During a recent telephone conversation, it was easy to understand how Charisma Carpenter makes the character of Rebecca Sewell so easy to hate on The Lying Game.
She's extremely passionate about the show, the stories, her fellow actors and her role on it. Yes, the actress adors The Lying Game as much as you do - and she loves to talk about it, as evidenced in the following Q&A...
TV Fanatic: When you started on The Lying Game, did you have any idea how crucial your role would be?
Charisma Carpenter: I had a sneaking suspicion when they told me I was going to be their mom. I was supposed to do six episodes, and I ended up shooting all 10 episodes of season 1B. So, when that happened, I felt like...the last four I found out I was going to be the mom. I thought, well, if they're going to make me the mom then I suspect I will be very involved. She pretty much touches everyone's life or at least has her thumb over everyone's life - Jordan, Sutton, Emma.
We found out in "The Grave Truth" that the core group knows that Rebecca is mom and Sutton is actually twins with Emma and she could be a murderess. Do you think she's capable of murder?
No. I don't. I don't think that's any part of her plan, at all. And I don't know why the big deal about keeping it a secret. That hasn't been explained to me, either, so I'm not really sure who would kill because they want to keep a secret of twins so bad. Why would that ever be a motive for murder? I think I would need a little bit more motive to kill someone than that.
My thought is that whatever happened to Rebecca when she was forced to give up the twins was so traumatic that she's become who she is now, so desperate to recreate her family. That will give viewers the chance to exonerate her and bring her into the fold. I would think that since she's the twins mother, she can't always be the hated character.
Well, you would think. It's a double edged sword. I don't think the network necessarily wants the twins' mother to be a murderer or a psychopath or any of those things. I don't think that's what she wants for the girls' character, but that doesn't mean she's above being blamed or accused or framed or something like that. And then how does she get around it? I don't know.
I am so afraid of Alec, because I framed him and he doesn't want to be married to me anymore and I wouldn't be surprised if he's willing to frame me and I won't at some time end up in a very shallow grave or in an orange jumpsuit. Which I'm hoping it's an orange jumpsuit, because then at least we can get out!
It would be a really awesome time for us to feel sorry for Rebecca. You know, where she could really have an opportunity to be less Machiavellian and more sympathetic, and likeable by the audience again. You know, if you could just understand my motives. It's really hard to hate somebody who just wants their kids. They were wrongly treated and she was lied to and her babies were taken away and then this mother, Kristin, comes along and the girls are all protective of her and afraid to hurt her feelings.
She's jealous! She thinks, you got the be the mom that I didn't get to be and then you write these things about my daughter. Well, my daughter? She needs to know that. She needs to know you're not the mom you act like you are. Even though it was kind of a low moment for Rebecca, it wasn't mean to hurt her, it was to help her understand. I'm your mom. I would have never written this or done any of this. It's hard to hate someone who really does love you.
It's so hard for Rebecca right now. Everything she does comes out wrong. Giving the half of a necklace to Sutton with the intent of giving the other half to Emma; everything seems to have a motive beyond her just being a mother.
Rebecca's hurting people that they do know. Yeah, she's my birth mother, but I don't really know her. But I do know this lady, and I don't know if I can hurt her. When Rebecca wanted Sutton to expose Ted as the father and Rebecca as the mother, but Kristin was sitting at his side and it would have embarrassed her in front of all of their friends. Sutton in the end couldn't do it. She's not as mad at Kristin as Rebecca is, so she didn't do it. That was a redeeming moment for Sutton in the audiences eyes. You know, maybe she isn't so bad and she should be with Ethan.
I love how they do that with our characters. Just when you're hating them enough, then they do something nice and you're like, well, now I can't hate her. You want to love to hate them. That's good drama.
They're doing the same thing with Ted and Alec.
Ted's a mess. He's a softy. Well, Alec is complicated, right? Rebecca is making Alec look like he's smelling roses over there with her behavior.
I'm interested in Rebecca's relationship with Jordan. There has to be a part of her that really cares about him because he was her surrogate child when she didn't have Sutton and Emma. But she's also holding something over his head.
Right. Rebecca knows he wants to be with Mads but she's like how do you think she's going to feel when she knows the whole truth, that you tried to frame her dad? He says, well, I'll just tell her you were behind it and Rebecca says, well, you still did it. She should know all of it. She's playing all of her cards she's not making any friends at all.
Having no friends at all, if she ends up in the orange jumpsuit, how hard will it be for her to get help? With nobody on her side how hard will that be?
Right now she is truly being alienated. She has isolated herself and alienated everyone.
Is there anybody in town who might be there for her?
I think a surprising alliance would probably be her daughters, not because of their love of Rebecca but because they're good people. Kristin might be a surprise. Mind you, this is all conjecture, because I have no idea what's going to happen with Rebecca, but I do have a sneaking suspicion that it's not going to go well and that Alec will probably try to per me behind bars.
Again, pure conjecture, but I can see Alec framing her so easily, but why? Who is he protecting, who is he trying to frame? I don't know.
What about that out of left field conversation Alec had with Thayer that everything he was doing he was doing for him?
Thayer is acting like a weirdo. Whatever it is, it will change. Honestly, I didn't know Ted was the father. I thought it was Alec, so that was a change. And you know, the truth is, it could still change! Who knows? That's what is so fun about the show. You think you're figuring it out, you think you have all the puzzle pieces together and then whammy.
What does it feel like to be the adult on the teen show instead of one of the teens?
It feels like living in alternate universe. It's crazy. When I was on Buffy, there wasn't a lot for the adults. There was only Giles. He was the grown up and he was involved with everybody and everything. But on this show, we aren't ancillary like 90210 original. What I love about The Lying Game is we are an integral part of these kids lives. We shape their decisions and the consequences determine what they can and can't do. It's all a part of the fabric of the quilt that we are making. They write really well for the grown ups.
I loved that scene a couple of episodes ago when Ted was falling apart, showed up at the house, again, uninvited, again, and then has a meltdown and throws the flowers and shakes everybody up - the kids and Kristin - and then she's like, you have to get out. But Kristin still shows up to that horrendous in the hotel room with Alec but she can't do anything because she's shattered.
She's just absolutely shattered about what happened, and her nerves are shot and she's supposed to be having this romantic encounter, after all these years, with this guy she's always kind of had something for. The wrong guy. The guy she told herself she couldn't have because he didn't fit the plan or the mold of who she thought she should be with, and then she went with the one she thought she should be with and look how everything turned out.
So she goes to the one she's been waiting to be with after all these years and they couldn't go through with it. Because? Ted. Ted is a basket case and ruined it one more time. And I thought that was a beautiful scene between Alec and Kristin. How much she wanted to be with him and how disappointed she was that she couldn't do it. And then he was just so understanding. It was a great scene for the grown ups. It was a really well written scene and I enjoy our show.
It's great that they've incorporated adult storylines like that into teen skewing programming.
I think it's just as watchable for the teenagers. I don't think we're ever going to outshine the Ethan, Sutton, Emma, Thayer love square, but I certainly feel like it's just as entertaining. I could be saying it because I want it to be true, because I'm a grown up, but I really do feel that it's true because that's the feedback that I get on Twitter and my very capable fans - thanks for following from Buffy and Angel.
That's the feedback we get about it. It's not just about the twins, but all of the characters.
That's why I feel like we deserve to have more of this written, to continue to service these characters so three dimensionally, so well fleshed out. It's why we deserve to shoot more episodes to please the fans and explore those stories more and dig deeper. I think it's also a show we can watch with your young adult. There aren't a lot of shows you can do that with.
Sometimes I let my son, unless I have a bed scene, which hasn't happened in a long time, and Donovan saw me get upset with Sutton. He goes, 'Mom, you look like you look like you look when you're mad at me.' And I thought, aw, that's such a nice compliment! But then he said, 'It's scary.' and I said, 'Honey, it's just me.' But it's good, because I can talk to my kid about it and what in the scene scared you? It's a great experience as a mom to be able to watch with my kid.
Is there anything you can tell us about the finale that won't get you in trouble?
Someone's life is in peril and it's not anybody you would expect. We really don't know, and I really don't know, if they live. And it's not Teresa. She's definitely gone.
Did you watch the episode where she does go missing? The confrontation between Dan Whitehorse and Alec at the grave site ("Bride and Go Seek")? When he said something that you told her may have gotten her killed and I want to know what it is and all of that. And Alec saying hey buddy like he does. How great of a scene was that for Dan Whitehorse? For Tyler Christopher? I love the writing they get and I love watching my fellow actors get written such awesome stuff and just knock it out of the park.
Do you guys have any indication whether The Lying Game will continue?
It's a sore spot. Our tenth episode airs next week and we don't know anything. So I don't know. I'm a little disappointed that that's the way it goes. We don't have to know contractually. The network can go as long as April before telling us. I think we were all hoping we would know something by the end of January, possibly February and they would start writing in March and we could go back to work in April. Maybe give us more than a ten episode pickup, but okay, if you're only going to give us ten we'll break for a little while in the summer and go back for a fall premiere.
I don't know what's going to happen, but I really, really, really hope that they fans can show their love and encourage the network to pick us up not keep it off the air for ten months. Because you know, it's hard. People have short attention spans and reality television is kind of taking over things, scripted television is the exception now and not the rule, and I don't know what the motive is, but it's really hard to keep a fan base when you're not on the air.
What should fans do?
Write in to ABC Family, Warner Brothers, Warner Horizon, the people that be, to express over and over again I want my Lying Game back, and I want 20 episodes, not 10. Whatever the case may be, they are great stories that deserve to be played out and characters that are so deserving. Can you imagine what we could do with 20 episodes? How deeply we could dive into all this?
When Charisma isn't talking about how much she loves and enjoys The Lying Game, she passionately works on behalf of the Bethlehem Parents Primary School in Uganda, known as the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic. It's her goal to get a bed for every child in a town where there are more children left than there are parents to provide for them. You can get involved by visiting the website behind her Bands for Beds project.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.