'Top Model' Diva's Cinematic 'Crossover'
Model-turned-actress shows ugly side with evil roleLOS ANGELES --
"I think they'll be surprised at how evil I am. I play a really bad girl," she says, adding that people who have already caught the film tell her, 'You are such a great "B."' And they say the 'B'-word. And it's like, 'Okay, good. That's what I was supposed to do.' I never thought that would be a compliment, but it is."
Pigford, aka Eva the Diva, plays Vanessa, a Detroit nail technician who cozies up to wannabe doctor Noah Cruise (Wesley Jonathan), who also happens to have remarkable streetball skills. She's outwardly supportive of his med school scholarship, but secretly believes that with her influence, he'll decide to take businessman Vaughn's (Wayne Brady) offer to sign on with the NBA instead.
"I based my character on a few people I know actually," says Pigford. "This character is a troubled girl who acts out because of her pain, what she's been through. She's a very smart and bright girl and she's an opportunist. I definitely played it straight with her. It was about deception and manipulation, and that's what made her so evil. Her charming and endearing personality kind of made it even worse."
As a model, she also understood the transformational qualities of her character's wardrobe.
"I think that the clothes are definitely revealing and short and tight," she observes. "It coincided with the fact that she was a promiscuous girl and one that strives for a lot of attention and praise from others. And dressing a certain way, it attracted a certain crowd and certain applauses and cheers. And so I was that girl in a little bitty miniskirt and halter-top."
Despite her insight into Vanessa, Pigford still found it hard to fully embrace the character's level of egomania.
"I found the looking genuinely conniving in my eyes [to be the most difficult]," confesses Pigford. "It's this certain look. You can think it, but until you're there and can completely feel it, it won't relay in your performance. And so to get to that space where I am so selfish that it's all about me took a lot. You think it's easy to play that bad guy. It's easy to say a couple of bad words, but to really be that person, it takes some work."
The budding actress also found the numerous kissing scenes with Jonathan a different kind of challenge.
"I was uncomfortable initially," she admits. "It's different, you know? It's like, 'You're great, and I love to act beside you, but now we've got to kiss and like, thrust on each other.' But I think it made -- to shape the characters and their relationship -- it did a really good job with that. It's something you've got to deal with on an individual basis and try to access that emotion."
Acting is by no means a new passion for Pigford, who studied theater in college, where she starred in the student film "The Walk," currently available on video. Pigford is the latest "Top Model" contestant to demonstrate a natural affinity for performance. Her competitor Yaya DaCosta danced her way onto the big screen with "Take the Lead" this year; second season winner Yoanna House brought her budget fashion sense to host Style's "The Look for Less"; and Cycle 5 contestant Kim Stolz now hosts the new music program "The Freshman" for mtvU.
"I definitely think they're multifaceted," says Pigford. "I believe that with this show, these people are characters. It is a broad spectrum and it goes outside of just modeling. So you meet people who are extremely intelligent and have skills a lot of the times in the arts, which makes a great model. Like someone who's an amazing dancer, their lines are amazing and it makes for a great model. So I think you look for the characteristics of all these different things, and you decide she'd be great on 'Top Model,' but in all, she's just a great talent period."
Pigford hopes her acting career will to go beyond the surface and really showcase these other talents.
"My dream role first of all would be something like Charlize Theron in 'Monster,'" she says. "I want something stripped of beauty, stripped of anything glamorized. No makeup, dingy hair, dingy clothes, where you can just completely get into that character and what's really going on outside of the facade."
"Crossover" opens nationwide on Friday, Sept. 1.