Charisma Carpenter is very busy these days, and I had the opportunity to sit down with the actress on her recent trip to NYC. Best known for playing Cordelia Chase on Buffy The Vampire Slayer (the role she tells me was her favorite to play!), Charisma talked openly about her charity involvement, past and present projects, and what's next for her.
Fans will be happy to hear that she still keeps in touch with a few friends from her Buffy/ Angel days, including actress Julie Benz, Alyson Hannigan and her husband Alexis Denisof (both on CBS' How I Met Your Mother).
More recently, Carpenter has gained more fans and recognition for playing Rebecca Sewell on ABC Family's The Lying Game. Although there is still no word on whether or not show will be renewed for another season, the fans (myself included) remain hopeful.
I think what I enjoy the most is... from an actress' point of view... the challenge of keeping her grounded and not becoming over-the-top, diabolical, or making her, or portraying her in a way that is insane..." she said, describing what she enjoys about playing Rebecca. "I really don't want her to go to that place. I want her to, and I think the producers are really good at helping me scale that back, and you know, keep that in check. I think that's the best thing, just trying to find that balance, is a challenge as an actress.
Fans were shocked by the show's finale. When asked how she felt about the possibility of Alec (Adrian Pasdar) being dead, she answered, "I can't imagine the show without Alec, so, I don't know how that's going to go... Who would fill those shoes? Nobody! So, I don't feel shocked, because I'm in denial..."
As well as The Lying Game, Charisma has been working on a new show for Investigation Discovery called Surviving Evil. The show is about the true stories of women who have survived horrible experiences. During the interview, Charisma told me about an attack that happened to her when she was younger, and showed me how important this new show was going to be.
In '91, I was attacked by a San Diego police officer... my two friends were shot and I survived. Twenty years later, I end up having a great conversation with some people and we found a way to tell my, and other women that have been in my position... our stories in a way that is inspiring and courageous... thought provoking, educational for other women and I am very passionate about it. I think what made my story so unique was just that he was a San Diego police officer and you know, somebody that you trust, and you trust your life with... [Someone] you expect to protect you is actually the one harming you. I think that's what makes that component, and the fact that I was with two men when I was attacked, so unusual. And then the final instrument that goes along with my story that makes it different is that we had to save ourselves. And I ultimately ended up having a piece of evidence that connected the incident to the police officer...So, I was able to think on the spot and I was able to kind of come through it with a healthy sense of objective, or a healthy sense of grounded-ness... I don't feel like my life has been destroyed because of this event and I think other women that have had, that have been in my situation, and the stories that we tell are the same... So, I am very attached to these other stories and the women that tell them. We are going to premier this fall.
In addition to acting and being a mother, Charisma involves herself with a lot of charity work. When asked about the charities she is involved with, Carpenter passionately opened up, describing it as her favorite thing to talk about on interviews.
Number one, is the Ronan Thompson Foundation, which deals with pediatric cancer. A dear friend of mine had a little boy that died four days before his fourth birthday of Neuroblastoma. What's Neuroblastoma? Well that seems to be the million dollar question. You think immediately because it's Neuro it has something to do with the brain, it doesn't. But it is deadly. If you are diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, at the age of one or below, you have a good chance of surviving. If you are one or older, your chances of survival are remote. I mean remote is generous. Ronan was unfortunately another statistic, in his dying. However, Mia Thompson, his mom -- she has a great blog, you can follow her on twitter -- is really advocating and started the Ronan Thompson Foundation, which has garnered a great deal of attention. Mainly from Taylor Swift, who took words from her blog, like literally plucked them off the paper and computer screen and made a song called 'Ronan' and performed it at Stand Up for Cancer...I hope and that it will inspire people to fund the Ronan Thompson Foundation because the Ronan Thompson Foundation does devote all of its funds to a hospital that's trying to build, to bring in the best of the researchers, you know the best and the brightest to help fight this. I don't know many people that know that of all the cancers, pediatric cancer only gets 4 percent funding. It is the least funded cancer of all the cancers. And they're our future...
The second charity Charisma opened up about was the Thirst Project.
The Thirst Project is super dear to me because it was started by young people for young people. Seth Maxwell is probably one of the most articulate young men I've ever met in my life... he campaigns tirelessly. He goes all around the country speaking to schools, getting them to realize that -- 'Did you know that all these people in the world do not have safe clean water to drink?' -- over a billion people don't have safe, clean drinking water. There are droughts, there are contaminants, there are all kinds of reasons why people don't have water to drink. Or wash with. There are all these water-borne diseases that occur, that are preventable... That advocacy took me, I donated money for a well, I raised money for a well... I went [to Uganda], with Seth and other donors to the field, and it was a very intense, for many reasons, but obviously you're in a very poor country and you're seeing a lot of poverty and despair. But hope. And I was really inspired by their faith and hope and the way that they embraced us. So happy to see us and want to touch us... They're looking at you and they're just overwhelmed with joy that you made the trek to come to their tiny little place... When you make that kind of connection with people, you never want to leave, or you never, you can never be the same again... Africa has always been a special place for me, but after going to Uganda and experiencing them, I want to continue to advocate for them and for the wells and to donate and donate and donate to get more wells.
She went on to explain how her trip to Uganda led her to start the project Bands for Beds.
It's sort of a one-off, but I think we're going to end up doing more of them, because the school just needs so much and I've ended up adopting 652 kids and teachers and a principal that deserves so much more... and in the spirit of Seth who is my sort of inspiration for it, decided with my boyfriend while we were there that we would raise money for beds. Because a lot of them sleep on the ground. It gets cold, it gets wet, there are bugs in the ground and then they're infested... they're babies, they're kids, they keep these mattresses and they need to be recycled and fixed. So we started a little thing called Bands for Beds. We had a fundraiser, all of my Lying Game cast came out in full support, which I could kiss each of their faces... [it was] so, so loving of them to do that... Alice [Greczyn] and Allie Gonino, I brought them into the fold with the Thirst Project and... this summer went off and went with Seth on their own journey and visited Uganda too.
When asked if Allie Gonino's (Laurel Mercer, The Lying Game) band, The Good Mad, played Charisma explain that they did.
"Yeah, she played at Bands for Beds. They just lent their name and their talent to the cause and I am forever grateful for them...we are almost at our goal, of $10,000, which is not a lot of money. But I'll tell you what, fundraising is freaking hard work."
If you are interested in learning more about these charities, you can check out The Ronan Thompson Foundation, Beds for Bands (Bethlehem Parents School) and the Thirst Project. You can also follow Charisma Carpenter on Twitter, @AllCharisma.