will allow us to depict this incredible story in ways we would never have dared imagine."

Beowulf is one of the oldest epics in early English and one of the most important works in medieval English, although the events it relates are set in Baltic Europe.

Jolie has just started filming The Good Shepherd alongside Matt Damon. back to the top

in it for the money

8 august


• "i would have done theatre if it was just about acting"

Jessica Alba has revealed that one of her main motives for entering the movie business was to ensure she'd never be poor again.

The actress admits she grew up in a home where there wasn't an abundance of cash and, as a result, strived to ensure that she'd not have the same experience as an adult.

She says, "My parents were like 18 when my mom got pregnant. They had high school educations and that was it. They didn't have much.

"My dad was in the Air Force to support his wife and kid, and it was a struggle. I never wanted to have problems with the bills.

"I just thought I wanted to do something where I could express myself creatively on one end, and on the other end, I didn't want to worry about finances. I would have done theatre if it was just about acting." back to the top

the new witch on the block

3 august • arizona daily star


• kaley cuoco, formerly of "8 simple rules", is joining the wb's "charmed"

After a stint playing the oldest daughter on the ABC sitcom 8 Simple Rules, the teenage actress makes herself at home in the WB's Charmed coven.

Kaley Cuoco didn't have to cast a spell to become the newest witch on Charmed. She didn't even have to audition.

The WB was already enchanted with her work on 8 Simple Rules.

With magical timing, the producers and The WB offered Cuoco a new starring role after cancellation of the ABC sitcom.

Cuoco will join stars Alyssa Milano, Holly Marie Combs and Rose McGowan, who play witches Phoebe, Piper and Paige, respectively. Charmed begins its eighth season on 25 September and will continue to air on Sundays.

"I had never seen an episode," Cuoco said.

That might help her in portraying the newest character for the Aaron Spelling drama.

"She can come into it without any preconceptions," said WB Entertainment President David Janollari.

"I play Billie, a new witch the girls take in. They help her to learn the ropes. She has no idea what she's doing," said Cuoco, 19.

"We were looking to cast this young witch who is about her age," said Janollari. "She was on the list of available actors. We loved her work on 8 Simple Rules. She was interested. It was that simple. She's young and spunky and sassy, and she will give the show another voice.

Adding characters has boosted ratings for Charmed, Janollari said. Besides Cuoco, Jason Lewis of Sex and the City will join the show in a six-episode role as Dex, a romantic possibility for Phoebe.

Cuoco also continues to work her magic in movies and animated shows. She said she's the voice of an evil twin on Fox's new cartoon, Bratz, based on the dolls. And she continues to voice Brandy, a pampered pooch on the Disney Channel cartoon Brandy & Mr. Whiskers. (Mr. Whiskers, a rabbit, is Brandy's friend.)

Cuoco talked about the cancellation of Rules, in which she played oldest daughter Bridget Hennessy, after three seasons.

"When John [Ritter] passed away, it was hard to keep the show going," Cuoco said, but added that "[new cast members] David Spade and James Garner did a great job.

"You do a job; your show gets cancelled. You get used to it," Cuoco said. Before Rules, she appeared for one season on the low-rated CBS sitcom Ladies' Man.

Cuoco, who started her acting career at 6, also appears regularly on talk shows, and her movie appearances include The Hollow, Lucky 13, Picture Perfect and Virtuosity. back to the top