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Interview with Michelle Trachtenberg

On Acting, Dating, "Buffy," and "Mysterious Skin"

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Joan Cusack and Michelle Trachtenberg Photo

Joan Cusack and Michelle Trachtenberg in "Ice Princess"

© Walt Disney Pictures
Does the real you come out in your acting?
I don’t know. I should preface the real answer by saying that every character that I play is like a tiny percent of my personality sort of heightened. So I’m also very adamant about never really playing the same character again. Whereas people might see this and say, “Oh, that’s sort of like ‘Buffy.’ That’s sort of like this…,” it’s not at all because it’s my very first character that I have to be unconfident and scared and insecure and everything. That was sort of a struggle.

I guess my personality comes through in the skating in terms of ‘Casey’ because that’s like stronger and powerful. I think in acting not necessarily the real me comes out, because you’re acting, so you don’t ever want to be too realistic. But just parts — like different little parts of you. The real me is sitting at home, no makeup, in my old sweatpants, watching DVDs. And no makeup is a big thing because I love makeup. So that’s me. I’m there clicking on my Tivo watching “Law and Order” with my sister because I’m obsessed.

How did you like working in Toronto?
Toronto was great. Toronto was really, really nice. They’re very good to me in Toronto. All of Canada is actually. But my entire life, I’ve never worked in Vancouver, oddly enough. And that’s such a center for movies and such. I’ve only mostly done Toronto. My first movie was in Toronto 10 years ago, which was “Harriet the Spy.” Driving by the Sutton Place [Hotel], which was where I stayed when I was 10, was like [gasping], “I remember what that feeling was that first day walking into the big hotel. It was really cool.” My boyfriend’s from Toronto. He’s from B.C. but has a place in Toronto.

Who’s your boyfriend?
Shawn Ashmore [“X2”]. He’s an actor. I had to think about that. I was up at 7 this morning, I don’t know.

How did you meet an X-Man?
Well, I put out an ad in the classifieds: "Wanted, Superhero. I’m a damsel in distress." No, we just met, which is funny, knowing Shawn, he hates anything publicity. He's so not into that world. We met at an Oscar party and he was just like Mr. Grumpy, unhappy to be out in public and I totally approached him. I was the forward one. I take full credit and actually, we’ve been together a year.

You said you don’t like playing the same character twice. Does that mean you wouldn’t do a sequel to “Ice Princess?” What about the possibility of a “Buffy” movie?
I’m sure that there was tons of talk. I’d heard something here and there. The thing that I never want to play a character again… I don’t mean any disrespect for the creators and producers of my previous projects because I never pick a project carelessly. I always have some heart attached to it. “Buffy” was my all-time favorite show before I was on it. So I loved Dawn. She was an awesome character and that was where I was at that point in my life. I was, you know, 14-17, which is hugely different. I’m almost 20 now. I’ll be 20 in October, so reprising a character is something… Never say never. As opposed to a sequel for this — the story would have to be amazing because I really feel so proud of what we have on the screen right now. It’s not a Disney kitschy movie. It’s a heartfelt, loving story. And to have anything less than that as a sequel would be doing a disservice to the original story. So you never know.

What if “Buffy” creator Joss Whedon came up with an idea for a “Buffy” movie in which Dawn was in a completely different place and much older? Would you be interested then?
You never know. Again, like I said, you’d have to see the material and also I have so many projects that I want to do right now after “Ice Princess” and all that, that you have to make sure it fits into that vein because I believe every actor’s path is sort of set. You don’t want to veer too much away from moving on and growing as an actor.

You have two totally contrasting movies this season. What’s your other project, “Mysterious Skin,” about?
”Mysterious Skin” was actually filmed before”Ice Princess” so it’s kind of interesting. It was filmed right after “Eurotrip.” I was actually 17 when I filmed it. It is completely different. I mean, there’s no words to describe how insanely different these two movies are, and that’s awesome for me as an actress because it shows complete range. I never want to be pegged into something, like I keep saying.

It’s a true story that Gregg Araki adapted into a screenplay about two boys who experience something traumatic in their lives and how they each grow up to deal with it. And I play Joe Gordon-Levitt’s best friend who’s the wild-child boy. It’s very dark and very poignant and beautiful and moving and everything, and unlike anything anyone’s seen me in, and I’m very proud of it.

And it’s not G-rated?
No, I think we begged for the R rating on “Mysterious Skin.” Like, “Please?” “Okay.”

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