NEW YORK — All teenagers suffer from mood swings, but 19-year-old Amanda Seyfried takes it to extremes: She’s an emotional chameleon professionally. The young actress vacillates easily between bouncy silliness and an eerily serious demeanor even in real life. So it’s not surprising that she’s already been cast in wide-ranging roles, from her break-out turn as the ditzy sidekick of the icy teen queen in “Mean Girls” to her current work in experimental director Rodrigo Garcia’s “Nine Lives,” opening today, in which she portrays an introverted girl who’s trapped between two uncommunicative parents.

Today, however, Seyfried is none of those girls. She’s sitting in the Empire Diner, munching on sweet potato fries and talking about her career, which began with child modeling at 11, and included spots on “As the World Turns” and “All My Children.” Most famously, she was in “Mean Girls,” a film for which she auditioned for the popular girl’s role but was passed over because “I didn’t look mean enough…Then they said, ‘What about Karen?’ And I was like, ‘OK!’ I just wanted to be in a movie.”

As for “Nine Lives,” she says, “I didn’t get the character at all at first. I had to meet with Rodrigo and I was like, ‘What the hell does this mean?’ And then he explained it, and I was, like, ‘Oh!'”

“The piece is about nobody saying what they really mean and nobody saying what they really want,” explains Garcia. “Amanda understood who that girl was. She looks like a regular good girl, but she has a very deep well.”

In fact, Garcia, who directed Seyfried on the pilot of her upcoming HBO show, “Big Love,” wrote the part in “Nine Lives” specifically for her. “She brings a lot of intelligence and simplicity [to a role]. She works like actresses who are 40. You cannot recognize the girl from ‘Mean Girls’ in the girl from ‘Big Love’ and the girl from ‘Nine Lives’. It’s like three different girls.”

Her own life is also slightly schizophrenic — not only is the Allentown, Pa., native caught between coasts, she’s also caught between her old life and her new one. “It’s weird,” she admits. “My high school friends come out to L.A. and visit me, and they’re like ‘Wow! This is crazy!'” she explains.

This story first appeared in the October 14, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

They’re probably just excited about meeting Seyfried’s new crowd. “I only hang out with actors and it sucks!” she says facetiously, though it’s certainly the truth. Her apartment is rented from “7th Heaven” alum Andrew Keegan and her inner circle includes fellow “Mean Girl” Lacey Chabert, Emile Hirsch, a co-star in the long-awaited Nick Cassavetes/Justin Timberlake vehicle “Alpha Dog,” and “Big Love” co-stars Ginnifer Goodwin and Tina Marjorino. She even carries around fellow actress Dominique Swain’s old fake ID, though she doesn’t get much use out of it. “We don’t look anything alike,” she says with a giggle. “And obviously I can’t use it in L.A. ’cause everyone knows her.” Not that she’s part of the Young Hollywood party circuit, like her “Mean Girls” co-star Lindsay Lohan. “I can count on one hand how many times I’ve gone out to a club and enjoyed myself. I think Lindsay was just having fun for a while, which is cool,” she says. “But I’m not into that. I mean, there’s something that makes me feel dirty about staying out until 5 o’clock in the morning. There’s something really creepy and depressing about it.”

She is, however, enjoying her own burgeoning celebrity, albeit among the younger set. “The other day on Park Avenue these 10-year-old girls came running up to me screaming,” she says giddily. “They all took out their notebooks from school and I autographed them. And then as soon as I turned around, they screamed like maniacs, like I was Justin Timberlake. It was so fun!”

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