The following interview is from

AKA: Cordelia Chase on Buffy the Vampire Slayer
She's really a nice person. If you get that much out of this interview, Charisma Carpenter will be happy. The actress is strongly identified with Cordelia Chase, the acid-tongued fashion arbiter of Sunnydale High on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And as she tells our Jeanne Wolf, she's not in a huge hurry to disabuse viewers of that perception. But really, she's not at all bitchy.

Do you share any traits with Cordelia - her attitude, her sass?
I like her truthfulness. I'm very much like that. I didn't realize that quality about her until this one episode, where Giles says, "Do you have any tact at all?" And I said, "Tact means just not saying true stuff, so forget it, no." And when that line was said, I thought to myself, "This is the first time I could say I had something in common with her." Not that I'm not tactful: I can be tactful, but I also am very blunt [laughs] at the same time.

Do you think that the writers understand that about you?
I don't spend any time with them. They're not on set a lot. Most of the time the writers and the actors are kind of separate. They're upstairs writing and we're down on the set spewing what they've written. Maybe Joss has seen it, and is aware of it, because he spends the most time with us.

What drew Cordelia and Xander together?
Because we're so opposite. Opposites attract. We do this bantering and this battle of the wits so much that inevitably we were just attracted to each other. It was a physical thing at first, but now I don't know what it is, because we're not pursuing the physicality anymore.  What's keeping us together is at this point up to the writers, because I don't really know [laughs] why we're together at this point.

How did you feel about keeping your relationship a secret?
Well, I think it made for some really humorous scenes, and it was hilarious and I think the audience really loved that. And at first they were afraid of us being together, they didn't like it. But then as time went on, it was interesting and it was really funny. And then we got together and everybody was moaning and groaning that the prelude to getting together didn't last longer. Because they were getting so much out of that and it was so funny.

You were in beauty pageants as a kid. Were you pushed into that?
I wasn't that young. And I wasn't pushed into it - it was something that I loved doing. I don't think pageants are necessarily a bad thing. I think the mothers can be. Stage mothers are the most deadly thing there is, because you can kill a kid's spirit by that, or you can teach them to be comfortable with themselves and to field questions off the top of their head. My parents encouraged me, but they also made sure I enjoyed the experience.

Your parents sound like the exception rather than the rule.
My mom never put a bunch of makeup on me or extravagant outfits, even when I was in pageants. My mom sewed my clothes, which I loved, and someday when I'm married I hope she makes my dress. I've told her she'd better. She was into simplicity, and it wasn't about more cheeks, more makeup, bigger hair, big fancy dresses. It was simple, classic. Not excess. I can always spot a pageant girl when I see one.

There's a little too much makeup or the hair is just a little too perfect; they're trying too hard. But they're bright girls and they have a dream, and this is the way that they are choosing to get that dream and there's nothing wrong with that. I'm not in it or around it anymore, so I don't know if it's changed.

You sound happy. Don't you know that you're supposed to come from a miserable, dysfunctional home to be a good actress?
[Laughs] There's some credence to that. My life wasn't perfect; I just had a very supportive family. I had a very supportive mom and dad, but my childhood wasn't perfect either; nobody's is. Everybody has their garbage and their baggage.

You sound like you were a good girl growing up. Were you ever in trouble?
Always in trouble. Bad grades, sneaking out, having boys over when my mom wasn't home. I was always in trouble, always. I took my dad's car out for a spin. I snuck out when they were sleeping to go out with my friends because my parents were very, very strict. I had to be home by midnight, but I had some of the best times trying to be home for my curfew. It was a lot of fun at the same time.  Growing up, I had two cousins very close by. My mom used to tell me, "If you don't want me to find out about something, please don't tell your cousins, because they're just going to tell their mother and their mother's going to tell me." I was constantly in trouble, but I'm glad my childhood was the way it was.

Is there a lot of pressure on you now, to move from this hit series to a movie?
I'm getting tremendous pressure, even from my own people - my agent and my manager - right now. Like, "You got to do a movie this summer because everybody's going to come back to Buffy and you're not going to have done anything." And I said, "So?" [laughs]. I'm ambitious, but I want balance. And I'm not a tiger and I'm not a barracuda. I know who I am. I believe in myself, and it's going to happen when it happens and not any sooner.  I know what I have to do to excel, and that is I don't like to be running around to three, four appointments a day. I like to devote a day to prepare for an audition, and I cannot do it any other way. If that means that I don't work today, that's fine, because I want to work until I'm 80.  But there is a pressure, definitely: "I want you to read for Robert Rodriguez for this part, and Kevin Williamson wrote this script." And it's like, "Well, what character are they having me read for?" It's just Cordelia with a different name.  No, I don't want to read for that character. I have Cordelia.  I have another 10 months to do Cordelia. I've been doing Cordelia for two years; I have another year to do it for sure; let's try something else.

Is it hard to keep that attitude?
Well, yeah. It's not hard to keep the courage, but it's hard to get people to understand you and not to give up on you. And then I have to say, "We don't have the same vision; we're not on the same page," so I have to look for support somewhere else. And that may come around and bite me in the butt, but for me right now that's how I feel. I have another 10 months of work and it's hard work. I'm not going to get up and do something that I don't feel 100 percent about. I'm not going to get up and do something half-assed. And if I don't feel like I could get into it or I love it, then I'm not going to do it.

So it didn't drive you crazy to see Sarah Michelle Gellar suddenly on the cover of everything?
I think that's amazing, and I'm so happy for her. And she's been doing this a lot longer than I have. She is a veteran, and this has been a long time coming for her. She deserves it. And I will have that. And it may not be this summer and it may not be in five summers, but I have to go at my pace. I can't be comparing myself to anyone else or put that kind of pressure on myself. I don't know if I'll be ready for it when it does; we'll just see.  I'm here. It's my karma; things work out.

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