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Veterinary medicine’s loss was acting’s gain. But it wasn’t easy breaking in. Endowed with heroic dark eyebrows she pumps thoughtfully when working through an idea and a smile that, when deployed, could outshine Julia Roberts’, Mamet is no off-the-rack actress, no standard-issue starlet.

She remembers all those casting sessions, when “the look on those people’s faces was one of confusion: `What WAS that?’ Sometimes a director or a writer or a casting director would fight for me, but the producer or studio executive would be like, `No! We can’t sell her.’”

She was undeterred. “My father always said, `Don’t listen to anything after “No,” because they don’t know what they’re talking about.’”

And sometimes they said yes. She landed roles on “Parenthood,” “United States of Tara” and “Mad Men,” as well as the acclaimed indie film “The Kids Are All Right.”

Now, during the “Girls” hiatus, she has just begun rehearsals for an off-Broadway play.

Opening on Jan. 31, Paul Downs Colaizzo’s raw comedy “Really Really” casts Mamet as one of a cluster of friends caught in turmoil the morning after a wild party.

It is for her role in this, her first play, that Mamet has abandoned her native brunette and gone blond.

“I had never dyed my hair in my life,” she says. “The idea of dyeing it for the first time when I’m doing a play for the first time felt great!”

“Really Really” is scheduled to run through March, and not long after that she expects to be back shooting next season’s “Girls.” She’s eager to continue exploring Shoshanna.

“I still have no idea who she is,” Mamet says with a laugh. “All the characters on `Girls’ are growing and changing, which is how real people behave, especially when we’re young, trying to figure out who we are, doing things that are the polar opposite of our characteristics.”

Thus has she put her finger on another thing that gloriously sets “Girls” apart: its reliable unpredictability that keeps the audience surprised, off-kilter and, yes, talking.

“So often in film and television the characters are stuck in boxes,” Mamet says. “But that just isn’t real. On our show, we’re often playing against type and stepping outside of our boundaries. That’s what people do.”

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