Creek Goddess
B Y    J E N N I F E R   G R A H A M
    As Dawson's randy Andie,Meredith Monroe has cast aspell that has Pacey's heart racingWilmington, NorthCarolina, is the type of southern town novelists like to describe as sleepy. But when your tour guide is Meredith Monroe, a study in perpetual motion, that word just doesn't seem fitting. For three quarters of the year, Wilmington doubles as the quaint, sun-spackled Capeside, Massachusetts, Dawson's Creek's  fictional setting.Fresh arrival Monroe, 22, plays the WB series' kicky new kid, Andie McPhee, a pep-squad-vibrant16-year-old. Although the actress has time off today from inhabiting her spirited high school counterpart,Monroe just can't seem to, well, turn it down a notch. "I'm a lot like Andie I'm not going to deny it!" says Monroe, whose words fly from her mouth in rapid-fire succession (thankfully, her need for speed doesn't spillover to the way she handles her Ford Explorer, in which this interview is taking place). "When I first started getting the scripts, I thought, 'Oh, my God, is this like "The Truman Show," where they have a little camera in my home? I would do this, I would say this, I would act like this!'"No hidden camera, just some canny casting directors."We had the hardest time casting the role of Andie," says Dawson's Creek creator, Kevin Williamson. "Whowould you put up against Pacey, the guy that every girl who watches the show wants? But we found an amazing girl." And so Monroe landed in Wilmington, where she now lives, in a walk-up apartment along the Cape Fear River(Dawson'sstar James Van Der Beek, who plays Dawson Leery, lives across the hall). The neighborhood is a cobblestoned historic district dotted with restaurants and boutiques. Monroe, dressed in jeans and a black sweater, grabs a vintage suede jacket from the car before heading into the December cold. "This is where Pacey [Joshua Jackson] and Andie had their first kiss," she says, motioning toward a peaceful stretch of boardwalk. The smooch had been a long time coming. For weeks, the two high school sophomores had been exchanging the kind of Moonlighting-esque barbs that scantly conceal attraction. Monroe giggles at
the memory of shooting the scene. "Any first kiss is weird, whether it's with an actor or in real life," she says. "So I was really nervous. Then, after the first take, I thought, 'OK, it's fine.' And then we did it again, and I said, 'Now it's like nothing.' And Josh answered, 'Oh,  great. Thanks, Meredith, it's like nothing?!' And I said,'Wait, could I just rewind that and bow out gracefully?'"The next stop on today's tour is an upscale accessories shop, where Monroe is greeted like a regular (on aWilmington-as-Capeside day,Andie's classmates Jen Lindley, played by Michelle Williams, and Abby Morgan,played by Monica Keena,shoplifted here). "I have so much fun getting gifts for people, and if I see something in June, I buy it and put it in my closet for Christmas," Monroe says, sniffing the scented soaps. Mmm, how very Andie. Time, perhaps,to distinguish the actress from the character? In a high school game of Truth or Dare, for instance, which option would Monroe choose and which would her character pick?  "I always kept switching," says Monroe, who grew up  in Hinsdale, Illinois, with her divorced mom, Judith, a client liaison for Lucent Technologies. (She spent summers in Florida and Texas with her dad, Jerol, who moved often for his job as a computer-company manager.) "I'd always say, 'Truth. No, Dare! No, Truth! No, Dare!' And myfriends would say, 'Meredith, you said Truth.'" She laughs loudly. And Andie? "She'd probably pick Dare, because she wouldn't want to deal with exposing more of her history."And herein lies the major point of diversion. WhileMonroe's background appears to be skeleton-free, Andie has a closet full of bones (dead brother, absentee dad,unstable mom). "We have a really powerful episodewhere I have a major breakdown," she says. "It was so exciting, because I thought, 'Yay! I have so much fun with the lighthearted side of Andie, but now I get to dig deep and get my hands in it, like when you're making meat loaf.'" She aggressively kneads an imaginary lump of ground beef.Continuing along the circuit of Wilmington sights, Monroe heads inside a dress shop, where she holds up the same outfit she wore to last night's Christmas party thrown by Katie Holmes (who plays Joey Potter). It's short and fire-engine red, with spaghetti straps and black trim. "I went with this little hotsy-totsy one," Monroe says, "'cause I never go hotsy-totsy." Apparently this is the only dress shop in town, as she's able to find both Michelle Williams's outfit (a slim-fitting gray number with black velvet trim) and Holmes's as well (a black, long-sleeved cocktail dress). "It was fun," says Monroe. "Katie made sugar cookies and frosted them, and we had lasagna and salad. We put on carols, and [the cast and crew] all acted like hams and sang 'White Christmas,' 'Sleigh Ride' and 'Jingle Bells.'"The final destination is casa Monroe, where she buzzes up to her visiting boyfriend, Steve, 28, a New York City massage therapist and EMS student. Asked if wedding plans are in the works, Monroe crinkles her nose and coos, "We're talking about it." When his boyishlyhandsome, broad-shouldered self appears in the doorway, he spots the tape recorder and, proving that he knows his girlfriend all too well, jokes, "You sure you  have any tape left?"