Actress gears up for action movie

The former baton-twirler stars in 'XXX: State of the Union.'
The macho atmosphere of the explosive thriller "XXX: State of the Union," which opens Friday, is tempered by the presence of Sunny Mabrey. The 29-year-old actress plays a perfectly proper Washington socialite who goes from wearing classy business apparel to tough and tarty combat togs. It's a breakthrough part for the former high-school majorette, who grew up "in the middle of the woods" in Gadsden, Ala., and has appeared in "CSI: Miami" and "House."
"To be a good majorette," Mabrey says, "you have to bring the foot all the way up to the knee, which is torturous. You have to be a good baton-twirler, and if you don't smile all the time they make you run laps. Unfortunately, I can be something of a klutz."
Mabrey modeled in Paris and Miami, returned home to study at the University of Alabama in Mobile, got the acting bug and relocated to Manhattan, living first in the East Village and then in midtown.
"It was a great place on 36th and Sixth with a balcony," she said. "But I learned pretty quickly I couldn't save any money living in New York."
When Mabrey landed a small part that took her to L.A. in 2000, she followed her friends' advice and moved there permanently.
Mabrey acted in "The New Guy" (2002), "A Midsummer Night's Rave" (2002) and as the deadly daughter of alien Natasha Henstridge in the straight-to-video "Species III."
"Just leave that one out, if you don't mind," Mabrey said.
"XXX: State of the Union," which stars Ice Cube, Samuel L. Jackson and Willem Dafoe, is Mabrey's first venture into action pictures.
"It's really the guys' movie, but I got to drive a Jaguar, do some stunts, and help Ice Cube make his getaway. I also had to learn to fall, and got hit in the face a few times."
Mabrey is in New York shooting "One Last Thing," a dark comedy about a terminally ill teenager whose final wish is to spend a weekend with a supermodel named Nikki.
"I play the supermodel, who has her own issues and demons, which makes her character much more interesting," said Mabrey, speaking on the set.
"I feel like I'm new to a lot of things, but I also think I've earned the place that I've gotten to," Mabrey said. "Still, I carry my batons around in the trunk of my car, so if in the heat of the moment somebody wants me to do a little baton show, I can do that for them."

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