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Actress Denise Faye: Climbing ladders

The career of an 'American' seductress

Denise Faye of

By Daniel Sieberg

(CNN) -– "Nothing against anyone who chooses a singular path. You work with the same people, work your way up the ladder and you're done. But I'm constantly working up six different ladders.

"It makes things interesting, and it makes things fun. It's the only way I see my career ever going.”

That's how Denise Faye reflects on the pursuit of her profession as a multidisciplined. Faye says she prefers the challenge of staying engrossed and stretching her abilities, despite the drawbacks inherent in such a draining objective.

graphic Are you developing your career along one path? Or, like Denise Faye, do you find yourself climbing several "ladders," pursuing multiple options?

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But she lives up to the adage about giving something to the busy person in order to get it done.

"If I have nothing to do, I'm the laziest couch potato. I just can't motivate myself. But if I'm busy, then I'll do it all.”

Dancing, singing and acting occupy much of Faye's time, although her latest endeavor is handling the attention she's received after an eye-catching role in this summer's much-anticipated teen film, "American Pie 2.”

Faye plays a neighborhood temptress who lures three of the boys of "American Pie 2” -- Jim (Jason Biggs), Stiffler (Seann William Scott) and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) -- into some compromising positions.

Although she's scantily clad during most of her screen time, Faye wasn't intimidated working with the men of the film.

"The guys? God bless those boys. They're just great.”

But how does a musical actress who appeared in the 1992 Broadway revival of "Guys and Dolls” with Nathan Lane now find herself in a movie about bodily fluids and scoring with girls?

'"Dirty Dancing" days'

Faye is the child of a father who's doctor and a mother who's a psychiatric social worker. That gave her a solid grounding before getting into the business.

Faye, right, plays Danielle in
Faye, right, plays Danielle in "American Pie 2." With her friend Amber (Lisa Arturo), Danielle introduces "the boys" to some quid-pro-quo flirtation.  

But the parents had their wild side too: Faye's parents were mambo and cha-cha dancers during her dad's years in medical school.

"It was in the Catskills (of New York), like in the 'Dirty Dancing' days,” she laughs.

Her parents divorced when she was 13, but she says she has no regrets about her family picture and speaks of close bonds with her stepfather, two stepbrothers and sister.

Her first aspiration was to be a Broadway dancer, something she accomplished several times over. But after achieving that dream, she realized she was capable of doing more and wanted to push the limits of her craft.

Faye attended college for a few years, with a double major in psychology and urban studies. But she dropped out to be in her first New York show. She says she hopes to return some day, but she isn't focused on it at the moment.

"There's always the dream of the honorary degree.”

'Better when it was naive'

Faye grew up near Westchester, New York, and she now calls Los Angeles her home -- though as a New Yorker she says she's embarrassed to tell people how much she loves it.

Faye: "If I have nothing to do, I'm the laziest couch potato. I just can't motivate myself. But if I'm busy, then I'll do it all."  

A vocal supporter of animal rights and the environment, Faye lives in California most of the year with her cat and finds a solace in which she can pursue her work.

Singing and dancing have come naturally to Faye -- who reveals only that she's in her "late 20s.” But she admits that she's honing her acting skills with each new part.

"Film is a constant exploration where I'm still learning about the medium. I love it to death, but I have my moments of being entirely relaxed and totally terrified. Of course that happens for theater too. It's the nature of performing.”

With "American Pie 2,” Faye says she enjoyed the environment on the set, which in turn helped her to explore her character's motivations.

Although her role is laden with sexual overtones, she says she liked being given the chance to play Danielle in two ways. She didn't know which incarnation would be used in the film until she saw the final cut.

graphicDenise Faye
Selected films
  • 2001: "American Pie 2"; Danielle
  • 1999: "Game Day," Casandra
  • 1998: "Witness to the Mob" (TV film), Dawn De Batt
  • 1997: "Milk and Money," Kimberly
  • 1997: "The Next Step," Heidi
  • 1995: "Mighty Aphrodite," Greek chorus
  • While Faye was comfortable using her sex appeal in the role, she also saw a certain innocence beneath the surface.

    "I actually liked it better when it was naive. It made the scene feel better. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy playing the sex dominatrix and manipulating everything ... I enjoy that immensely. I've had my share of those roles. But I kind of think that for my money, I liked my portion of it with the naivete.”

    No stranger to acting or film, Faye's screen work includes "Destination Anywhere” (1997) with Jon Bon Jovi and Demi Moore, and "Game Day” (1999) with Richard Lewis.

    Currently, she's working as associate choreographer on a film adaptation of the Kander and Ebb stage musical "Chicago.” It's an experience she says has given her new perspective -- and maybe another ladder to climb.

    "All of a sudden you're part of the backbone of moviemaking. It helps to take away some of the mystery. It demystifies it and therefore I can be much more relaxed (in front of the camera).”

    Faye: "I'm constantly working up six different ladders. It makes things interesting, and it makes things fun. It's the only way I see my career ever going."  

    But it's hardly all glory and success for Faye, who reveals that she has moments of "vulnerability and deterioration like everyone else.” And being constantly occupied can wreak havoc on her love life.

    "It takes a very special man to understand my schedule and the erratic nature of it. And the instability of it.”

    She says seeking solid goals and beating the odds often compels her to keep going.

    "When you overcome it, it just feels so great. It's like going for that transcendent experience, which I have to say has been a guiding force in my life. The magic of nature, love, performing, work ... it is that.”

    As for coping with the popularity of "American Pie 2,” Faye seems to take it all in stride.

    "We don't have to worry about this moment in my life. It's a moment that takes care of itself.”



    • 'American Pie 2'

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