May 28, 2004 04:00 PM

She’s a single girl in the city, and Mandy Moore’s loving it. Coming off a recent breakup with tennis star Andy Roddick, the singer-actress is relishing her time alone in New York City since the year-and-a-half relationship ended in March and reveling in her latest role – that of an absurdly fundamentalist high schooler in Saved! Playing Hilary Faye in the religious-themed satire is a new twist for the 20-year-old, who’s known for her nice-teen-in-love fare (A Walk to Remember, Chasing Liberty). Moore recently chatted about taking on the challenge, living in the big city and declaring her independence.

What do you prefer: playing the bad girl or the good girl?
I have the best of both worlds with Hilary Faye. … I loved being a part of something that was so off-the-wall and irreverent and crazy and unexpected from me.

You went to Catholic school for awhile. Could you relate to your character at all in terms of your faith?
I don’t believe in everything it has to offer, but I have faith in bits and pieces from all over and it’s sort of this smorgasbord, but it satisfied me and it fulfilled me. And I kind of like that message from Saved! You have to find what you believe in because you’ve tested it and it’s come back to be true for you.

How do you manage to keep your head on straight, being such a young star?
My family. I know that sounds cheesy and stupid, but I wish that I’d had tons more rebellion in me. I just can’t do it. I can’t stay up late. Honestly, I go to bed at like 10:30. I almost wish that I had that little phase in my life of being the regular 20-year-old who wants to go out and party.

And get married in Vegas?
Not that crazy. I’d like a little more excitement in my life sometimes. I’m such a homebody. I’m fine with that too. I just sort of have my life and I’m happy with it.

How’ve you been since your breakup with Andy Roddick?
I’m good, yeah. Life is good.

So, you’re single now?
Yes. I’ve always been independent. I’ve learned that I am just not going to talk about my personal life anymore. You have to learn that lesson sometime.

Seeing your private life become so public must be hard.
When somebody else goes through a breakup, they don’t have to deal with the whole world sort of questioning what is going on. And they don’t have to see that person ever again. It is not true when you are in this business.

"I'm definitely a bit of a geek and I'm not a big party animal like the rest of young Hollywood," Moore says. "I live with my family and a big night out, honestly, is just going out to dinner and a movie."

You turned 20 just last month. How do you like your new decade?
I feel like I’ve been (in adulthood) for so long. I don’t feel 20. I think maybe the lifestyle that I’ve led may be a little abnormal for someone my age. I’ve been surrounded by adults for so long.

You’re even a homeowner.
The whole house (in L.A.) is decorated pretty girly. I kind of give my brothers crap and my dad crap that they live in such a feminine house (with me). It’s not really that bad, but my parents were always like, “Well, it’s your house, you can do whatever you want with it.”

But I kind of feel like I’m going to need to be by myself. I’d still have my parents in the same city, but I’m starting to feel like I need a little more elbow room.

But you’ve been on your own in New York lately to film Romance & Cigarettes. How’s that been?
It’s kind of been interesting because I’ve been here by myself for over two months now. I’ve had people come and visit, but I’m Independent Mandy in the most exciting city in the world, so that’s kind of been fun on top of everything.

Do you sing in the movie?
Yeah. It’s a musical. Most of it is us lip-syncing to Bruce Springsteen and James Brown and stuff, but I do sing one song in it. I sing Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy.” (Laughs.) It was so much fun.

It’s been reported that Monica Lewinsky wants to make her story into a movie with you in the lead. What do you think?
I heard that somewhere. I’m definitely very flattered. (Laughs.) I don’t know if I can see it. I’m a pretty modest girl. I don’t think that I’d be going down that road any time soon.

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