- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 10, 2002

As Claire on HBO's hit series "Six Feet Under," Lauren Ambrose's voice drips with sarcasm and uncertainty. Over the phone, however, the 24-year-old actress sounds chipper by comparison and upbeat about her recent Emmy nomination and first starring film role.

"It was very unexpected," she says of the Emmy nod. "I'm very happy for the show. So many people were nominated in so many different departments."

"Six Feet Under," which follows the dysfunctional, undertaker Fisher clan, is up for 23 Emmy Awards this year, a boon for the 2-year-old drama. The results will be announced in a live telecast on Sept. 22. "Six Feet Under" will start shooting its third season this fall.

Don't ask Miss Ambrose what's in store for Claire, though.

"I have no idea what's going to come from the mind of [series creator] Alan Ball," she laughs. "I just can't wait to go back to work and do my part."

For now, she's focused on "Swimming," an indie film directed by Robert Siegel that's been making the festival circuit for the past two years. It is just now gaining a larger theatrical release, and while it has ended its run in the District, it will open at the Charles Theater in Baltimore on Friday.

The story is set in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and revolves around shy Frankie Wheeler (Miss Ambrose), who runs a restaurant with her much older brother and hangs out with her best friend, Nicola (Jennifer Dundas Lowe), the owner of a piercing parlor next door.

Two strangers enter their lives and end up changing the way they see each other in a coming-of-age story that is remarkable for its quiet pace in a summer filled with blockbuster releases.

"It was something that was personally really interesting to me," she says. "The character's subtle metamorphosis is very real and very moving."

To better understand the beach-town mentality, Miss Ambrose went down early with the production crew, which shot on location.

"Frankie Wheeler lived there her whole life, so I wanted to get a feel for it," she says. "I just got to hang out and listen to the accent a bit so that I could hopefully be this girl in a real way."

One of the strengths of the film is Miss Ambrose's ability to communicate with little more than body language and facial expressions.

"It was kind of like silent film acting," she says. "I think I'm in every scene, but I probably have the least amount of dialogue."

While "Swimming" is her first starring role, she has been in several more high-profile movies. With comedian Seth Green she helped steal a few scenes in the teen flick "Can't Hardly Wait," was in the campy "Psycho Beach Party," and had a small part in "In and Out." She also has guest-starred on "Law and Order" and "Party of Five."

However, her background is in singing, something she continues to pursue. She studied voice (classical and jazz) at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and at Boston University's Tanglewood Institute while also seeking acting roles.

"Maybe it'll be another career for me," she says, musing that one of her biggest dreams is to produce a musical.

For now, Miss Ambrose has no other film plans, although she doesn't rule out future roles.

"I just want to do something that's different from the things I've done in the past," she says. "I feel like a lucky girl. Every job I've had so far has been very different."

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