- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 7, 2001

Carly Popes professional acting debut consisted of blowing her brains out in a flashback scene of the feature film "Disturbing Behavior" (1998). By the time the movie was released, she was nowhere in sight. The violent suicide scene was deemed too harsh for younger audiences and wound up on the cutting-room floor.

"But it was a great experience," says Miss Pope, 20, an attractive Canadian actress, "because I got to work with a fabulous director, David Nutter, who is involved with the 'Roswell series. He became my mentor in many ways."

Indeed, their strong personal relationship paved the way for Miss Pope to audition for the leading part of Liz on "Roswell" a few months later, but the shows producers decided to go with Shiri Appleby instead. Having established a rapport with casting directors at the WB network, she sent a videotape of her work when "Popular" (Friday 9 to 10 p.m., WB) came along within weeks.

When the call came to do a screen test in Hollywood, Miss Pope was on a plane out of her native Vancouver within a few days. She read for the role of popular Brooke McQueen but then was deemed ideal for the unpopular Sam McPherson by the shows all-knowing producers.

"Popular," a comedy-drama dealing with the teen-age caste system at Kennedy High School, focuses on the rivalry between the in-crowds snotty Brooke (Leslie Bibb) and the nonconformist Sam, seeking to overcome the social injustices on campus.

Already the recipient of numerous accolades, including the Teen Choice Award and the Genesis Award, the show also explores such issues as sexual harassment, peer pressure to have sex, child abuse, animal rights and mortality.

"Im still fascinated with Sam as a character, a girl torn between retaining her individuality as an unpopular student and the rigid conformity that marks the popular ones," Miss Pope says. "I see her like a little girl in an ice-cream parlor with lots of flavors to choose from. She knows exactly which flavor makes her tick, but she still feels like she has to sample all of them."

The British Columbian was born to a "great lawyer" and a "brilliant homemaker" along with two brothers fellow actor Kris, 25, and student Alex, 11 and grew up in a warm, supportive environment.

She started out performing with modern dance, gymnastics and synchronized swimming. To the delight of her family and annoyance of strangers, Miss Pope would choreograph her own numbers and perform them in her dance class the following day. She flirted with modeling as a teen "but absolutely rejected it right away." She didnt find her niche until she found acting, sketch comedy and improvisation at Lord Byng High School.

Although she hates to admit it, Miss Pope was very much a part of the popular crowd at her high school.

"But I really dont know why," she muses, "because it wasnt something that people aspired to. There is nothing that entitles you to be part of that group. My guess is that popularity in my school added up to a person who was well-rounded and took part in many aspects of the schools activities. I dont think it had anything to do with the social pretenses of previous years."

Acting became more than fun and games during her senior year, when she joined the schools elite Theatre Company, mounting stage shows for students and teachers. An audition process limited participants to 20 promising actors on campus. Miss Popes current manager spotted her in one of the productions, took a meeting and signed her up. She has had a fast rise since graduating in June 1998.

Her professional credits include such TV movies as "Ive Been Waiting for You," "Phantom Town," "Our Guys: Outrage at Glen Ridge" and "Trapped in a Purple Haze." Her rapidly expanding motion-picture career entails two upcoming projects, "Through the Skin" and "The Glass House," to go along with such recent fare as "A Cooler Climate," "Snow Day," "Finders Fee" and "Aliens in the Wild, Wild West."

Something had to give, and it was the continuation of her formal education.

"I was enrolled at the University of Vancouver for one semester but wasnt completely motivated," Miss Pope explains. "I didnt really want to be there I was doing it to appease the people around me. I wanted to do something to act, to work. However, Im very much into reading and educating myself."

The move from her safe, secure home in a genteel section of Vancouver to her own digs in massive Los Angeles was pretty daunting at first. Over time, however, her homesickness has been abated by frequent visits from her brother Kris when he auditions for Hollywood projects and by several "temporary" stays by friends and acquaintances looking for work or the chance to chill out in Southern California during the brutal, snowbound B.C. winters.

She is finally enjoying her freedom in Los Angeles after the "devastating breakup" with her long-time boyfriend, a Canadian student and writer, last year.

"He was somebody very special in my life, but we came to a crossroads," she says cryptically. "We [had] a wonderful relationship both a friendship and boyfriend-girlfriend thing and he was without a doubt a big part of my life." Off the set, Miss Pope is constantly exploring her surroundings.

"California is a huge place with an enormous amount of things to see and do," she says, "but I truly enjoy doing things close to home. Walking is a big thing for me. There are times when you have to take time out for yourself, just being still without worrying about ties and contacts to date yourself, so to speak."

Taking time out also entails anything from working out at the gym to phoning a friend or watching a great movie, Miss Pope says or having lunch with her publicist at a West Hollywood cafe.

"One day, Paula Abdul was sitting beside us," she recalls. "I was infatuated with Paula because she was my idol growing up, along with such divas as Madonna and Tina Turner. I loved them all.

"Sitting next to [Miss Abdul], it almost felt as though I knew her," Miss Pope continues, laughing, "and at one point, I thought that making contact would be a positive experience for both of us. Then reality set in it would only mean so much to me. So it didnt happen, but it was quite interesting, humiliating, fun and depressing all at the same time."

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