The following article is from Cult Times Magazine, Special #11:

Chase to LA
Rumors of death are not to be taken lightly where Buffy, the Vampire Slayer is concerned; a series not known for predictability or giving its characters an easy ride. Fortunately the catty Cordelia is alive and well and moving to LA and another series, giving Angel a helping hand.

As the thoughtless, conceited and condescending Cordelia Chase on TV’s Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Charisma Carpenter did the impossible… she transformed a role that could have effortlessly slipped into a familiar stereotype by creating a character that was funny, sad, witty and infuriating. But now it’s time for Cordelia to move away from Sunnydale, and for Charisma to leave the comfort of a successful series to co-star with David Boreanaz in a new one - Angel. “At the end of Buffy last season, Angel leaves. Obviously, the romance between a slayer and a vampire was doomed from the start,” acknowledges Carpenter, “so we pick up the story with Angel in Los Angeles. Cordelia goes to LA to try her hand at acting, which goes very, very badly. Angel bumps into her at an event and, being typical Cordelia, I ask him who he knows because I’m basically in my apartment starving. I’m rationing little finger foods from parties that I go to, wearing the same dress over and over - which is a different lifestyle from the one I used to know. So there is a lot of growth and room for new dimensions to be discovered in my character.”

Along with the mysterious Doyle, Angel and Cordelia set up an office in LA where the vampire sets out on his path to redemption by seeking out lost souls in need of his help. The series has been in the development stage for a year and a half, as Carpenter recalls, “I think I learned about Angel in the middle of the second season of Buffy. Joss took me aside and told me what his hopes and ideas were with Angel, and my concerns were that of any normal person that would be leaving the comforts of home and stability; flying the coop is risky. But I think professionally it was the best thing to do.”

When the spin off series was announced, rumors began appearing on the internet - one was prompted by an honest miscommunication. Charisma was interviewed by Pavement Magazine in New Zealand, and she was misquoted as saying that Cordelia was going to die. “It was done over the phone and obviously the conversation was misunderstood,” says Carpenter. “The reporter asked me, ‘Is it going to be anything like Buffy?’ I said, “Yeah, the undead, and all of that.’ He wrote, ‘Yeah, I’m dead!’ So that stirred all of this, which is kind of good in a way because I felt validated. All the fans were like, ‘What are you talking about?’ So they care. I don’t know what people thought, I guess they thought that I wasn’t going to be on Angel and that I’d been killed.”

The actress admits that she seldom logs onto the internet. “The last time I did, I got my feelings hurt, so I try not to go there until I grow a thicker skin. People will get the character confused with the person a lot. When I feel that someone’s being aloof to whether I stay on Buffy or not, that bums me out and I take it to heart, so I try not to go there too much. But my sister-in-law will take me and show me a new site that I may not know about - it’s very flattering as long as it’s positive.”

There’s a secrecy that surrounds Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, that has now engulfed Angel, where the creator of the show, Joss Whedon, will go out of his way to guard against any information getting beyond the sound stage - so much so that when the storyline about Cordelia and Xander becoming a couple on Buffy began appearing on the internet before it appeared on the series, Whedon contemplated scrapping the idea. “At one point he was really considering not doing it because the story broke before he was willing to tell it,” remarks Carpenter. “There was the risk of it actually not happening, which would have been very bad for me. We weren’t sure where the leak came from, he had thought that it was from me, so there was a great deal of concern and there was a meeting, but it was never discovered where the leak came from. [When he’s at conventions], Joss will say, ‘I’m purposely not telling you this, if I told you, I might as well not have a job because we want to keep the fans intrigued and be as vague as possible about core issues and storylines.’ ” Charisma has attended her share of conventions for Buffy, but one in particular stood out vividly. “The Comic-Con in San Diego was surreal because it’s very large. There was a tremendous turn-out and it was overwhelming to see that all these people elected to be where we were. It was very flattering. But the one thing that really, really stood out to me about Comic-Con was the true interest in Joss, wanting to pick his mind, wanting to know how he came up with his ideas, what’s in the future… I thought, ‘Wow, what a compliment to our show that the writer and creator of the series is just as much a celebrity as those that are starring in it.’ I think that’s really a tell-tale sign of success.”

Carpenter can certainly relate to Cordelia’s struggle to become an actress - she worked as a waitress in a restaurant in LA before her big break which was on the short-lived drama Malibu Shores. “Being in Aaron Spelling’s office and reading for him and his clan of people was a sign of success,” she admits. “At least I was doing something right, and it’s amazing to say, ‘I met Aaron Spelling today.’ He was so pleasent and so kind to me and I took such a liking to him. I have to say that exposure in Malibu Shores is what made it possible to do Buffy.”

And Carpenter’s exposure in Buffy is what led to her first experience being recognized. “I was in Las Vegas at the Hard Rock Cafe in the bathroom. A woman who was in her thirties apprached me and asked me if I really was ‘Cordelia,’ because I don’t look the same. I said, ‘Yeah, it’s me.’ She said, ‘Oh, my gosh, I love your show. But it’s kind of embarassing to admit that because I’m in my thirties and it’s a high school oriented show.’ I went, ‘No, don’t be embarassed because it’s a quality, smart, witty, self-deprecating, well-written show.’ ”

In contrast, Carpenter laughs as she recalls the first time she approached a star herself. “It was Arnold Schwarzenegger at Last Action Hero. I was so in awe of his magnetism. He oozed so much power and appeal. He’s very charismatic and sweet and he’s very political - he shook everyone’s hand. I wanted to say hello to him and my friend said, ‘Go and talk to him.’ So I go up to him and I’m about to say something, we have eye contact, he’s looking down, I’m looking up… and I’m speechless! He’s waiting and nothing comes out of my mouth, so then he goes, ‘Where’s the food?’ and he turns around and walks off. That was my first experience, and it was such a human thing I’ll never forget it.”

As the season commences, Carpenter willingly discusses both Angel and Buffy and how they will differ. “With Angel we’re trying to stay away from darker and edgier. I think there will be a lot of similarities [between the shows] but the tone will be different because Angel is more about survival, life and death, more about personal strength and redemption. The show is so new to me I don’t have a lot to draw from. All I’ve seen is the trailer and I’ve only shot one episode. I really can’t speculate how I’d like the show to go in the future. I’d like it to be as well received as Buffy. It would be really great for Buffy and Angel to be acknowledged by the Emmys and Golden Globes, because I think they were passed over and they deserve merits. I don’t care about me, but I think Nicholas Brendon is one of the most talented actors I’ve ever worked with in my life. He can do so many things - he can be bad, sexy, he can be a total ‘zeppo’ but he handles it so well as an actor that I really would like to see him get acknowledged by those prestigious awards. For me… I would just like to keep paying off my mortgage. As long as I’m doing that I’m happy, and I’d love to be working with these people for as long as it can go.”

© Visual Imagination Ltd. 1999

Thanks to TyMcNeal for the article
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