Charisma Carpenter Interview
Actress Charisma Carpenter shot to fame as Cordelia Chase in the TV programmes Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. She’s kept busy since her time as Cordelia and she’s currently starring in horror film Psychosis and The Expendables, an action flick that also stars Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li and Bruce Willis. Here she chats with View London’s Matthew Turner about acting like she’s on drugs, hurting her hand on set and going head to head with Jason Statham.
What's Psychosis about and who do you play?
Charisma Carpenter (CC):
My character's name is Susan and she's a crime writer, a novelist. She'd had a mental breakdown before the movie starts – you don't see it, but it's implied – and then basically she moves into a house in the country for some peace and quiet to finish her book and all sorts of things start happening and we don't know if it's in her mind, if she's having premonitions or if it's happening live. And then all sorts of not-so relaxing things start happening.
How did you get involved with the film?
Like most things, a script is sent or an offer is made and your agent sends you the script for you to read for interest. So I read the script and there were a couple of things that I had questions about but I think what sealed the deal was having a conversation with [writer-director Reg Traviss] about the script. And after speaking to him, he was pretty much the selling component in the matter, because he was so thoughtful in his responses, really well prepared, since he wrote the screenplay or made the adaption, he was very knowledgeable and well-informed and he was able to impart his ideas to me in a way that I really understood. I just liked his communication style.
How did Reg compare to other directors you've worked with?
I've worked with so many directors in terms of television but my only two experiences in film are Sly [Sylvester Stallone, director of The Expendables] and Reg and they're very different but neither one is right or wrong, it's just what their style is. I think Sly is very in-the-moment and very impromptu – he'll get an idea and it'll work better and make everything work better, for the scene, to drive the scene for motion – and also, when you're watching a film, you want to see movement rather than it being so static.
With Reg, everything was planned months and months ahead, storyboarded out for everyone to see and it's a good way for your crew and cast to have a good concept of what's being shot, what to expect on what day and what his vision is in his head. He's able to storyboard it out so everyone can actually see what he's seeing in his mind. So that was great in that way. And it assisted me because it was a very emotional movie so it was good to have such a heads-up on what was expected.
Do you have a favourite scene in the film?
Psychosis? I think not so much a favourite but the most challenging, which makes me happy, is the scene where I've been drugged. Playing that was – I've never had mushrooms so I don't know, like, what it does and basically the director was explaining to me the sensation of it, sort of warm and you relax and everything just, you know, slows down and everything is possible. And when he said everything becomes possible, it really made a difference. I was very nervous about that, it being believable and, you know.
Was that also the hardest scene to film?
It was in terms of my anxiety. That was one of them. The other one was the sex scene with me and Ricci [Harnett]. Also, the most physically demanding was when I'm running through the house and I feel like someone's watching me and I had to run through the entire mansion, through the dining room, into the kitchen, slam the kitchen door, jump up on the counter, push the window open. And I think I really damaged my hand, I slammed my hand and it really hurt, but it worked so well, it was sort of like a happy accident.
Did they at least keep the hand-slamming take?
I don't know. I haven't seen it yet. I've seen a version, but I don't know if it's the theatrical version. There's a television version and a this version and a that version.
In the version you saw, was anything cut out that you hated to lose?
No, there was nothing that I felt was missing.
You mentioned The Expendables. What can you tell me about The Expendables? What was that like to work on?
The Expendables was a very interesting movie because it was my first really big budget film. Psychosis was obviously a lower budget, way lower budget film and that was not going to have the pacing that you would expect a big budget film to have, like I've been on the set of What's Eating Gilbert Grape? - I wasn't in the film but I happened to be there a long time ago. And I've been on some movie sets and it's one scene for hours and hours and hours with lots of cameras and a big, elaborate lighting scene so there's lots of downtime and everyone's taking their time and you do take after take after take.
With The Expendables, it was as fast as television, if not faster. Like, we didn't have a bunch of takes and we were fighting the sun either going down or coming up. And then last minute changes, you know, it was very spontaneous and it was just very different, whereas Psychosis was planned, you know, organised, no last-minute changes – it just - as an actress, it's comforting and it's safe.
Who do you play in The Expendables?
I play Lacey, that's Jason Statham's or rather Lee Christmas's girlfriend.
So is that you kissing Jason Statham in the trailer?
Yes, it's him kissing me. Yes, he's come back, again, you know, after trying to reach him and I can't get a hold of him and he shows up unexpectedly and it's not a good time and we end up having a little bit of a fight.
A fight with Jason Statham!
An emotional fight. Too bad. I would love to go head to head with him! [laughs]
Do you at least get to slap him?
No! I didn't even get to slap him. He nearly ran me over with his motorcycle though.
Do you still see your fellow cast members from Buffy and Angel?
I do see them occasionally, yes.
What's next for you?
I don't know. That's the worst question – I hate doing these press things! Right now, I'm really hoping The Expendables is super-successful so we do an Expendables 2 and then there goes my movie career, off and running.