Seth Green

09/12/2003 AT 11:00 AM EDT

Playing a drag queen is certainly a departure for Seth Green, who is currently costarring with Macaulay Culkin in the true-life crime flick Party Monster. "It's a really horrific and tragic story, and I think the message in the story is really worth telling," says the actor, 29, who is best known for his roles on TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and as Dr. Evil's son, Scott Evil, in the Austin Powers movies. Green is scoring critical acclaim for his scene-stealing role in Monster as club kid James St. James.

Next up for Green: Without a Paddle, costarring Matthew Lillard and shooting in New Zealand. He recently talked to PEOPLE about his career, Austin Powers and the virtues of older women.

Tell us about your role in Party Monster.
From an actor's standpoint, this part was so challenging and unlike anything I'd ever been considered for. And these guys offered me this role without auditioning. I said to myself, "I don't know what I've ever done in my career that made them think I could play this part, but I'm certainly not going to let them down." Macaulay and I had two years to prep for these roles before we actually started filming.

How did you prep for your part?
The film was being made by the guys who directed the (eponymous 1998) documentary (Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato), so they had hundreds of hours of video at our disposal. We just watched it all and tried to get a sense of who these people were and really bounce it off each other.

Off-camera, did you ever stay in character?
We weren't insisting anyone call us James (St. James) and Michael (Alig), but we would stay in it a little bit. When you get deep into it, you almost do it by habit without being aware. When Mac did a Barbara Walters interview last year, we hadn't started filming yet, but when I saw the interview I called him and I said, "You're so Michael and you don't even know it." I kept getting calls from people saying, "I just saw Macaulay Culkin on Barbara Walters ... is he gay?"

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