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North Penn's Weil is Just One of the Girls, 12.09.02 ...

LIZA WEIL'S second time around in high school couldn't be more different from her first.

On the WB's "Gilmore Girls," she's brainy, driven Paris Geller, an academic rival of Rory Gilmore's (Alexis Bledel) whose motto might as well be "Harvard or bust."

At Towamencin's North Penn High, on the other hand, the twentysomething actress was less focused on academics.

The child of parents who had their own comedy troupe, Weil by 12 was commuting to New York for auditions, "so it kind of got in the way of my studies," she said. Playing Paris has "been like sweet revenge for me," she said.

"I have run into a few people who are like" Paris, she said, recalling a "silly project" in junior high school where students were asked to make a collage of their initials. "Mine, of course, was a mess," she said, while the girl next to her, "whose project was perfect... she just had this look of horror on her face" as she looked at Weil's.

Playing a private-school girl has given Weil something she never had at North Penn: a uniform. "I actually was really excited by the uniform," she said, at least at first. "I kind of always wanted to go to a private school with the uniforms... but now that we're in the third year of uniforms, it's a little tired."

Not that Paris was supposed to make it to the show's third year. Originally cast in a three-episode arc, the character, who's both intelligent and a bit needy, hit it off with audiences. By the second season, she was a regular. This season, she even got a boyfriend.

"It was a very nice surprise" to see fans embrace Paris, said Weil, whose previous credits include "Stir of Echoes" with Kevin Bacon, "Dragonfly" with Kevin Costner and a guest-starring appearance on NBC's "ER" as the wife of a murderous schizophrenic patient.

"It's really nice to be able to get in [Paris'] skin and be able to play her for so long," she said, adding that the show's writers have "been able to show where" Paris' more obnoxious behavior comes from.

"When people do approach me, I'm always surprised by how nice they are to me...They always seem to have compassion" for Paris, she said.

"I don't think her parents are too much in the picture and I don't think she was brought up in the most affectionate household," she added.

By contrast, "my parents [Marc and Lisa] were always there in one way or another," said Weil, who in late September flew for the first preview performance of a revival of "The Madhouse Company of London's Wild Stunt Show" at Society Hill Playhouse, which her father wrote and directed (and once starred in).

Told that the Wall Street Journal had recently identified "Gilmore Girls" as one of the fastest-talking shows on television, Weil wasn't surprised.

"Our scripts are unusually long for an hour show," she said. "If we talked at normal pace, it would be like a feature film."

That's one reason the show recently hired a dialogue coach to help the actors run lines. It's "really nice," she said, "because if you get your friends involved, they get bored with you."

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