On Season 6 of HBO’s True Blood, the Authority is gone, TruBlood is in short supply, humans are in open conflict with vampires, in a way that’s proving to be a real threat, and Sookie (Anna Paquin) and Jason (Ryan Kwanten) are preparing to face their parents’ killer – the mysterious and ancient Warlow. And then, there’s that little issue of what Bill (Stephen Moyer) actually is, now that he’s emerged reincarnated from a pool of blood.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Kristin Bauer van Straten – who plays Pam, Eric Northman’s (Alexander Skarsgard) vampire progeny and business partner, and now vampire maker of Tara (Rutina Wesley) – talked about where Pam is at in Season 6, how much she loved exploring Pam’s backstory in Season 5, how fun it’s been to keep learning new things about her character after six seasons, what it’s been like to go from progeny to maker, getting to work with Rutina Wesley in a very different manner, what it’s been like to have Rutger Hauer around the set, and changing their showrunner this season. She also talked about the experience of playing Maleficent on the ABC fantasy series Once Upon A Time, and how she hopes to return. Check out what she had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
KRISTIN BAUER VAN STRATEN: She’s been though a lot. She thought her maker might be dead. She ended up with a progeny that she tried to kill the year before, and now makes out with. So, she has a relationship with Tara, on many levels. And then, thank god, her maker is alive and well, but they are running for their lives because the Governor of Louisiana has declared war on vampires. It’s interesting because, as an actor, you can’t play those big, huge things. But, what you can play is love for your father and caring for your daughter and being afraid, and having to dig deep and find out what you’re made of. All of those things have been incredibly fun to play.
When you look back at Season 5, how do you feel about what Pam went through and the glimpses we saw into her backstory?
BAUER VAN STRATEN: The backstory in Season 5 was amazing. That, for me, was a real highlight. We finally got to show people who she was and where she came from, and that was a real joy. I felt that the writing was so good that it just supported what we know of Pam. And to have that information and continue to use it in Season 6 just felt like a gift. It helps the actor. It helps you figure out how you deal with the loss that I’m going to incur in Season 6. There’s a lot of loss for vampires in Season 6.
How fun is it to still be learning new things about your character, six seasons in?
BAUER VAN STRATEN: I have to remember to not criticize other networks for other shows when I’m doing interviews because some day I’m going to be going to them, looking for a job, I’m assuming. But, it is very different when each episode doesn’t have to stand on its own, so the characters don’t have to remain static. Character arcs and discoveries happen over entire seasons on True Blood. That, for an actor, is amazing. In Season 6, I’m still trying to figure out, in certain scenes, how Pam would react to something that I haven’t actually had to deal with before. You get to peel the onion very slowly, and that feels more like how things happen in real life, when you get to know people. I’ve been married for four years, and I’m still finding out things about my husband. In the last five years, my life has changed a lot. And that’s what I feel we get to do, on this show.
BAUER VAN STRATEN: Things are definitely more challenging. Ultimately, the possible loss of Eric, for her, is the worst. That’s a very deep, very long relationship that humans do have, especially with our parents, but imagine that relationship spanning over centuries. For me, it was very hard when I lost my father, in life, and I only knew him for 30 years. That relationship is so complex, in my mind. And then, as things get more dire, more areas of Pam’s life get sucked into it. Fangtasia is now sucked into the drama, Eric has been sucked into it, and her progeny is sucked into it. That’s really hard for her. Every area in her life is unstable. It’s a huge nuisance. She chose to be a vampire, so she wouldn’t have to worry about all this stuff, at the top of the food chain. All she had to worry about was her hair and clothing, every day, and that is now not the case.
What has it been like Pam to go from being progeny to being maker?
BAUER VAN STRATEN: At the beginning, she really didn’t want anything to do with it. She just did it to repair fences with Eric. And then, she did start to feel empathy for Tara. Rutina [Wesley] and I had a fun time realizing that Pam and Tara are actually very similar characters. They’re very strong women who have been through a lot, especially at the hands of men. Finding those little moments where Pam decides to care were pretty juicy. The tiniest little show off emotion from Pam is pretty juicy. Even a tiny little smile is the equivalent of you or I running up to someone and hugging them. Over the season, I learned that she really respects and cares for this girl, and this girl really cares for her. I think Pam values loyalty, above most other things. Loyalty and integrity is the core of who Pam is. I don’t even see her as bitchy anymore. I just see her as accurate. When she says something bitchy, I feel like it’s what we’re all thinking.
BAUER VAN STRATEN: Yeah. It’s kind of amazing how many of the actors I’ve never been in scenes with. That’s how separated the worlds are. It was lovely to get to know Rutina and get to work with her. I’ve been very spoiled. My world of Alex [Skarsgard], Stephen [Moyer] and Anna [Paquin] has been so much fun. I had no idea if the werewolf world or the shape-shifter world were as lovely, or if the people were as accommodating. I will always believe, with no proof, that the vampire world is the most fun, on our show. I didn’t know if Rutina and I would have fun, or if we’d have trust, and neither did Rutina. We were very happy to find out that we did, especially before we had to make out. It’s funny, the situations you get put in, but we had complete faith in each other. I’ve never been in a room with Carrie Preston, Chris Bauer or Chad Lowe. They may have been in Merlotte’s, when I walked through in Season 1. I walked by Joe Manganiello in Fangtasia once. They’re only my friends because I’ve pursued them in the parking lot. I’ve seen Sam Trammell twice on camera.
What’s it been like to have Rutger Hauer around the set, this season? Have you gotten to have any scenes with him, at all?
BAUER VAN STRATEN: I’ve had a few interactions with him, but I can’t say if they’re on camera or off camera. He is such a legend to me. Blade Runner is one of my most beloved movies, artistically. So, when I heard that he was going to be on the show, through the fans – because I find out everything through the fans – I was really excited. It was incredible to see him on the set. He’s an amazing actor. Every year, we get a guest cast that raises the game for the series regulars. We get these people, like Denis O’Hare, who are the real deal. Not that we would be become complacent, but when you have a Roger Federer show up, every once in awhile, it keeps you on your toes.
BAUER VAN STRATEN: We have a pretty good feel for our characters. I have a pretty good barometer for Pam. We have a different director for every episode, like all one-hour and half-hour television shows, so the characters are left in our hands, and the hands of the producers and writers, and we have the same producers and writers that we’ve had, since Season 1. I kept worrying about Alan [Ball] leaving. I didn’t have a casual friendship with Alan. I had too much reverence with him. I just had such respect. He was always open to any discussion, but he seemed to be a quieter person. He had the writers on the set, for every episode, making sure we didn’t break the rules within our show, and we have those same people on the set now. I didn’t actually see Alan that much. He was behind the scenes. When he was leaving, he said, “You have no idea how much I rely on the writers under me to write this show. I wouldn’t leave, if I didn’t think you were in good hands.” And that came true.
When you think back to when you started out on the show, how different do things feel now, with the journey that Pam has gone through? Does it feel anything like what you thought it would turn out to be, or does it feel like something completely different from what you expected?
BAUER VAN STRATEN: Because I started as a guest star that was a possible recurring, one always hopes – especially when I did quite a few episodes in Season 1 – that I’d get to come back and do more of them. I was having fun, and I liked the people. So, the fact that they did continue to bring me back was a joy. I would have been happy putting on those corsets and coming in to say those lines for 19 years. The fact that so many millions of people were also enjoying it meant that we were doing something right and we were going to get to continue to hang out with our friends. For an actor, that is a huge gift. It feels like a gift because the actors are actually a smaller part of it than it looks like. So much work is done before we get there – the writing, the sets, our story arc – and we don’t have anything to do with that, and then, there was the promotion and the support from HBO. This is an enormous effort, and we know how lucky we are.
How was the experience, taking on Maleficent for Once Upon A Time?
BAUER VAN STRATEN: It’s such an iconic character. I got the call that they wanted me to fly to Vancouver and be Maleficent, and I thought, “That’s from my childhood. That’s a dream. That’s amazing!” And I wanted her to be different from Pam. I had a great time getting into that costume and working with the Evil Queen and Prince Charming. Lana Parrilla was the first actor I got to work with, and she was absolutely amazing. It’s completely different than True Blood because it’s literally a green stage with a chair. But, it was so much fun. The creators (Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis) say that Maleficent isn’t dead, so I’m hopeful. I love acting, and I love so many parts of it. You do some jobs because you have a mortgage. You do other jobs because you have a mortgage and you’re the luckiest person on earth. And then, you do some other jobs that aren’t going to pay you anything, but they’re passion projects. I’m getting the jobs that are a gift, and also the jobs that I do because I just love them. That’s ideal, for anybody. I get to enjoy the day that I go to work. I actually enjoy every minute of the day. I feel very lucky.
True Blood airs on Sunday nights on HBO.