But hardly pure, as Tampa native and actor Brittany Snow seeks to break from her "nice girl" image. She takes a dark turn on FX's Nip/Tuck.
By CHASE SQUIRES
Published November 21, 2005
Last time she crossed the television screen, Tampa native Brittany Snow was sweet, innocent Meg on family-friendly American Dreams.
Forget all that. She's a big girl now.
Snow, 19, returns to television Tuesday night, beginning a five-episode run on FX's Nip/Tuck playing an edgy, dark role in a show that defines edgy and dark.
With deep-black eyeliner, a swastika earring and a really twisted world view, Snow's character, Ariel Alderman, is 180 degrees from lovely Miss Meg and blows away the troublesome teen role Snow played as Susan back in her daytime drama days on Guiding Light.
Ariel is bad news from the moment she gets her hooks into Dr. Sean McNamara's rebellious son, Matt (John Hensley), and wriggles under his skin.
And just wait until you meet her family.
"I feel like it's very easy to play the sweet, innocent girl, because I am pretty innocent," Snow said in a phone interview from Hollywood. "But there is a dark side too."
It's all part of maturing as an actor, Snow said. From soaps to a network series, a lighthearted family film (this year's The Pacifier, with Vin Diesel) to Nip/Tuck, Snow said they're all stops on a journey. Next up is an indie film called On the Doll with music video director Thomas Mignone. She plays a prostitute with a heart of lead.
"It's probably one the darkest things I've ever read," Snow said of Doll. "A lot of people are going to be extremely shocked and maybe a little offended."
Laughing, she added, "My grandparents are not allowed to see it."
Snow said she decided long ago to look for challenges.
"Whenever anybody asks me, "What do you want to do?' I say I'm really just willing to do anything that is a stretch or challenging or scary or that I feel really passionate about," Snow said. "If that's a play or TV or a low-budget independent, I'm willing to try it."
Nip/Tuck is about as far from American Dreams as Snow could have gotten, short of a role in Saw III. The series, now in its third season, chronicles the manic lives of successful Miami plastic surgeons McNamara (Dylan Walsh) and Christian Troy (Julian McMahon). The pair takes on the weirdest cases ripped from the headlines (an immensely obese woman has to be surgically removed from her couch, in one episode this season) while weaving in even weirder dramatic tales of their personal lives (a porn-star lover, a transgender affair, orgies and a serial slasher known as the Carver).
The underlying themes are immorality, vanity, lust, ego . . . and pretty people.
With her new role, Snow moves from a show that was on the Parents Television Council's honor roll (Dreams) last year to one that the group calls "raunchy programming" and is campaigning against actively. For its part, FX spokesman John Solberg notes Nip/Tuck carries the "mature audiences" warning and airs at 10 p.m.
It's also the highest-rated show on basic cable in the key 18-to-49 demographic, luring 3.8-million viewers weekly, and it's a huge earner for FX. Ad spaces is sold out, Solberg said.
Snow enters as Hensley's character spins increasingly out of control. After an affair last season with a 40-year-old transgender life coach, teenage Matt has alienated his parents (and learned that though he was raised by McNamara, his biological father is Troy), stormed out of his home and resorted to drugs. In her first few scenes, Snow makes all that look like child's play.
Snow's character Ariel is part of an insidiously racist family. The family members' ability to rationalize hateful beliefs is downright creepy. And Ariel's ability to draw in a morally lost Matt makes the skin crawl.
"I'm not a Nazi, Matt, but I am a purist," she coos in one scene.
"I put it out there to everybody that I talked to that I wanted to do something out of the box," Snow said. "I had just done a movie where I was this sweet, innocent girl, and I'd done that for a few years on a (television) show, which was amazing, but I kind of wanted to go back to my Guiding Light roots where I played the manipulative, angry teenager and do something where I could get out a lot of frustration and do something that was different and edgy. . . . I think (Nip/Tuck creator) Ryan Murphy wanted to use me maybe because it was so shocking for people to see a girl who was such an innocent girl for three years play such a crazy character."
Hensley, 28, said Snow fit into the cast with ease and proved herself both as an actor and as a person.
"With Brittany, what's been so great is that she seems so completely comfortable in her own skin," Hensley said. "To be honest with you, Brittany's all right. That's one thing I've been so impressed with by her as a person. Regardless of what you do in your day job, you're still looking at the same person you were when you got up in the morning."
Hensley said Snow is mature beyond her age, self-sufficient and a team player. He shares her interest in expanding beyond just one type of role.
Hensley has a comedy due out next year, Fifty Pills, a move that pulled him out of the dark world of Nip/Tuck, he said.
"Like taking a breath I didn't know I needed," he said.
Playing Ariel has been a challenge, Snow said, because for her, acting requires becoming the character, at least while on camera.
"I hope people don't find it offensive because it is so crazy and out of the box. It's definitely a character I play, and I don't agree with her views," Snow said. "But to play that character, I have to immerse myself in that and believe what I say, or it won't be authentic, and it's kind of scary.
"What's hard about that character is really making it seem like she does have a point, even though it's crazy and wrong," Snow said. "She really does, with her whole heart, believe this."
Shooting Nip/Tuck on weekdays, then working on the independent production on weekends, has kept her busy and in Los Angeles, but in her heart Snow said she is still a Floridian. When shooting wraps, Snow is coming home to Tampa to see friends and family for the holidays. And to shop.
Then, it's back to work in California. Snow said when the Nip/Tuck finale airs next month, her story line is left open, and if the stars align, there could be a return next season.
(By the way, she knows who the mysterious Carver is. Fans of the show, she promised, will not be disappointed.)
And just when it appears the girl-next-door character was gone for good, Snow said she'll be seen in far lighter fare next spring when she co-stars in John Tucker Must Die, a comedy about high school girls and boy-next-door crushes gone wrong. Snow plays the new girl in school, a bit confused and very trusting as she gets tangled with the wrong crowd.
"She's very much like Meg," Snow said of her movie character. "She's kind of shy, she's trying to find her way, figure out who she is. She kind of gets caught up with these girls she looks up to and she's trying to fit in. It's a really good story, and it's funny, and by the end she realizes who she is and how she can't mold to who other people want her to be."
Something Snow herself realized long ago.
"I can do things that a lot of people wouldn't expect."
Tampa native Brittany Snow embarks on a five-week guest role on Nip/Tuck Tuesday at 10 p.m. (replay at 11 p.m.) on FX.