Like her character Abby Sciuto on NCIS (Tuesdays at 8 pm/ET on CBS), Pauley Perrette is much more than her many tattoos and dyed-black hair. Perrette revealed to TV Guide her less-than-stereotypical sensibilities, including a Southern background and an education very handy for portraying a forensic scientist.
TV Guide: Would you agree that your character, Abby, has the exuberance of a cheerleader but looks like the opposite of one?
Pauley Perrette: Totally. [NCIS creator] Don Bellisario told me that when he created Magnum, P.I. he wanted to introduce a Vietnam vet who defied the negative stereotype. So with Abby, he wanted to take an alternative-style person with tattoos and make her someone who is happy, totally put together and successful. All the script said about her was: black hair, caffeinated and smart.
TV Guide: And how many tattoos do you really have?
Perrette: [Counts silently for many seconds] I think I’m on 13 or 14. On NCIS, not only do they love my tattoos but they give me more. The neck one is a vinyl transfer. It only takes a few minutes to do, but it feels like old chewing gum — I hate it.
TV Guide: You were born in New Orleans. In what ways are you Southern?
Perrette: I love grits. I hug everybody. I’m very obedient. I have good manners. I was this naive country chick who moved to Manhattan. When I was first walking down the street and they’d hand out flyers, I’d say thank you.
TV Guide: You’re a natural blonde but you’ve dyed your hair for years. Why?
Perrette: I like having black hair. When I was really young I wanted to be Asian — Asian hair is beautiful. I also wanted to look like the girl in George Michael’s "Father Figure" video.
TV Guide: Would you call Abby’s look Goth?
Perrette: Never, nor would Abby. She’s completely unaware that anybody thinks she looks weird. She thinks she looks pretty and never calls herself anything other than happy. And I fight for that.
TV Guide: Like Abby, you actually studied forensic science in college.
Perrette: I went to Valdosta University in Georgia and studied criminal science, sociology and psychology. I hated high school and got to college and realized they didn’t care if I showed up because I’d already paid. So I decided I’m going to turn this around. And I did: I got straight A's and was named outstanding senior.
TV Guide: You quit grad school and moved to New York City. What came next?
Perrette: I taught myself to bartend, and over the next seven years, I worked at every bar in Manhattan, including [famed rock club] the Bitter End.
TV Guide: So how did acting happen?
Perrette: This kid in coat check said, "I know this director who would really like your look — he does commercials." I went to his office with my white Mohawk, shorts and knee-high Dr. Martens. This director put me in music videos, commercials and short films. I did the "Secret" video with Madonna and "Killer" with George Michael.
TV Guide: You weathered a nasty divorce. After that, how do you learn to trust again?
Perrette: You say to yourself, "That’s it, never again, I will never speak to a member of the opposite sex unless they’re gay. I will never hold anybody’s hand, never kiss anybody, never live with anybody," and then you are completely resolved about it.
TV Guide: Yet you have a boyfriend, Michael Bosman. How did that happen?
Perrette: We met three and a half years ago. He was a camera operator on a short film I did. It’s incredible. I am astounded every single day that I ended up with the other human being on this planet who is perfect for me. I want for nothing.
TV Guide: Any plans for marriage?
Perrette: Nooo. We consider ourselves married, and so do our families.
TV Guide: You were once lead singer for an all-girl band called Lo-Ball, and now you’re cutting a CD in a band called Stop Making Friends. Where did that name come from?
Perrette: It’s an homage to Talking Heads’ "Stop Making Sense." And then, statistically, in crimes, you’re most likely to be hurt by someone you know. So knowing less people increases your longevity. It was also a complete rebellion against those ridiculous social-networking Internet sites.
TV Guide: You mean you’re not on MySpace?
Perrette: No! But at one point someone created a site pretending to be me. That’s not OK. So as everybody is competing to make more and more friends, Stop Making Friends has no friends. There was a time when I hung out with two million people. Now I like to hang out with, like, two.
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