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The Performance: Emma Caulfield in ‘Timer’

The former ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ actress stars in the sci-fi romantic comedy.

April 29, 2010|By Susan King, Los Angeles Times
  • COMFY FIT: Emma Caulfield eased writer-director Jac Schaeffer's doubts about her script.
COMFY FIT: Emma Caulfield eased writer-director Jac Schaeffer's… (Christina House / For The…)

Though "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" has been off the air for seven years, Emma Caulfield is still pursued by fans of the sci-fi-horror series, in which she played the role of the former vengeance demon Anya.

"It's crazy," says the 37-year-old actress. "The fans are very awesome. But they never really refer to me by my name — ever. I had a fan come up to me once and said they had just had a baby and named their daughter after me. I said, ‘Oh God, that's sweet. It's a good name.' Then they said, ‘We just love the name Anya.' I didn't have the heart to say that's not my name."

After "Buffy," she made a concerted effort to stay away from science fiction. But Caulfield confesses that her eagerness to not get pigeonholed caused her to make a major career blunder.

"I could kick myself for this," says the unabashed sci-fi fan and Trekkie, sipping on water in a sunny conference room at a West Los Angeles publicity office. "Right as the show was ending, my manager called and said, ‘They are redoing "Battlestar Galactica" and the producers want to see you.' I was just like a brat and said, ‘No, no, no, no, no. No more sci-fi.' "

"I loved the original ‘Battlestar,' but I said it's going to be campy and ridiculous. I think they had finished their third season and I kept hearing nothing but great things, so I iTunes it and lost two weeks of my life. I did nothing but watch that show. It was an idiotic bad call."

But she seems to have made the right decision with "Timer," a romantic comedy with — interestingly enough — science-fiction overtones. The film opens Friday after getting a warm response on the festival circuit. Caulfield plays a single dentist in Los Angeles named Oona who is waiting patiently to find her soul mate.

In the film's contemporary but alternative universe, everyone can find their soul mate through a new scientific device called a timer. For a small charge and a monthly fee, people can get a bizarre-looking wristwatch that will display the number of days, hours, minutes and seconds before one meets his or her destiny. Unfortunately, Oona's timer is blank, meaning that her true love doesn't have one. Quickly approaching her 30th birthday, Oona decides to bide her time with a young supermarket clerk (John Patrick Amedori), whose timer is set to go off in just four months.

"I loved the script so much," Caulfield says. "I wanted it bad, really bad. I get to play a normal girl. I am not in peril. There are no monsters anywhere. I haven't been able to do anything like that before."

Still, she's no stranger to playing for laughs. In fact, the Anya character supplied much comic relief on "Buffy."

"I think my strongest suit is comedy," she says. "I certainly have limits in other areas."

First-time writer-director Jac Schaeffer says she was a huge "Buffy" fan and couldn't believe her good fortune when Caulfield came in to audition.

"We had been reading people and had been struggling with the tone of the script," Schaeffer says. "I thought I [was a bad] writer and then she came in and read and I thought, ‘I'm a genius.'"

Other actresses, she says, played Oona "sort of arch and weirdly broad. That is not how I had written the character — who is articulate, neurotic, sweet and innocent, but uptight and confused. Nobody could make that coalesce in a way. Then Emma came in. She had these great comedic chops as an actress, but she's a sci-fi fan, so she really got the tone instinctively."

susan.king@latimes.com

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