McGowan's 'Charmed' Life Comes to an End
As The WB series draws to a close, actress is ready to return to movies
After 10 seasons on The WB -- which will merge later this year with UPN to form a new network, currently called The CW -- "7th Heaven" says goodbye, as does "Charmed," which, after eight seasons, is the longest-running show on television featuring female leads, even surpassing "Laverne & Shirley."
But on this sunny, cool day at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, there's still a ways to go in the season for the Sunday supernatural drama. Immediate attention is focused on filming the wedding scene of Paige (Rose McGowan), the youngest of the three good- witch Halliwell sisters (with Holly Marie Combs and Alyssa Milano), and her mortal beloved, Henry (Ivan Sergei). The episode, called "Engaged and Confused," aired Feb. 26.
The Halliwell mansion in San Francisco, normally the location for explosive demonic smackdowns of all kinds, is decked out in wedding finery, as is McGowan, resplendent in a vintage gown of ivory satin and lace.
"I love this dress," she says, settling in her trailer between takes. "They showed me magazines with modern bridal dresses. I wasn't really a fan. Clothes from the 1930s, they tend to fit me like a glove, and they don't need alteration. Usually, they're for a short waist, small waist, chest and then long legs, so they're the only ones that don't need alterations.
"So I had them go to a rental place that houses old movie clothes from probably the teens, and this was the first one I put on, and I loved it. I saved them a whopping amount of money."
Although the dress is long -- and McGowan needs to hike it up as she moves from trailer to stage -- it's fairly comfortable, so McGowan's big concern of the day is planting the post-vows kiss on Sergei without catching his influenza.
"I'm a little bit miserable," she says, "because I get sick very easily, especially when I'm tired, and Ivan has the flu. I'm like, please, God. So we'll see how it goes."
"Charmed" has been leading a bit of a charmed life this past season, since just about everybody thought it was a goner last May. An 11th-hour reprieve meant a lot of dramatic scrambling for executive producer Brad Kern, who'd packed his witches off to new lives -- with new faces -- just in case the party was over.
"I really did think it was over last time," McGowan says. "I don't go on the message boards or anything like that -- it's the age-old thing, 40 nice compliments, one mean thing, and it sticks with you -- but Alyssa or Holly told me people are under the impression that part of the reason it's shutting down is I don't want to come back.
"My contract's done. Everybody's contract is done. If I came in and stood outside and said, 'Let me in to work,' it wouldn't happen. And am I OK with that? Absolutely."
McGowan came on "Charmed" in its fourth season, after the departure of original cast member Shannen Doherty. For a girl who cut her teeth on indie films, it was a bit of a culture shock.
"I literally cannot believe that I've been here this long," she says. "It just staggers me. It is, in a lot of ways, like an airplane ride that you couldn't get off. Not that it's a bad airplane ride, when you're not happy with your movie selection and your peanuts. I got a good gig. But at the same time, on a certain level, it's like 'Groundhog Day.'
"But I always say, you can laugh and cry in the same episode, and you don't always get to do that in a movie."
As to what she's learned after completing almost five seasons on a one-hour drama, McGowan says, "Stamina. I've learned that I have a lot more stamina than I thought. Every movie, there would be one day when I would lose it. I would start crying, all those lines that I knew would fall out of my brain, and I would have a minimeltdown for 10 minutes. Then it would be back to work. But I would get so tired. I thought I was going to die. I'd be like, 'I can't do it, I can't do it.'
"And when I hear people that do movies complain now, I'm like, 'You don't even know what you're talking about, pally-o.'"
McGowan began her career as the lead in the 1995 independent feature "The Doom Generation," and it's to the big screen she hopes to return. She already has one movie in the can, playing aspiring actress Sheryl Saddon in Brian DePalma's "The Black Dahlia," based on James Ellroy's fictionalized version of the famous unsolved Los Angeles murder case, due out this autumn.
Although McGowan has been on television for five seasons, the reality of that doesn't seem to have sunk in on all levels.
"It was very funny," she says, "and I felt bad, and I didn't mean this in any sort of snotty way -- but Ivan said, 'So, have you gone out on any TV pilots?' I said -- I don't know what was wrong -- 'I don't do TV.' I was like, 'Oh, my God.' And he said, 'Where are you?' It was hilarious. I was like, 'Oh, my God, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean that in any sort of denigrating way. And hello, where am I standing?' "
"Yeah," Sergei says, "I pointed out to her that she was basically making fun of what I've done for a living for five or six years, too. You know, the fact is, she is talented, and she probably won't do TV after this. She probably will be doing films, and that's important to her. It's going to make her happy, and that's great."
But everything has its downside. "Unless you're Tom Cruise or something like that," McGowan says, "you get paid so much more for TV. I want to do movies -- certainly well more prestigious, but big hit in the salary. That'll be a rude shocker ... oh, my."