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Peri Gilpin Longs for Laughs as a Change-Up After Tough 'The Choking Game' Movie

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Peri Gilpin would like to get back to the funny. The actress who rose to fame as lusty radio producer Roz Doyle on "Frasier" — and more recently appeared as the compassionate mother of an Olympics-bound gymnast with medical trouble on ABC Family's "Make It Or Break It" — says she had a blast playing a hooker on "Modern Family" last season. That's even though the job necessitated explaining to her 10-year-old twin daughters what a hooker was.

"I'd love to do more comedy again," declares Gilpin, who does, of course, have a major humorous bent. She admits her former "Make It Or Break It" daughter Ayla Kell would jokingly insist she act more serious on the set. Gilpin is also occasionally seen as the wife of Ted Danson's "CSI" character, and they joke about being a couple of old sitcom actors.

Her latest made-for-television film definitely takes her into the serious dramatic realm.

Lifetime's "The Choking Game" has Gilpin as the mother of a bright high schooler (Freya Tingley) who begins to slip in her studies and show other alarming signs of being involved in something sinister. That something turns out to be a "game" of deliberately choking — sometimes self-strangulation, sometimes at the hands of another — in order to get high. These "flights" are stunningly common. Gilpin says she was surprised to learn "teenagers doing this are organized online," something the movie reveals in detail.

Notes Gilpin, "I loved the script, and the fact that my character was not 'just the mom.' This was a mom who really cared about her child, who was racking her brain trying to figure out why all of a sudden she was appearing with red eyes and bruises on her neck."

She gives kudos to her young costar.

"Freya — oh, my God she is just so good technically. She's Australian, and I never heard her Australian accent until we finished shooting. She's wonderful. She and Alex (Steele) made it so believable that they passed out. They made it real in a scary way."

"I'm glad this mother was written in a sympathetic way," notes Gilpin of the script drawn from the book "Choke" by Diana Lopez, "even with though she couldn't see the pressures on her daughter. Having two 10-year-old daughters myself — having kids — reminds us what it's like facing these pressures of trying to get along with their peers and gain independence from us."

Gilpin also sees "The Choking Game" as "a metaphor for so many things kids can get involved with that aren't good for them. And with all the interaction and information available on the internet, the dangers increase exponentially."

The other day, in fact, she says she had her girls at her mother-in-law's house and, looking something up on a laptop, they all "saw something on the laptop we shouldn't have seen. I was so embarrassed. It's a whole other realm, and it's only going to get more complicated."

She stresses that "there's no bad guy" in "The Choking Game."

And, "Like 'Make It Or Break It,' this brings up stuff to talk about for families, which is great. I think the more specific you can get, the more universal something is."

Still, after all that, it's easy to see why a good laugh looks very inviting.

COPYRIGHT 2014 STACY JENEL SMITH

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