Exclusive: Charisma Carpenter Opens Up About How She Survived Evil, Plan to Tell Others' Tales

PHOTO: Charisma Carpenter by Jim JordanI Survived Evil is not just the title of the new Investigation Discovery series that Charisma Carpenter will be hosting — it’s also a declaration the actress herself can make.

Back in 1991, years before she traded barbs with Buffy, Carpenter and two friends were swimming at Torrey Pines State Beach in San Diego when they were violently attacked by Henry Hubbard Jr., then a 29-year-old police officer.

During the encounter, Hubbard, brandishing a gun, ordered Carpenter to tie up her male friends. But Carpenter refused, affording her companions opportunity to jump and overpower Hubbard, ultimately leading to his capture and arrest — even as the young men suffered non-fatal bullet wounds along the way.

Carpenter meanwhile held onto the police-issue flashlight Hubbard used, to help seal his conviction for that assault which, when combined with a string of others, earned him a 56-year prison sentence.

Though Carpenter has never openly discussed the harrowing incident, “Now I’m in a place where I could. I have enough distance — and a lot of therapy — between then and what happened and now,” she tells TVLine. “It’s not as fresh. It’s not as painful.”

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Investigation Discovery’s I Survived Evil, which starts production later this summer with an eye on a 2013 bow, will chronicle similar true stories of ordinary people who successfully warded off attackers. That Carpenter, given her own such scare, was approached to host the series was pure coincidence. “I don’t think [the producers] knew,” she ventures. “And when I told them, they were like, ‘This makes perfect sense. We want you to be even more a part of the process.'”

Indeed, Carpenter — who currently stars on ABC Family’s The Lying Game — hopes her new gig will not explore just the surviving but also the evil at hand.

Reflecting on Hubbard’s string of sexual assaults and violent attacks, she cannot help but wonder, “What happens in a life that a person can get to a place where it’s a good idea to become a serial rapist? I mean, I have a child, so how does a kid go from normal to not?”

Though Hubbard revealed in testimony that he grew up with an alcoholic father, “It seemed like his life was back on track” at the time he unleashed his reign of terror, Carpenter recalls. “He was top of his class in police academy, he was married with a baby on the way…. From an anthropological point of view, I’m very curious what happened.”

Carpenter may get her answers, since I Survived Evil‘s very first episode will delve into the nightmare she lived through at the Torrey Pines beach.

While she herself will not participate in any reenactment of that assault — “It’d be a little creepy,” she admits — Carpenter does plan to have the cameras “walk along that very beach” with her and, hopefully, address Hubbard himself.

“I’m interested in a sit-down, to ask him myself questions [I have],” she says. “Whether or not Hubbard will let me [I don’t know], but my producers are interested, though they’re treating it very delicately. I think they’re worried about me, but really, I’m OK with it.”

Or at least she at this instant believes she is. “You don’t really know until you’re in a chair opposite someone like that… but I think I’m OK with it,” she clarifies. “I just want to say to him, ‘What happened to you? Tell me your cautionary tale.'”

Subsequent installments of the 10-episode series will cover two stories apiece.

“It’s about empowerment, about victims who take fate into their own hands and rescue themselves, or seek justice and find it,” Carpenter says of I Survived Evil‘s mission. “It’s about heroes, stories of survival. And happy endings.”