Vanessa Ferlito Vanessa Ferlito

SHE PLAYS Graceland's gung-ho FBI agent Charlie DeMarco, a badass so committed to not blowing her cover that she shot up heroin in front of a dealer. "I've never done hard drugs because of what they did to my life," says the 32-year-old Brooklyn native and -single mom of a 5-year-old son. "My mother put the fear in me at a very young age -because my father died of a heroin overdose when I was 2. It kind of ruined my life."

WHERE YOU'VE SEEN HER As doomed crime-lab tech Aiden Burn on CSI: NY's first two seasons. She left because she didn't find the role artistically challenging after doing indie movies like Shadowboxer with Oscar winner Helen Mirren (CSI "was a bit of a culture shock for me," she says). She also put the grind in Grindhouse with her fully clothed lap dance in Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof. "Quentin and I have always had a special relationship," she says. "We're similar in a lot of ways."

WHY WE LOVE HER Much like Charlie, Ferlito commits to her characters 100 percent and imbues them with real-life street cred. In the Sept. 5 episode, during a brutal fight scene, she takes revenge on the pusher who nearly turned her into her a junkie. "This is going to sound twisted, but in the moment it was very therapeutic for me because I got all that energy out — I saw red and blacked out a little bit," she says. "Afterward, I realized I had a sprained ankle. It was fun, though!"

Graceland airs Thursdays at 10/9c on USA.

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