Charisma Carpenter, actress

Happiness is just enough work, just enough family, just enough rest, just enough travel ...

Charisma Carpenter set hearts racing around the world as bikini-clad beach goer, Wendie Sanders, in an episode of Baywatch before moving on to play Ashley Green in Malibu Shores. Her big break came disguised as a snooty cheerleader named Cordelia Chase on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the subsequent spin-off Angel. Recently, Charisma has graced the silver screen alongside Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren in The Expendables and has appeared in Sons of Anarchy, Blue Bloods and Supernatural. If you were a teenager in the 1990s or are a fan of Charisma’s work, you can see her live in the flesh this weekend at the Supanova Pop Culture Expo. The Weekend Edition Gold Coast caught up with Charisma ahead of her visit to Australia to chat about work life balance and dream roles.

You first got the world’s attention on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, what were some of the perks of playing Cordelia Chase?
Great dialogue and fabulous wardrobe!

Looking back on your time on the show, are there any particular story lines or episodes that stand out as your favourite?
‘Homecoming’ was definitely one of my favourite episodes. ‘The Prom’, ‘The Wish’ and ‘Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered’ which takes place on Valentine’s Day were also great because there was a lot for me to do in terms of storyline and character development.

After playing such a memorable character in a cult-classic like Buffy, was it difficult to get the world to see you as someone other than Cordelia?
I don’t know, I guess I would have to ask other people. I think there is a through-line with my characters beyond Cordelia that seemed to be in the same vein so I think that helped.

Let’s rewind a bit, were you always interested in performing, even as a child?
I was a ballerina so dance was my first love and acting just seemed like a normal transition. I went to a school of the arts where acting, stage tech, opera and music were all part of the curriculum. I was involved in an acting festival over a long weekend at my high school and I really enjoyed the process. I was always involved in a theatre company growing up.

If acting wasn’t on the agenda as a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An English teacher.

If you could give your teenage self any advice, what would it be?
It would be that people don’t grow up after high school, they just get better at hiding their agenda. When you’re in high school I think it’s easy to think that the world is going to be so different and so mature when you get out but no one really tells you the truth, that it’s still the same place. If people knew that from a younger age then maybe they would be more prepared for the realities of life.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your career?
At the current moment it’s ageism.

You have achieved so much in your career and life, what is your proudest achievement so far?
My son. Raising him and being able to be here as much as I have been, to be able to support him and provide for him has been great. I was able to take him to Paris recently and that was an amazing trip to be able to experience with him.

What was it like on the set of The Expendables?
I was there very little but for the time I was there it was very enjoyable. It was a tight cast and the closer they became the more comfortable they felt with each other and the teasing and what not was fun to witness. It was a great experience.

You’re coming to Australia for Supanova Pop Culture Expo, what are you most looking forward to doing while you’re here?
Shopping! There’s also a great yoga place in Melbourne that I really like and I’ve never been to the Gold Coast so I’m excited to experience that.

What are your fondest memories from your previous trip to Australia?
I got to take my son to Sydney and out to the Great Dividing Range where my partner at the time lived. The koala sanctuary was cool and we went to Steve Irwin’s zoo which was a lot of fun. We just did your typical touristy stuff but it was a great experience to be able to see it for the first time but also to see it through my son’s eyes was really great. I still want to go to the Great Barrier Reef, unfortunately I won’t make it this trip either but someday I will.

You’ve worked with some huge names in the industry, was there anyone in particular you were excited to meet?
Tons of people! I loved working with Ryan O’Neal on Miss Match. Working with John Sweeden was great. I’ve been working with Gail Berman, who was there from the inception of Buffy The Vampire Slayer television series. I loved working with Fry, that was a real high point and most recently working with Katey Segal on Sons Of Anarchy.

What’s your dream role?
At this point I would like to stay in Los Angeles until my son is grown. I would love to do a half hour comedy sitcom and a great festival film during the summers or the off-season. I am good at comedy I just don’t get the opportunity to do it very often. I would also really like to do a small film with a big heart and a great character, that’s kind of where I am at. Or you know join Kurt Sutter and Katey Sagal on The Bastard Executioner. I also love The Goldbergs, I’m a huge fan of that television show and the Sons Of Anarchy people are great. I love what I do for a living so it’s not a bad deal to work at all.

What’s your idea of complete happiness?
Balance. Just enough work, just enough family, just enough rest, just enough travel. A good book and music is my Sunday afternoon.

What is ‘success’ to you?
Those things.

Do you have any advice for people who might like to pursue acting as a career?
Ask yourself, do you have thick skin? Are you willing to bump your head bloody against obstacles? Do you have persistence and patience? Are you talented? Are you ready to do something that doesn’t pay? Are you confident enough in yourself to withhold long periods of not working? Do you have stuff to do? Are you good at more than one thing?

Are you working on anything exciting at the moment?
Yes! Investigation Discovery channel has this show called Surviving Evil and we’re shooting in June so that’s exciting.


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