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Ellen Muth Is Reaping Life's Rewards

By Scott Moore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 22, 2004; Page Y07

Ellen Muth is not quite dead, but she sounds as if she has just been awakened from the beyond. Or at least from a sound sleep -- which is true, just a day after returning home to Connecticut after six months of filming in Vancouver.

So, though she cheerfully answers all questions about her acting career and the success of Showtime's "Dead Like Me," the 23-year-old actress is employing quite a few dramatic pauses. (Is she still awake?) Except for the occasional giggles, it's eerily similar to her subtle performance on the death-defining dark comedy.

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In "Dead Like Me," Muth deftly portrays a teenager whose slacker life was snuffed out on her lunch break -- by a falling toilet seat from a space station. But instead of passing to the great beyond, Georgia "George" Lass is stuck in the dreary present, forced to collect an undetermined number of souls from the victims of unnatural deaths. And because reapers don't get paid, she returns to the same temp agency she worked at before her death -- though she looks like a different person to the living.

Just as her character must deal with the drudgery of a dead-end job, so must Muth deal with the endless recounting of her life: The pronunciation of her name ("mewth"). How she got involved with acting (studying since age 10). About her family (her optician father, Eric, donated an eyeglasses exhibit to the Smithsonian). What she thinks happens to people when they die (she doesn't know). But, in the end, she reveals a bit of her soul.

What are the similarities between you and your character, George Lass?

We both have a wry, dry sense of humor. We're both very sarcastic. That's pretty much it.

And the differences?

I'm not as bitter as she is. I don't blame people as often as she does. I take responsibility for my actions more than she does.

Plus, George never got a driver's license and you are a racecar driver. What about that?

I went to the Skip Barber school here in Connecticut. . . . Now I have a fast car. It's a [Porsche] Carrera C4. It's small and silver with a convertible hard top. A wing in the back comes up when you reach a certain speed. I drive as much as I can. I even brought it to Vancouver.

Have you gotten any speeding tickets?

As of now, no. I had a cop stop me [in Canada] and ask me, "Is it illegal to take U-turns in front of a cop in Connecticut?' And I said, "No not unless the U has an arrow through it." And he was like, "It's illegal here."

You're a member of Mensa and Intertel (the upper 1 percent of scores on the IQ test). How does your intelligence come into play as an actor?

It just gets me a broader outlook about the different people out there. And be able to search deeper into the souls of other people.

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