Sunday night HBO’s fangtastic vampire drama True Blood returns for a second dark and steamy season. So what’s in store for our favorite Bon Temps residents? In a recent interview, the über talented Rutina Wesley (Tara Thornton) spilled the blood beans on what to expect, how it’s been working with real life couple Anna Paquin (Sookie Stackhouse) and Stephen Moyer (Bill Compton), and why she decided to take the plunge and go nude!
I saw you at the HBO Golden Globes party in January and almost said hello to you as if you were my friend, which is a testament to how familiar a character Tara is. Have other people been doing that more now that the show has become such a success? Well, it doesn’t happen that often, but I was actually in Ralphs a couple weeks ago and one of the women working there came up to me and said ‘are you an actor? Are you in True Blood?’ And I was like ‘yes, that’s me.’ She was like ‘aww, give me a hug!’ So I did, and one of the other workers was trying to ask her a question and she was like ‘shh! I’m talking to my friend Tara from True Blood!’ She was so cute. It was just amazing that someone was so into a show and a character that I helped to create. It warms my heart when I meet people like that.
Are people shocked that you don’t actually have a Southern accent? A lot of people are, yeah. But a lot of people also recognize my voice because I kind of a have a slight twang. I could be ordering ham at the deli and someone will turn around and look at me and kind of stare. They’ll just look at me like ‘I know I know your voice, and I know I know your face.’
Tara’s storyline is really branching out this season in terms of her personal growth and independence. Are you happy with the direction she’s headed in? Of course. I was like ‘really? Wow!’ That’s an actor’s dream to get something meaty and juicy and challenging to work on. Alan [Ball] and the creative team have done that for all of the characters this season. They’ve really given us something to sink our teeth into. It just allows me to use everything I’ve learned at school. It’s fun.
What are some of the biggest obstacles you see her trying to overcome this season? I think she’s learning how to not be so sensitive. She may or may not fall in love, so she might have to deal with romance. I just see her being able to relax. You can see her being taken care of for the first time in a sort of motherly way, and that’s beautiful for her. All of last season was her taking care of someone else and then totally self destructing. So now we see her sort of bloom out of that. And then of course….drama! [laughs]
You’ve got a very steamy nude scene this season. How difficult was that for you? Well…it was tough [laughs]. It’s not just the two of you. There are a bunch of people all around. It’s a very vulnerable situation. It was hard at first in terms of thinking about it and just wondering what it was going to be like. When we actually shot the scene I was very comfortable. It’s a delicate balance when you have to be that vulnerable with the camera on you, not to mention it’s being recorded for life. That is crazy, too. I’m like ‘my kids! My kids!’ But it’s art. I think Alan and the writers did it so it’s classy and tastefully done. That’s another reason why I agreed. I wouldn’t just be taking off my clothes if I didn’t think it wasn’t helping the story.
How did you prepare for it? Well, I started to work out. I was like ‘uhhh, I have to get on the elliptical [laughs] and I have to start doing some pushups!’ And I just tried to be open and trust the director, crew, and my partner. I learned sometimes you just have to go for it and jump off the cliff, and that’s what I did. I didn’t think about what people will think of it. Once I did that it was fine.
Are you concerned about your friends and family watching it? Well I just go ‘you’re not watching episode dah dah dah…’ [laughs] I definitely told them I didn’t want them to watch that certain episode. It’s like my grandmother, my mom, and my dad – I don’t want them to see it! My grandmother is like ‘you’re an artist and I know that’s your art. Sometimes you’ve got to do some stuff and that’s OK. I’m watching it.’ So I’m like ‘uhhh, OK!’ But they love what I do and they’re proud of me. I know I can’t stop them, and they know it’s a part of the work. It’s amazing to have that support.
You share a lot of screen time with the mysterious Maryann season – which no one will give up any information on what she is so I’ll just ask – what’s it been like working with Michelle Forbes, who plays Maryann? Working with her is like a dream. She’s open, she’s generous, she’s ready to go. She’s so focused and driven. You look at this woman’s eyes and she’s just got you. That’s a scene partner. That’s someone who is on her mark and ready to go. I love working with everyone, though. I really love Adina Porter. Anna as well. I’m lucky to have an ensemble that is so talented. Everyone really loves what they do.
How did you find out that Anna and Stephen were dating? I didn’t know until it was officially announced. It was sort of like ‘wow!’ But it’s great wherever you find love. They’ve been very professional about it. It’s not like they’re running around the set and doing all this stuff. When they’re at work they’re at work. I think it’s kind of amazing they met on set and fell in love, especially on a show like this, which is a perfect way to be able to work together in the capacity that they do.
Did you suspect anything was going on between them? I didn’t necessarily suspect, but anyone could sense that they were really close. Then again, everyone has very good chemistry on the show so you can’t really speculate. I try not to do that because some people are just really great actors!
You mentioned your family earlier, what do you think they’d say if you brought a vampire home? Hmmm. My grandmother would probably have a lot of questions. My mom would be fine. She was a dancer so she’s seen everything. She’d be like ‘baby, as long as you’re happy.’ My grandmother would probably be like ‘babykin, we need to talk.’ But she would be very gentle about it. My grandmother is very liberal, but…she still has her opinions. I think my dad would probably be worried the most for my life, like ‘what if he tries to kill you? You know men.’ But he’d also want me to be happy. They’ve always respected my wishes and the people I chose to date. I think I’d be OK but we’d have to answer a lot of questions, like ‘who are your parents? Where is your lair? What other vampires do you hang out with?’ That sort of thing.
Season two of True Blood premieres Sunday night at 9 PM on HBO.
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