Unlike most actresses her age, 16-year-old Heather Matarazzo has never auditioned for Kevin Williamson. The words ”costarring Freddie Prinze Jr.” make her cringe. And she wouldn’t dream of angling for a role on one of The WB’s acutely self-aware teen romps. ”Can I puke now?” she says, only half joking. ”No offense, but a lot of those shows have never even heard of originality. I want to do things you haven’t seen a million times before.”
True, Matarazzo’s current gig — as Heather Wiseman, the lonely daughter of a government-created superhero on CBS’ hit sci-fi drama Now and Again — is about as far off the Felicity path as a girl can get. But it is in keeping with the actress’ penchant for unglamorous, off-kilter parts, like a molested student in the 1997 Keanu Reeves thriller The Devil’s Advocate, and a mentally retarded gang-rape victim in the 1999 telepic Our Guys: Outrage in Glen Ridge. Her romance with risk began in 1996, after drawing raves as junior high Ubergeek Dawn Wiener in the Sundance sensation Welcome to the Dollhouse. ”[People] still come up to me and say, ‘Wow, I expected you to be uglier, Wienerdog,”’ she says. ”I don’t know whether to take that as an insult or a compliment.”
Other folks are a bit more tactful in their praise. ”In a really good way, Heather’s the antithesis of what we’ve come to expect from young actors,” says Now creator Glenn Gordon Caron, who cast Matarazzo without an audition. ”She has such a unique look, and her instincts are flawless. I feel I could write anything for her and she’d nail it.” Case in point: An upcoming episode centers on the fanciful fallout after her character is struck by lightning.
Luckily, nothing that electrifying has marked Matarazzo’s own adolescence. In fact, she fesses up to a relatively normal offscreen existence. A native Long Islander, she lives at home with mom Camille, a homemaker, and dad Ray, a data-processing manager. She loves to veg out in front of the tube (Ally McBeal‘s a current fave), and she recently failed the written part of her driver’s license exam, missing 11 out of 20 questions. (”Hey, I got nine right,” she laughs.) Matarazzo even attends public high school, and like many a graduating senior, she often frets over her wardrobe. ”In the past, I seemed to play characters with absolutely no fashion sense,” she says. ”But these days, I’m stylin’.” Well, that’s one thing she has in common with those WB kids.