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Faces To Watch 2008

December 30, 2007|Greg Braxton; Lynn Smith

Felicia Pearson

Actress seasoned by the streets

Felicia Pearson didn't grow up with dreams of becoming an actress. She was too busy living the thug life on the streets of Baltimore. Dealing drugs as a gun-slinging teen constantly put her in harm's way, and she eventually wound up in prison for killing a woman in self-defense.

Those troubled days are still vivid for the 27-year-old Pearson. After her release, a series of unusual circumstances led to a small part on HBO's "The Wire," playing Snoop, an androgynous assassin who does her job without emotion or remorse. Her no-nonsense portrayal has made Snoop one of the most intriguing -- and terrifying -- characters on TV. Her role expands this season on the gritty drama, which returns in January for its final season.

"She's a real coldhearted person," said Pearson. "I love playing her."

Pearson's rawness and authenticity are not the result of formal training: "I know how the streets go, I know what the streets call for, so I just put all of that into the character."

She has co-founded a nonprofit organization that works with at-risk youth and written a memoir, "Grace After Midnight." Pearson now wants to expand her acting horizons and has no fear of being typecast: "People know I can play a gangster. Now I want to switch it up a bit, be more feminine."

-- Greg Braxton

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Mia Wasikowska

Dancer turning to drama

Next year, U.S. audiences may discover Mia Wasikowska, 18, a dancer who started acting three years ago in small Australian films. Wasikowska landed two high-profile roles in the U.S. this year, showcasing her range of talent and a face Vermeer would love.

In HBO's densely layered drama "In Treatment" (starting Jan. 28), Wasikowska plays Sophie, a bright, suicidal gymnast and client of a psychologist played by Gabriel Byrne.

"It's such an actor's dream to play a role so dense, with two people talking for 30 minutes," she said, adding that she researched the role by talking to the writer, the director observing gymnasts in training, and jotting down notes from her own imagination. She also learned on the job. Byrne mentored her before their scenes while they were sitting in makeup chairs.

Later next year, she'll appear as a Jewish refugee in "Defiance," a film starring Daniel Craig expected later in 2008.

"It's really unexpected and so exciting to have done this stuff," she said. "I never really thought it could happen."

The writers strike makes her next move uncertain. But she hopes, she said, "to find projects that stimulate and challenge me and make me think."

"I don't want to be pigeonholed," she said. "I want to do as many diverse characters as I can."

-- Lynn Smith

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