<EM>Speak</EM> Speak

In a rare move, both Showtime and Lifetime will simultaneously air the film-festival favorite Speak tonight at 9 pm/ET. Based on the acclaimed novel of the same name by Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak stars Kristen Stewart as a high-school freshman so traumatized by being date-raped that she literally retreats into a mute, almost wordless world.

Taking on a role so reactive and lacking in dialogue  was, in a way, familiar ground for Stewart, who was holed up and terrorized with on-screen mom Jodie Foster, in 2002's Panic Room. "In that sense, in that I didn't have a whole lot of dialogue, the films are very similar," she tells TVGuide.com. "But really and truly, I could not have been in two more different movies. From the people I was working with to the location to the story and character, you're talking about two opposite ends of the spectrum."

So what does a script look like in which your character says next to nothing for the better part of 92 minutes? "It wasn't a very exciting read," Stewart admits with a laugh, "but that actually made it more exciting, in a way, because it makes you say, 'OK, what can I bring to this? What can I do to really draw people in and hold their attention?'

"When I first saw the movie, I was kind of scared that it was going to be really boring, everyone just sitting there watching me sitting there!" she adds.

On the contrary. Speak debuted to raves at Sundance and won the prestigious Audience Award at the Woodstock Film Festival. Observing the reactions at that first Sundance screening was "awesome," Stewart beams. "When they would have the little Q&As with the audience afterward, you could see that the film really moved people. They were literally thanking us for making it." Speak producer Fred Berner (Law & Order: Criminal Intent) illustrates that point colorfully: "The most gratifying thing about the festivals was seeing people who had been profoundly impacted by the book stand up and say, 'I was afraid to see this movie because they always screw up the book, but you nailed it. Thank you for not f---ing it up.'"

Speak represents just the latest, distinctly different project for Stewart, who has a comedy (Zathura) due out in November, is currently lensing a fright flick (The Untitled Pang Brothers Horror Project) and awaits the theatrical release of another, long-in-the-can drama (Fierce People). Even so, she has yet to make up her mind which genre appeals to her most.

"There are not only a few things that I want to do," declares the young actress. "I'm more in this for the storytelling and what the script is saying. I do different projects for different reasons, I don't like to generalize about my career."