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Acting's in Samantha Mathis' Blood: Mom's and Grandmom's Too

September 01, 1990|JON MATSUMOTO

When Samantha Mathis decided at age 12 that she wanted to be an actress, her mother--actress Bibi Besch--made sure she knew what she was getting into.

"When I said, 'This is what I want to do,' my mom said, 'Well, we're going on the set tomorrow, at 4:30 a.m .," recalls Mathis, who is one of the stars of the film "Pump Up the Volume." "She wanted me to know what a full day at work was like. But I did that with her a lot and I still loved it."

You might say acting is in Mathis' blood. Not only is her mother a respected character actress, but her grandmother--Gusti Huber--was considered the first lady of Austrian theater in the late '30s and '40s.

"My grandmother came to the ("Volume") premier," says the personable 20-year-old. "I was so nervous about how she would critique my work. But she praised me and that meant a lot."

"Volume" is Mathis' first feature film after co-starring in two TV series ("Aaron's Way" and "Knightwatch"). She will also appear in three upcoming TV movies.

Playing the arty and aggressive character of Nora in "Volume" represented a new challenge for Mathis.

"When I was blonde I was perceived as an innocent and sweet young girl," states Mathis, who dyed her hair black for the part. "There aren't a lot of roles written for women who are strong willed. Playing Nora allowed me to explore a type of character I'd never played before."

She also feels "Volume"--which deals with a disaffected high school student (Christian Slater) who starts a controversial pirate radio station--reflects a growing breed of more socially aware teens.

"I don't think kids today are going to respond to 'Porky's'-type films as much as 'Pump Up the Volume," says Mathis. "People of my age grew up with the reality of divorce, drugs and an environment that's being destroyed. I think this film is much more relevant to today's teen-ager."

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