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Marti NoxonMarti Noxon - A Pleasant Sort of Evil (buffy mention)
By Anthony C. Ferrante
Saturday 29 January 2005, by Webmaster
It’s only fitting that the actress who plays the devil’s daughter on Fox’s POINT PLEASANT would love horror movies. "I am so masochistic-I love to be scared, and I think THE EXORCIST is one of the scariest movies ever made. I can watch it over and over, and I’m still frightened by it," admits Elisabeth Harnois, who plays PLEASANT’s conflicted soul Christina Nickson. She arrives in the titular New Jersey Shore town looking for her mother (who is apparently a Saint) and fighting the inner demon she inherited from her Prince-of-Darkness dad.
"The thing about this show is that it’s a supernatural drama, but it’s very much grounded in the reality of normal human struggles," says Harnois. "In portraying the character, it’s been mostly about playing it as real as possible. Now, of course, when I’m staring at someone with the evil eye, that’s fun because you don’t get to do that in normal life very often. You definitely feel that way sometimes, so it’s definitely fun to be able to manifest those emotions for no reason. But for me it was most important to portray this character grounded in reality, in the normal sort of teen struggles."
Certainly POINT PLEASANT is treading a thin line between soapy teen drama and supernatural horrorfest. After Christine is taken in by the kindly Dr. Kramer (Richard Burgi) and his family, everyone in town begins to transform and conjure up their own darkness within. Jealousy, infidelity and the requisite teen crush are par for the course, particularly as Christina has her eye on hunky lifeguard Jesse Parker (Sam Page), who is already dating the manipulative Paula (Cameron Richardson).
However, mysterious stranger Lucas Boyd (Grant Show) has also appeared in town, serving as an agent of evil and beginning a battle for Christina’s soul-and she has already inadvertently unleashed her dark side in the first two episodes, particularly in her attempts to snuff out Paula. "I compare Christina to Shane, the Western antihero," Harnois says. "We want to love her, we want to see her enter into domesticity, we want to see her become part of the family, but she just can’t. She has this other lifestyle and separate life she doesn’t fully understand, and she needs to reconcile with it before she can really decide if she can be part of the normal world. She’s an antihero, and we always sympathize with those characters. We love them because they’re human, they make mistakes, they make the wrong choices, yet they’re still likable."
With only five installments having been filmed of POINT PLEASANT’s initial 13-episode order at this writing, Harnois reveals that Christina hasn’t gone totally evil as of yet, but she says that there have been strong moments involving the eternal struggle between light and dark that her character must face. "There’s a scene coming up where I have to beg a character to give the evil back to me in a regretful way," she says. "I don’t want this, I know this isn’t me, but I know this is my burden-my cross to bear, if you will-and that’s a really awesome thing to play. I want to be good, but I know this is my burden."
That’s not to say that Harnois doesn’t enjoy giving her evil "666" eye a bit of a workout every now and then. "It’s more fun to play the evil, simply because it’s not me, and the coolest thing I’ve done so far is shower a character in blood just by staring at her," says Harnois. But don’t expect any BUFFY-style fighting from Christina: "I don’t physically kick butt, but there are things that empower me that I am responsible for," the actress adds. "That will be developed more and more. They’re going to be very careful about not turning this into BUFFY. This is quite a different thing. Like [creator] Marti [Noxon] has said, Buffy knew her purpose in her show, which was to battle these evil forces, but Christina has to battle the force within."
That internal struggle is where most of her character’s powers derive from, at least for now. "It’s more psychological than physical," Harnois says, "the way they’re making these visual connections between the cause and effects of what she does and what happens. It’s not so literally about zapping someone with my fingers; it’s more of a psychological visual connection. If you look in my head, we know it’s not going to cause a good result."
While networks have been programming shows about young women with special relationships with angels and God for a few years now (TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL, JOAN OF ARCADIA, WONDERFALLS), Harnois isn’t concerned about audiences being turned off with POINT PLEASANT’s exploration of the dark side. "I’m only beginning to wrap my head around some of the superstition I’ll be dealing with in the audience if the series is a success," she says. "Some people will be really freaked out by the show, and hopefully they’ll realize we’re not trying to propagate satanism in any way. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about human struggle, and hopefully people will understand that."
The young actress also didn’t feel it was important to re-watch movies like THE EXORCIST prior to starting this role. "I didn’t do any research and watch these types of movies and overanalyze them," she admits. "Having already been well-versed in the horror genre, for me it was making sure I was portraying this character in this world as accessible, human and as real as possible. That’s the only way people relate to a character who is so out-there."
Starting her career as a child actor (she was the lead in 1985’s ONE MAGIC CHRISTMAS and later TV’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND, both for Disney), Harnois continued to act throughout her teen years, but shifted gears in college, where she took film courses. Prior to POINT PLEASANT, she was working in a lowly job at the Sundance Channel. "I was a PA," Harnois admits humbly. "I was digitizing interview tapes like this one. Ultimately, my reasons for wanting to be involved on the production side and starting at the bottom was that it was a step forward to doing my own independent projects."
But when POINT PLEASANT came calling, she was eager to jump back into acting. "Somewhere along the way, I realized how much I was missing from this creative side, so now I know I can still get to that goal of producing my own films and such, but I can also do this as well," says Harnois. "Eventually, I would love to direct an episode, but I don’t want to talk too soon about it. I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Right now, all I can say is that I feel incredibly lucky."