By: Jenny WilliamsEliza Dushku is Hollywood’s secret superhero. Though the charactersfor which she’s most often recognized don’t wear capes, spandex, orutility belts, they all have a certain flair for arriving in thenick of time. And like most costumed crusaders, their alter egosrarely get credit for saving the day. As Dushku says of her latestrole, a woman with the ability to relive entire days of herlife,”She’s carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders andcan’t look like she’s carrying it on her face.”
The same could be said of the 22-year-old actress: Only a few monthsago, she was best known as Faith, the evil archrival of TV’s Buffy, a fellowvampire slayer who had gotten herself caught up in some very bad things.(Drinking! Boys! Murder!) But in last May’s series finale, Faith came cleanand joined forces with Sunnydale’s finest to rescue the world from hell itself.
Now, with barely a moment to pause and rinse the garlic smell outof her clothes, Dushku is back on TV (beginning October 30) as the titlecharacter of Fox’s daring supernatural drama Tru Calling. The show’sGroundhog Day-meets-The Sixth Sense premise finds her playing Tru Davies, a college grad and morgue assistant who’s capable of changing events for better or worse and who often gets clued in by the corpses she’s attending. The balance of grit and gallows humor couldn’t be better suited for the show’s sarcastic star. “[Tru is] either blessed or cursed with this power to control people’s destinies,” says Dushku. “And she’s not going to be able to save people all the time. We’re going to have to follow some rules to make this believable. The continuity woman on this show is going to be busy.”
Tru Calling could be a godsend for Dushku–an opportunity to prove she can hold her own in a leading role. “I’m terrified but excited,” she says. “I’m kind of freaking out.” She’s also learning about the obligations that come with your own series: spending quality time with the writers and meeting with real-life forensic workers so she can play the part dead-on. “One reminded me of the girls I went to high school with,” Dushku says. “She wasn’t creepy, and she wasn’t weird–she just happened to work in the L.A. coroner’s office and retrieved bodies from East Compton.”
Dushku’s candor is likely a trait she inherited from her mother, a “liberal feminist Mormon” who raised her and three older brothers in Boston. That same unflappable nature helped Dushku stand out in such early films as 1993’s This Boy’s Life, alongside Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio, and 1994’s True Lies, in which she played Arnold Schwarzenegger’s daughter. Her spunk also won her praise for her work as a sassy cheerleader who comesthrough for her team in the 2000 comedy Bring It On, a surprise hit that catapulted costars Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union to fame as well. “I was not a cheerleader in high school whatsoever,” Dushku says with a laugh. “We thought the movie was going straight to video.”
Still, she may want to consider a little restraint, if her bleep-filled appearance on Punk’d is any indication. “They set me up to look like I was shoplifting,” she says. “They were telling me that I was going to be locked up for five years for grand larceny. My friends were like, ‘You have the mouth of a truck driver.’ But my mom never saw it, so that’s good.” And Dushku certainly doesn’t want to spend any more time in a morgue than she already has.