<EM>The Dive from Clausen's Pier</EM> The Dive from Clausen's Pier

Consider it a new dawn for the career of Michelle Trachtenberg — who played Buffy's kid sister, Dawn, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer — for the goth drama's final three seasons. Since bidding Sunnydale adieu, Trachtenberg has sought out a wide variety of new roles to play: a devil-may-care, accidentally incestuous teen in the raucous EuroTrip, a math-turned-skating prodigy in Disney's Ice Princess, the best friend of a rent boy in the dark indie Mysterious Skin. Now, she's back on television in The Dive from Clausen's Pier (premiering Monday at 9pm/ET), Lifetime's take on the novel about the impossible decisions a young woman named Carrie must make when her fiancé is paralyzed in a swimming accident.

Assessing Carrie's predicament, Trachtenberg tells TVGuide.com, "It's a difficult situation for her because she had decided to break off their engagement just as this tragedy happens. So she is caught between what she was going to do and what she should do now."

Carrie's choice won't please Tammy Wynette. Rather than stand by her man, she makes her own needs her top priority and runs off to New York, where she has an affair with an older man (Firefly's Sean Maher). "That's why I find her so inspiring," Trachtenberg explains. "She actually listens to herself as opposed to everyone around her. She stops to say, 'What will benefit me? What will make my life better?'

"Sometimes it's necessary to be selfish," the actress adds, acknowledging Carrie's possibly unpopular decision. "You can't always be responsible. You sometimes have to think about what's better for you."

Playing Carrie's fiancé is Will Estes (American Dreams), whom Trachtenberg actually has known for years, albeit in a very different context. "We did a failed sitcom together, where he played my brother — so that made the [Clausen's Pier] sex scenes nice and awkward," she says with a laugh. "As if they aren't awkward enough to begin with!"

Trachtenberg won't back down from a challenge, hence the sometimes daring acting choices she has been making. "Obviously when you're younger you do roles that are exciting and fun, but now that I'm getting older I want things that are more realistic and that I find value in. Dive and Mysterious Skin were my first steps in that direction. I start my next independent movie, Four Corners, at the end of the month, and that's also in the vein of Mysterious Skin."

So, for the time being at least, no EuroTrip 2 ("Although I know it would be a stoner's dream!" Trachtenberg chuckles) and no Buffy reunion movie.

"I have friends who are writers and directors who went to Comic-Con last weekend, and when they came back they said, 'Oh, my god, everyone was still talking about Buffy!'" she relates. "That's all very nice and flattering, but once I do a character and it's a success, I'm like, 'That's awesome, thank you. Watch my next one.' I get bored way too easily. I don't have time to stop and remember what I did before just to do it again."