If Carrie Anne Fleming seems blissful during a hometown visit, it's for good reason.
She remembers too well the dark place she was in four years ago when she experienced a variation on her Supernatural character's fate - becoming zombie-like.
"I was a zombie when I booked that role, so it was such a gift," recalls the vivacious Mount Doug grad, who plays Karen Singer, the devoted apple-pie-baking wife killed by Jim Beaver's demon hunter in CW's hit series.
Fleming, 37, had descended into post-partum depression. "I just wasn't myself," says Fleming, who has since amicably divorced the father of her four-year-old daughter, Madalyn Rose.
Today, she's the picture of happiness as she juggles motherhood, acting, appearances at sci-fi/horror conventions and completing Under the Tofino Sun. The book she began writing last summer chronicles her journey and finds parallels with the Supernatural character.
"I was having trouble being happy," she says. "I had trouble memorizing dialogue and communicating."
It seems unimaginable after meeting this spitfire, whose selftherapy included eating well, surfing in Tofino, reading Reflections of the Moon on Water, taking piano and singing lessons and finding other ways to release endorphins.
A question she's often asked is how much makeup was required to make Karen look zombie-like on Supernatural.
"It was just white clown makeup and no sleep," she laughs, recalling how such questions compelled her to tell her story at conventions where performers are encouraged to share.
She has a theory as to why she's been so warmly welcomed by the "sea of women" who attend Supernatural conventions to see Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, the two "hot guys" who play the creature-hunting Winchesters.
"I never made out with anyone on the show, and I'm the wife of someone everybody loves, so I'm not a threat."
Her convention appearances have made her realize how women's issues are a common bond with female fans, she said.
Fleming was also a hit at a Fangoria convention for another highprofile character - her facially disfigured seductress in Jenifer, Steven Weber's horror comic book adaptation in the Masters of Horror series.
The actor was in a nostalgic mood over lunch at San Remo, during a visit that included a reunion with former grade 6 and 7 South Park school classmates and with Eric Holmgren, her co-star in Langham Court Theatre's 2000 production of Noises Off!, with whom she hopes to do a movie.
The Digby, N.S.-born actor's parents divorced when she was two and she was raised here by her mother. She attended Central, James Bay, Blanshard and South Park elementary schools before graduating to Spectrum, Lansdowne and Mount Doug, and often visited the U.S. to see her nomadic Florida-based father, a once-aspiring model who became a pilot and yacht captain.
She studied drama with Kaleidoscope Theatre and danced with Kidco before moving to Vancouver, where she took up modelling before her acting career took off.
Dama Hanks, a retired Mount Doug dance and drama instructor, wasn't surprised by her success.
"She had such a fresh face - an Evan Rachel Wood quality," said Hanks. "She's very funny and has lots of personality."
Adds John Gray, who taught her at Lansdowne: "She was as low-maintenance a performer as a director could want."
It's typical of Fleming's sense of humour that she can laugh at the titles of some of her roles - "trophy wife" in Knights of Bloodsteel, "pretty teen volunteer" in The Dead Zone , or "dirty talker" in Good Luck Chuck, where she morphs from a sweet young woman into a babe who unleashes a shocking torrent of obscene come-ons in a sex scene with Dane Cook.
She also cheerfully dismisses online reports that she dated Adam Sandler during his Happy Gilmore shoot.
"I wouldn't call it dating," she laughs. "I brought him milkshakes and we hung out. He was really nice. It was neat to see him on the precipice. One time I arrived and he was on the phone with Chris Farley. He said, 'I gotta go - my friend is here.' "
Fleming also had some classic new-girl-in-town experiences in L.A. to share, like when she stayed at the Saharan Motel and noticed scantily-clad girls coming and going from a suite occupied by a creepy character and dozens of cats.
"He said, 'Why don't you come in and talk to me sometime?' " she recalled.
"He said, 'You should have gotten your boobs done right away.
It's almost too late for you.' He was huge and he had no shirt on and his belly was so big and shiny. It was just so gross and fabulous and funny."
Fleming has since amassed some witty comebacks to deal with such weirdness.
One of her most rewarding experiences, she said, was when she auditioned for horror icon Dario Argento (Suspiria), who cast her as flesh-eating Jenifer.
"I didn't know who he was when I first got the gig," she admits.
In his thick Italian accent, the diminutive director explained that her animalistic character was "so beautiful, even a homosexual would sleep with you," before saying, 'OK, now we want you to do this scene where you eat the cat.' "
Acting spooked, she sniffed, crouched down and hissed before gnawing on the simulated cat (a pillow) and thrashing it side to side.
Bystanders, who thought she was supposed to be doing a scene where Jenifer befriends the cat, erupted into laughter.
" 'Shut up, everyone!' " she recalled Argento saying. " 'Carrie Anne understands.' I got the gig."