On the HBO vampire series True Blood, actress Kristin Bauer van Straten plays fan favorite character Pam. As the offspring and primary aide of Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard), her lethal instinct and keen fashion sense have made her a force to be reckoned with, and one of the most quoted characters on the show. With her Maker currently suffering from amnesia and her face rotting with no sign of repair, thanks to some nasty spells from a witch coven, Season 4 has had some crazy twists and turns for Pam, which are sure to get even crazier, as things head toward the season finale.
During a recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, Kristin Bauer van Straten talked about following her instincts when it comes to playing Pam, what it’s like to be remembered for her great one-liners rather than the nude scenes that much of the other cast has been known to do, how she still hasn’t gotten completely used to talking with the fangs, how much fun it’s been to explore a whole new side to Pam and her relationship with Eric, and how she can’t wait to get to work on Season 5 and learn about her character’s genesis in becoming a vampire. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
KRISTIN BAUER VAN STRATEN: It was just another audition. All I knew was that it was HBO, which was enough for me to want to be part of it. Then, I knew it was Alan Ball, which was double enough. And then, I knew it was vampires. I didn’t want to know any more because that was already enough to make me nervous and want it. I didn’t know it was based on books and I didn’t know anything about Pam. I really tried to know as little as I could. You fall in love with these things, and then if you don’t get to play that role, it’s depressing. I just like to know what the lines are that I have to say. You’ve got to go in there and get the job. It doesn’t matter who’s behind it. I just remember looking at a couple pages of those great Pam one-liners and channeling my most dry, caustic self. And then, a few weeks later, I got a call that I got it.
Was there a point that you realized that fans of the show were loving the character of Pam, just as much as fans of the book were?
BAUER VAN STRATEN: I’m very leary of the internet because it can work both ways. It’s been a slow build to find out that Pam is very similar to the books. Where I really hear it is when I do appearances. The fans walk up to you and it’s a survey of how you’re doing at your job. I’ll hear certain lines like, “Blah blah vampire emergency blah.” After last season, I heard that back a lot and I thought, “Okay, I guess I did all right on that line.” People say, “I love the books. I’ve read all the books. And, you are just like I pictured.” And I think, “Oh my god, that’s lucky!” It just feels like that was lucky. And, it wasn’t just luck. It’s also really good writing by Charlaine [Harris] and Alan’s team because you get a very clear person of who the person is from the dialogue on the page.
Because Pam is quite free with her threats and use of curse words, did it take some getting used to, to deliver them the way that you need to, or did that come naturally?
BAUER VAN STRATEN: Sometimes I’ll read an audition and I’ll get a very strong first impression about who the person is, and I usually go with it. I’ve found, after year, that I don’t get better, the more I think about it, so for better or worse, I just will go with my first instinct. To me, that’s how Pam sounded. As we’ve continued – and it’s that real symbiotic relationship between the writers and me – they’re informing me on who Pam is by what they write. And then, they said to me, “Yeah, but you’re informing us because of the past delivery.” From the beginning, but especially now, I can’t imagine her any other way. But, every season, they’ll write something for Pam where I wouldn’t have thought she would react that way, and then once I do it that way, I think, “Oh my gosh, that’s brilliant.”
My acting teacher used to say that people reveal themselves in their opposites. This year, where I would have thought that Pam would crumble, she goes into fighter mode and kill mode, which I find really admirable. It makes me like her even more. It’s extremely fun to play, and hopefully it’s really entertaining. Pam is so unapologetic about all of it. She has no worry about being liked. It’s fun to play all the distinctively non-human traits. Unless you’re a serial killer, you’re worried about being liked by somebody. Her obsession with clothing, to me, is just a sign of having not a lot of other worries in life. She’s been freed from all the worries of being human – growing old, not having enough money, getting sick and dying – so why not think about your clothing. Clearly, she’s the top of the food chain, so all of that is fun to play.
Since this is such a huge cast and everyone has limited screen time, does it help that Pam gets the best and most memorable lines on the show?
BAUER VAN STRATEN: And, the clothing. I think that the writers and the wardrobe people really help Pam. Just walking in, in those outfits that they come up with, is a huge help.
BAUER VAN STRATEN: The one thing I’ve come to figure out is this equation where the more uncomfortable I am, the better I’m going to look. I’m like, “This one really hurts. I must look awesome!” The corsets are uncomfortable, but they are so flattering. No, my waist will never be that small.
Has it been especially fun that you get to be remembered for your dialogue, as opposed to everyone talking about your nudity?
BAUER VAN STRATEN: It is! I also take it as a huge compliment on the writers. I just saw something online where it said, “Pam’s Top 10 One-Liners,” and I sent it to all the writers and said, “Thanks guys, good work.” It is really fun! I’d much rather have them quoting me.
Now that you’re in Season 4, have the fangs gotten easier to wear and talk in?
BAUER VAN STRATEN: No, for me, they haven’t. I don’t know what is wrong with me. Stephen Moyer has it down, and he gave me a good tip that did help, but I don’t know. I haven’t completely gotten it down. What I need to do is borrow them. I need to take them home and just walk around with them.
Viewers have gotten to see a very different side of Pam this season. Having played the character for four seasons now, was that especially fun for you to get to explore?
BAUER VAN STRATEN: I cannot even tell you how much fun I had this year, with this direction. When Alan told me about what would happen, with the witch putting a spell on my face, I thought, “Oh, she’s really going to fall apart and cry a lot.” He said, “No, she’s angry,” and I thought, “Right!” It was endlessly fun to play.
You’ve been working with Alexander Skarsgard for awhile, and developing the relationship and bond between Eric and Pam. Was it weird to turn that on its head, this season, with him having no memory?
BAUER VAN STRATEN: It was weird. For one, I did scenes with other people. Usually, he’s standing on my left or my right, and I got very comfortable with that. When I would see him in the parking lot, and he’d been off over at Sookie’s while I was running around in my own mess, we’d go, “Hey, when are we going to get back together in Fangtasia?” So, it has been different. It’s fun to branch out and get to do scenes with other people, but I’ve missed my Maker.
BAUER VAN STRATEN: It’s great how far and wide and all-encompassing the witches aim their spells. One thing I love about True Blood is that all the relationships are multi-faceted and complicated, just like our lives. So, Pam’s relationship to Eric has obviously shifted, horribly for her. She wants him to be a rock in her life, and he can’t be that, as of yet. Her relationship to Bill – and it’s so much fun that she hates him, or doesn’t respect him – leaves her now having to work with him. And, her relationship with Sookie is very interesting because she is also attracted to her, but Eric doesn’t want to share, so Pam is also jealous. It’s a fascinating season, with the alliances that are formed and the battles that happen. Where we end up, at the end of this season, is fascinating. Right now, I just can’t wait to see Episode 1 of Season 5.
Now that you’ve had the Comic-Con experience, what’s it like to have that instant feedback from people who are so loyal to the show?
BAUER VAN STRATEN: It’s really fun! We’re basically finished shooting the show before people get to see it. So, for me, it feels like, for six or seven months, I just hang out with my buddies and goof around. That’s the part that I love about acting. I love being on the set, and I love being on the set with these people, particularly, and with these writers, costumers and set designers. Everybody is so good at what they do. HBO hires, I think, the best I’ve ever worked with. I forget that this is a TV show that people are going to watch. The network is paying us for a reason, so they actually have a product. For me, the product is the day. So, it’s very interesting to move into this totally different, unrelated phase of people seeing it, and it’s nerve-wracking.
It always feels different watching myself than doing it. It feels bigger in my head. And then, I watch it and go, “Oh, yeah, I was okay.” I really enjoy watching everybody else’s stuff. But then, hearing back from fans is so fascinating and interesting, and also nerve-wracking and totally rewarding. To hear that you’re doing something that other people are enjoying, it’s a fun game. It’s like hitting a tennis ball over the net, and somebody hits it back. That’s what it feels like with the fans. It feels like someone else is participating in my creation, and it’s quite incredible. It’s definitely a different stage to this process.
When you walk out on that Comic-Con stage and there’s 5,000 people there, and you just see flashes everywhere, you go, “My god, I’m on a big show!” It goes from just goofing around with your buddies to, “Holy shit!” I thought that I would be completely relaxed for the second year, but I realized that I was not completely relaxed. Five thousand people is a thing. We perform for each other on True Blood. All of a sudden, there’s an audience, and it’s you’re audience, and they’re watching you and you’re hearing back from them. We have really, really, really great fans, though. They’re amazing. They’re having so much fun. They’re really participating in the creation of it.
BAUER VAN STRATEN: It was one of those things where I’ve always said no. I have never once said I would bite anyone. And, there was Mario [Lopez], with his dimples, curly hair and eyelashes, and he’s so genuinely sweet, and I just, all of a sudden, had an out-of-body experience where I saw it happening. It felt completely correct, for some odd reason I can’t even explain. He’s incredibly sweet. It was probably the dimples, wasn’t it?
What are you looking forward to seeing, with Season 5?
BAUER VAN STRATEN: I am excited about the flashback, to see the genesis of my being made. That will be great. At a certain point, everybody gets their flashback of when they were made, and that will be pretty fun. There are so many unanswered questions in my mind about Eric and Pam meeting and beginning. That will be fun. All we have is, “I’m not a hooker,” which was a long, long time ago. Was that before her being a vampire? Was that after? And, she speaks with a Southern accent and also Swedish. When you move around, you pick up accents and languages. So, I’m fascinated.