When you first heard the storyline of Dexter, what did you think?
When they sent me the script, I didn’t really know anything about it, except they said, “We have an audition for you tomorrow, here’s the script.” And I read the script, and I thought, “This is one of the best pilot scripts I’ve ever read. And I’ll never be a part of it, because they’ll never want me!” It was so good. So yeah, I just thought it was absolutely amazing.
Dexter is such a fascinating character, because you find yourself sympathizing with him or rooting for him, but then you remember what he is. Do you think of him as sympathetic?
I do! I mean, in watching the show, I think you can’t help but start rooting for him, and it’s a really bizarre feeling you’re left with, when you find yourself rooting for a guy who’s a serial killer. But he’s trying to do right! [Laughs] I mean he is trying to live by a moral code.
How is it working with Michael?
He’s the most intelligent actor I’ve ever worked with, as far as understanding the material and the character and the scripts on a whole. Not just from a selfish standpoint, but from a whole overall theme and vision standpoint. He’s a very generous actor as well. I was intimidated at first, because I was such a big fan of his from Six Feet Under, and it’s hard to go, “Oh my god, I can’t believe I’m working with him!” I had to get past that.
What’s it been like for you playing Rita and portraying someone with such a big protective bubble around herself, that she slowly starts to let go of?
I guess Rita’s just the more vulnerable side of me. I didn’t really feel that I had to do anything, except be relaxed enough to tap into that vulnerability, and really just live off of what Michael gives me, which is amazing.
As the season has gone on and Rita and Dexter have grown closer, you’ve had some pretty intimate scenes. Did you figure going in, “Okay, this is cable… We might end up doing some naughty stuff”?
Yeah, I mean it is a concern when you sign on to do any show really. But I felt those scenes we had to do, where there was some nudity involved, it was integral to the script and it was not gratuitous. They shot it beautifully. There is a little bit of hesitation, but for me, the script was so good and Rita is such an amazing character that I was not going to let that stand in my way of playing the part. And they have held up their end of the bargain, which was not [to have me] gratuitously just walking around naked, but it was an integral part of the script and story.
Because of the part she plays in Dexter’s life, it’s obviously built in to the role that you’re not around for the police investigation stuff on the show. Is it strange having several costars you’ve never worked with yet?
[Laughs] Yes, because we all get along so well! We see each other at parties and it’s like, “Oh my god! I can’t believe we’re in the same show!” We laugh about it. There was a scene written where I was going to be working with some of the other actors and it was taken out. I forget which episode it was. I was so excited, but then, you know… I see everybody at the table readings, and we get together for the show. But it actually makes it great when I watch the show, because the whole Ice Truck Killer storyline I was not involved in and did not get to see how it played out. So it was very exciting for me to get to watch, and really watch it as an audience member, and not as somebody involved in the show.
Do you ever get to see the sets for the crime scenes or the crazy body part props they have on the show?
Not really. I mean, I could if I wanted to, but they usually shoot those on the days I’m not there.
Does Michael ever tell you stuff like, “Oh, I just shot a scene in a room filled with blood” or things like that?
Yeah. Everybody, when they shoot some of the cool stuff, not just Michael, but the whole crew will talk about it the next day.
It seems like even as we come to like Dexter and Rita, that their relationship can’t help but end tragically, in one way or another. Do you foresee a way that she could at least get a happy ending?
Oh, maybe he completely reforms himself, and never reveals his true side to her! And they live happily ever after! I think she’s perfectly happy being oblivious.
How is working with the two children who play your kids on the show?
They always say never work with children and animals, right? But it’s really refreshing. I’ve learned a lot from them, actually, about acting. They really just are on set; they are who they are and they’re really just alive and living truly in the moment. They don’t really have preconceived ideas about how things are supposed to go. So as an actor it keeps you on your toes and it’s very refreshing to have that. They keep me on my toes and keep me alive when I’m working with them.
Have they ever done or said anything in a scene that kind of threw you, but you went with it?
Sometimes Daniel [Goldman] has a hard time with some of the words they give him and he mispronounces them, and it’s just so cute. He had trouble saying marshmallow, and it was just… Michael and I could barely contain ourselves from laughing. It was so cute what he was saying!
Now I have to out myself as a major Buffy and Angel geek.
You were on the original, unaired pilot of Buffy. I’m curious what your memories of filming that were like?
I just remember it being really chaotic. I haaaated my wardrobe. I remember that specifically. [Laughs] And I was dealing with a lot of the vampire makeup and stuff. I was what I call the “test dummy” for the vampire look. So I was put through a lot of camera tests, having to come in, and they’d put the vampire face on and they’d redo it and reapply it and all that. None of that was down yet. It was pretty tough for me to handle all that stuff.
You were one of the only people to be there from the very beginning of Buffy to making appearances up through the end of Angel. What was it like to see that through the duration and see how much people reacted to it, and how it resonated so much?
It was a really great experience and a really get journey for me as an actor. However, I cringe when I look back at the very beginning Buffy episodes. Because I was so young, and I had bad hair… [Laughs] I like to say I wasn’t fully formed as a woman. So yeah, I cringe. I look at it and think, “Oh god… I’m so young!”
Did you watch the final night of The WB, when they rebroadcast the Buffy and Angel pilots?
Yes, I actually was with Charisma [Carpenter] at [former WB head] Garth Ancier’s house, and they had a big party for the ending of the network. We watched it there. It was fun. Once again, we were both cringing. We were like, “Oh my god! Look at us! What were we thinking wearing that? Why did I think bangs were a good fashion choice?”
Well now of course that look is immortalized as an action figure. What’s it like to have figures of yourself?
It’s definitely very exciting to have action figures made, and it will be something when I’m older, and have a family, to pass down through generations, and they can all make fun of their grandma. It’s cool. I just wish it looked a little more like me! And that it was more the later days of Darla. I would like to see a period costume Darla. They need to do an action figure where you can change her hair and her clothes. And the face; where you can snap on like the regular face and snap on the vampire face.
Did you ever get used to the makeup and the teeth?
The teeth were easy to get used to, although I used to break mine, because I grind my teeth. But I never got used to the prosthetic makeup. They tried to make the process as easy as possible, and they were really great about it, but you are putting a lot of chemicals on your face, and you’re gluing something to your skin! So having to remove it is really not that pleasant. They try to con you by saying, “It’s like getting a great facial.” But it’s like removing seven layers of your skin on your face. And I have very sensitive skin, so it took its toll on me.
I’d imagine you never could have imagined Darla would turn out to be so integral to the story. You’d done some flashback episodes after you’d died on Buffy, but what was your reaction when you learned they wanted to bring you back on Angel in such a big way?
I was shocked. I just thought once you poof’d, you poof’d! I thought that was it. So when they threw it out to me that I was coming back… They didn’t tell me they were bringing her back to life. They just sent me the script for the season finale for season one of Angel, when they rose me from the dead. I was reading the script, and half way through, Darla still hadn’t shown up, and I was like, “Alright…” I get three quarters of the way through and I think, “Maybe they sent me the wrong script…?” And then I get to the last page, and I was like, “Oh my god! I can’t believe this! This is so cool!” At that time I’d been committed to another project too, and we weren’t sure how long my commitment to them would be. We didn’t even know if I was going to be available or not. But it all ended up working out.
There had been some rumors and speculation about why Darla left for awhile near the end of season two, after Angel and Darla slept together. Can I ask what the truth is behind all that?
Just the storyline ran out. They wanted to move on to another storyline. That’s what I was always told! What was the speculation?
Well with a rampant fanbase like that show had, I think I’d heard every possibility for why something happened.
Yeah, I just think they thought they’d played out the storyline as much as possible, and rather then… You know, one of the things I really loved about playing Darla was I was never relegated to a C or D storyline that maybe wasn’t very well supported. And they didn’t want to do that to the character; they felt it was important to move forward. And in order to do that, they had to have me run away, so then I could come back for season three!
When you came back in season three, Darla was pregnant. Through the years, you also got to play her human, and play her as the more angelic version that appeared to Connor. I’d imagine it must have been fun to explore so many different sides of the same character?
Yeah. I felt like every week they were throwing challenges at me right and left, and seeing if I could do them. And it’s great when you’re on a show where they do that. You’re never bored! Every week it was always something else to look forward to in the script that I was just gonna have to do or a fear I was gonna have to conquer. I had to sing one episode, and I don’t sing. And [Angel Executive Producer] David Greenwalt called me up and he’s like, “Let’s do it.” And I said, “Look, I’ll give it a try, but, you know…” It took a lot of courage for me to go in and do it, ’cause I am not a singer and I suffered horrible stage fright with that kind of stuff. But I thought, you know, I’m not gonna say no. And every week, it was always something. I had to be buried alive at one point, underneath the dirt. And granted, it was topsoil or whatever, but you know, it’s not my favorite thing to do! Another time I had to ride a horse through a fire ring and you know, once again; not really something I do every day! So there were physical challenges they presented me with every week, as well as the emotional challenges. Every script I’d get, I’d think, “I don’t think I can do this…” I’d be like, “I have to quit. I can’t do this, I can’t do this!” There’s be this whole freak out, like, “I can’t do it.” And then I would do it. And then I’d be like, “Wow! I can do anything!” And then I’d get the next script and go, “…I can’t do that!” [Laughs]
Sounds like it was a good testing ground!
Yeah, it was a great place to grow and learn as an actor, and they really provided a warm and safe environment to make choices, and to fall on your face, if need be. They wanted you to be creative. They wanted you to come to set with ideas about how you were going to play the character and how you were going to bring the script to life. They wanted that. It was really a wonderful atmosphere.
Well, I think you pulled off the singing very well.
Aww, thank you! I’ll never do it again!
Your last scene on Angel was with you, David Boreanaz, James Marsters and Juliet Landau. Those scenes were great with the four of you. Was it fun for you guys to play that quartet?
Going back and doing the episode “The Girl in Question” was just a great way, I think, for all of us to kind of say goodbye to our characters, to be together and to have some fun. And to not have it be this painful, one of us sobbing on the floor, kind of moment. Because it was always one of us having to do that! Whether it was me, or Juliet or Spike or Angel, it was always one of us who had to…
Have the angst?
Yeah! It was really kind of fun and refreshing to go in and just be playful and we had a great time shooting it. My sheet that I was wrapped in kept getting stuck on the camera dolly, and it was kind of funny. It would kind of fall down. It was a great way to end; flashing everybody! We had a lot of fun, and I’m so happy they had us back to do that scene, because anything else I think would have been too hard; too difficult; too painful.
I always thought they should make a poster of that great shot of the four of you walking in slow motion together.
Aww, isn’t that wonderful? FYI, we shot that at like 3:30 in the morning. We were all half asleep!
Oh really? So they’re saying, “Look cool” and you’re just thinking, “I want to go to bed”?
We were like [in drowsy voice], “Okay, where do you want us? Okay. We go from point A to point B… Alright. No problem.”
Have you shared your own experiences with Michael C. Hall playing a mass murderer or given him any tips?
Noooooo. Because you know, he just slices them up. I get to suck their blood. It’s a little different.
Halo 3 is coming next year, and I was curious how you came to be involved in that franchise?
I actually am only involved in Halo 2. I won’t be involved in Halo 3.
Oh. That’s what I get for trusting imdb too much.
No, they called recently and said I will not be… They’re changing the voice. Am I allowed to say that?
You’re allowed to say that! Because when it comes out, people are going to be mad, so they might as well know now.
Yeah, they’re changing the voice. They’re giving her an accent is what they said. I don’t know if that’s true. That’s what I was told. I will not be involved in Halo 3. But with Halo 2, they were big Buffy and Angel fans and they came in and asked if I’d be interested in doing it, and I said, “Sure!” I had no idea what it was!
So you had no idea how huge it was?
I had no idea. I wasn’t even allowed to tell people I was doing it. And then when I finally was able to tell people, “I’m gonna be in Halo 2,” they went, “No way! No way!” I was like, “I just thought it was a game…” I didn’t know! But it’s great. I love doing voiceover work. It’s a great job. You get to go in with your sweatpants. You don’t even have to shower, if you don’t want to, as long as you don’t smell too bad. And you can go in and record, and it’s really fun. You have to use your imagination and really put yourself there. And it’s a big acting challenge, I find, to do that. It was so much fun be able to go in and do it, and I’m sad I’m not involved in Halo 3.
I am too! Is it strange to hear your voice come out of a videogame character?
I’ve never played the game! They sent me the game, but I don’t have the machine! They sent me like four [copies] of the game, like limited edition and all this stuff. I was like, “Oh! But I don’t have the machine…” I guess I should go buy one! It’s on my list of things to do.
Speaking of voiceovers, your husband, John Kassir, is the voice of the Crypt Keeper. As a horror fan, I have to say it’s amusing to think that the Crypt Keeper is married to Darla.
Yes. We have a very creepy household.
It’s an Addams Family vibe?
Totally, totally! [Laughs] No. It’s weird. It’s bizarre. We laugh about it, because we’re just regular people, and we kind of just go, “Wow. Okay, we both have trading cards and action figures,” you know? But no, it’s fun and we enjoy it.
You’ve done convention appearances. How is it for you doing those and interacting with your fans?
I enjoy it. I really feel that one of the reasons that Darla was around for so long was because of the fan response to her. So I really owe the fans a thank you for keeping me employed for so long. And also the response to the show… I feel like it’s my opportunity to give back and say thanks. I love hearing the different theories and the ideas they have for the storylines for the show. They blow me away with their knowledge!
Yeah, some people know a lot of things about the shows.
Yeah, but you know what? I respect that, and it actually made me pay more attention to the show. I love that the fans are as passionate about it as we were making it, and I totally respect their passion for it.
So what can you tell us or tease us with about the season finale of Dexter?
It’s big! It’s big. They went all out. It’s really… It’s amazing what they’ve done with the story. I can’t really give anything away, because I want the audience to go with it. I’ve enjoyed so much having fans, family members, and friends coming up and asking me things. For awhile everybody wanted to know who the Ice Truck Killer was. I said, “I can’t tell you!” Hearing everyone’s theories and philosophies, it was really fun and exciting, even though I knew all along! But I don’t want to reveal anything. It’s big! And there’s a big cliffhanger.
I’m very excited you guys are doing a second season.
Yes, we are too.
Do you know when you’re gonna start filming that?
I think we go back around the end of April/beginning of May.
It’s a great show. Definitely my favorite new show this year.
They’ve done a really great job of writing; acting… Just everything’s been so well put together. I love working for Showtime.
Any hints on if Rita comes to be involved in the Ice Truck Killer story before the end?
I can’t tell you anything! You’re a reporter! I mean, I may be blond, but…! [Laughs] No, it’s a very exciting episode and it’s great television. The last episode will be really, truly amazing, and you have to tune in.