‘Seeker’ star found spotlight

By Karla Peterson
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How does a thoroughly modern girl from sunny San Diego prepare to play a dagger-wielding, mind-controlling heroine from another TV dimension?

If you are “Legend of the Seeker” star Bridget Regan, it helps to start early.

“I was always quite determined,” the 27-year-old actress said. “Apparently, I wore white cowboy boots for a year straight when I was 5. My mom always said there was no arguing with me.”

She was born and raised in Carlsbad, and her parents still live there. But Regan spends nine months of the year in New Zealand shooting “Legend of the Seeker,” a fantasy drama now in its second season. The show airs locally on KSWB/Channel 69 (Cable 5).

Inspired by the “Sword of Truth” novels by Terry Goodkind, “Legend of the Seeker” follows the adventures of the brave and noble Richard Cypher (Craig Horner) as he battles the loathsome tyrant, Darken Rahl. Regan plays his comrade and love interest Kahlan Amnell, a brave and strong-willed sorceress (also known as a Confessor) who can control the minds of anyone who loves her. Kahlan is also quick with a dagger. Regan? Not so much.

“When you’re fighting with daggers, you have to get quite close, which means my hands are always getting smashed,” Regan said by phone from New York, where she was doing a slew of publicity events before flying back to New Zealand. “I did get rushed to the hospital one night when I accidentally punched a shield. I thought my finger was broken, but I was fine.

“You do get tousled around a bit on this show, but it’s so worth it.”

The youngest of two girls (older sister Erin lives in San Elijo Hills), Regan discovered acting at about the same time she discovered white cowboy boots. With the non-pushy support of her schoolteacher mother, Cathy, and insurance-salesman father, Jim, Regan began acting in local theater productions when she was 6, and she never stopped. She made her debut playing a Munchkin in a production of “The Wizard of Oz” at the La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas. She performed in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” five times before turning 10. And as a student at the San Dieguito High School Academy, she did three stints with the La Jolla Playhouse’s Summer Conservatory program.

It was the latter experience that helped turn the musical-theater-loving teen into a serious performer.

“That’s a terrific program,” Regan said of the conservatory’s focus on the art of dramatic acting. “That’s when things changed for me. That’s when I knew I wanted to be an actor.”

After graduating from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Regan went directly to New York, where she juggled multiple day jobs (nanny, waitress, gym employee) and many auditions. She played small parts in “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “Six Degrees” and a larger part in “The Black Donnellys.” And she spent six months on Broadway playing multiple roles in “Is He Dead?,” a Mark Twain farce that also starred Norbert Leo Butz of “Wicked” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” fame.

Last year, Regan found herself in Los Angeles doing a second audition for “Legend of the Seeker.” The producers gave her the part, along with a week to pack herself and her shoe collection off to New Zealand, where the country’s superior dairy products make up for its total lack of good Mexican food. Almost.

Then, there is the matter of playing Kahlan Amnell, a role that requires horseback riding, dagger fighting and a heavy white-velvet dress that takes 20 minutes just to lace up. Fortunately, Regan quickly discovered that a leap of faith wasn’t necessary.

“I sort of fell in love with her,” the ebullient actress said with a surprised laugh. “I like that she was really strong on the outside but had this really soft center. She was really masculine and noble, but she was very feminine as well. There was a great dichotomy in the character that is not really common in young female roles.

“I am 5’9,’’ and I had trouble getting cast in typical roles because I was so tall. The roles for young, twentysomething women can be such fragile characters, and I’m not one you can knock over. I needed a part like this.”

And the part needed an actress like Regan. Unlike such TV epics as “Xena: Warrior Princess” and “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys,” “Legend of the Seeker” doesn’t serve its heroic tales with a side of campy humor. So when Kahlan says something like, “As long as you’re still the Seeker, you need your Confessor by your side,” Regan has to mean it. And she does.

“If you don’t believe these characters, the audience is not going to buy the magic. We work hard to make the relationships really real. At the heart of the show, it’s a romance. It’s an action adventure, but at heart it’s about two people who love each other.”