On Season 5 of True Blood, British actress Lucy Griffiths (known for her role as Marian on the BBC series Robin Hood) will be stirring up some trouble as Nora, a Chancellor of the Vampire Authority. She’s fiery, fierce and loyal to Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard), with whom she shares a vampire maker.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, Lucy Griffiths talked about auditioning for the show, catching up on episodes once she’d been cast, how she typically doesn’t watch much television because she doesn’t have a TV, that she found talking with the fangs relatively easy, how she views her character and the relationship she has with her “brother,” having to forget your inhibitions to work on a show like this, what she’s most enjoyed about playing this character, and what she looks for in a project. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
Collider: How did you come to be a part of True Blood this season? Were you actively looking to do American television?
LUCY GRIFFITHS: Well, yes and no. I’ve had American representation for a few years now, so it’s always been a possibility. It was just that the right audition came along and I was right for it, so I got it.
When you auditioned, how secretive were they with you? Did they tell you anything about the character at all?
GRIFFITHS: The first I knew of the character was in the auditioning sides that I had. I knew that she was Eric’s sister and that she was a Chancellor in the Vampire Authority. Further than that, I didn’t know anything. She’d not been featured in previous seasons which I’d watched, so I had no idea what to expect. But really, you don’t have any idea what to expect, script to script. You don’t get told before the series starts what your character arc is going to be, so it’s always a surprise. I guess it’s good to start off not knowing anything ‘cause that’s how it continues.
Had you been a fan of the show, or did you have to catch up before filming?
GRIFFITHS: I had to catch up, but I was very glad I had to because I really love it. I really enjoyed catching up. I wasn’t a fan before my audition, no, but I am now.
Since you had already done the zombie pilot that didn’t get picked up, were you discouraged at all to try for another TV show, or does it help to know that this show has such a devoted following?
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, of course! Because True Blood has long since debuted, there’s not that same worry. I know that some people think differently about pilots, but I really enjoyed shooting Awakening. We had brilliant producers, and they were just so much fun and they made the experience so wonderful. The thought of staying in Toronto and shooting with them for, potentially, seven years was something that could have been quite fun and a big change in all of our lives. But, when that doesn’t work out, once again, you’re dealing with an unknown future and I find that quite exciting as well. That’s how I feel about it. I think it’s a win-win situation. You either end up on a good, fun show that’s successful, or you have that question mark in your future and you know that you don’t know what’s going to happen, which is exciting.
You did a zombie pilot and now you’re playing a vampire. Are you a genre fan, or is that just a coincidence?
GRIFFITHS: I don’t watch a great deal of television because I don’t have a television, and I don’t have a huge catalog of films that I’ve watched either. When I do watch things, they tend to be a lot of comedies. I actually like some of the British comedy series. But, on the whole, I’m not a huge viewer of anything.
Since you can’t be a very menacing vampire, if you have a lisp, how challenging is it to learn to talk properly with the teeth?
GRIFFITHS: I know this sounds funny, but I think it depends on how your mouth is shaped. I don’t know whether mine was built for fangs or what, but I didn’t have too much of a problem. I did get the giggles the first day I put them in, but they’re okay.
How do you see Nora, as a character? Do you think she’s loyal to Eric?
GRIFFITHS: She certainly has loyalty to Eric. I think she’s actually a very loyal character, but some of her loyalties and trusts are misplaced. She’s selfish in the way that beings are selfish, but she’s not in it for what she can get, to the detriment of people around her. There are characters like that this season, but she’s not one of them. She is excited by the prospect of the power that her faith will bring her. She’s actually not a very selfish character. She’s very loyal to her brother, and she’s loyal to her friend and colleague, Salome.
How would you describe the relationship between Nora and Eric?
GRIFFITHS: They’re very excited to see each other. He didn’t know she was coming, so he’s very surprised. They’re just overjoyed to be in each other’s company again. I think they have a sibling rivalry, certainly, but they basically love each other.
Will viewers get to learn more about the friendship between Nora and Salome (Valentina Cervi)?
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, you do learn more about that. I think there’s definitely something sisterly about it, but I think it’s slightly toxic. I don’t think it’s as a pure and genuine loyalty and connection, as the one that Nora has with Eric.
Right after you’re introduced, you have a sex scene and you get tortured, which seems like the typical initiation for the new cast members. How nerve-wracking is it to just be thrown into the fire like that?
GRIFFITHS: It’s funny, when you know that you have to do these things, you just get on with them and they can be fun. It can feel quite liberating to not be able to think twice and not be able to consider your inhibitions. You don’t have a choice. Your job, at that moment, is to have a sex scene in a container with a man that you met two days ago. You’ve made your bed and you’ve got to lie in it, so to speak.
How has it been to work with Alexander Skarsgard?
GRIFFITHS: It’s definitely been fun. All of the actors have been very warm and welcoming, from very early on. I felt very comfortable in his presence on set, which makes it easier to do scenes like that and to feel confident that that person is going to respond to you and receive you, and not think that you’re doing something strange.
What have been the biggest similarities and differences between having done Robin Hood on BBC and this show?
GRIFFITHS: I came onto Robin Hood in the first season, so being on a show while it’s being set up, and nobody knows how it’s going to be received, and people are in a foreign country without their families, and a lot of the actors were not getting their first jobs, but certainly getting their first high-profile jobs, there’s so much new stuff to take in. Whereas, if you join a show which is already massively a hit, and people have formed on screen and off screen relationships, it feels much more like a well-oiled machine that you’ve snuck into, as opposed to being part of this thing that’s starting. It’s exciting, being part of something that is new, and it’s very comforting, fitting into something which is already up and running. That’s how it’s different, I think.
Are you prepared for the die-hard fans this show has, who will know more about your character than you do?
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, I think so. I think that’s quite flattering. Obviously, the show wouldn’t be the success it is without those people. If they can tell me something I don’t know about Nora, then I’ll be quite grateful to hear it.
Is there anything you’ve enjoyed most about playing Nora?
GRIFFITHS: I’ve enjoyed the fact that I’ve been lucky enough to have been given material which is quite dramatic and not naturalistic. I lot of the work that I’ve done has been. I think I’ve played this character in a very naturalistic way. I have to be tortured and I have to cry, at one point, and it’s a real treat to get to play those extreme scenes on a television series, as opposed to in the theater, for example. Obviously, in the theater, you’ve got an hour and a half performance and you’ve got lots of drama packed in. Whereas, when I’m shooting a television series, there will be moments of drama, but on the whole, it plays for the reality, with the stuff I’ve previously done. This is much more extreme.
Are you typically the type of actor who likes to do a lot of research and backstory work, and what sort of research do you to do play an older vampire?
GRIFFITHS: Well, not hugely. I think what is so great about this show is that Alan Ball has a very original take on vampires. Of course, there’s the garlic thing and the coming out at night thing, and the things that seem to be common between vampires, across the board, but this is original. I would never try to find inspiration from other people’s vampires because I think his are the best ones. In terms of backstory, I haven’t been told exactly what my backstory is. It’s easier for me to decide on a dynamic for her and her relationship with Eric and let those things lead the way, as opposed to having a backstory.
Having caught up on the episodes before you started the show, is there a character that you would love to do a scene with?
GRIFFITHS: I like Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer). I’ve got so many favorites, which are so good, that it would be impossible to pick one, and they’re all so different as well. But, I’d love to do a scene with him. I think it would be great fun. I think I get to do a scene with Sookie at the end of the season, but I’m not entire sure.
If you survive the season, is this a character you’d love to continue to play?
GRIFFITHS: Yeah, but I just don’t know what the future holds. I’ve really enjoyed it, so we’ll see what happens.
What do you look for, in a project? Is it about the story and the character for you, or do you want to know who you’ll be working with?
GRIFFITHS: It depends a lot on the writing, first of all. If I think it’s well-written, I don’t really mind if it’s being produced by somebody who’s new. Further than that, if you get to work with actors you admire, that’s great. There are certain actors who do no wrong and give wonderful performances, no matter what role they play, but a lot of the time, you have to take it performance by performance. Even if it wasn’t an actor that I hadn’t necessarily noticed before, you could have such wonderful chemistry with that person that you find something really special. So, for me, it’s mostly about the writing.
Do you have a dream role that you’d love to do, or a genre that you really want to work in, if given the opportunity?
GRIFFITHS: Right now, I would like to do some more theater because I haven’t done it for awhile. With regards to genre, apart from the pilot for Awakening, this is my first foray into this kind of genre and it’s been really good fun. I never would have necessarily said, “I want to be in a vampire show.” To be honest, whatever comes my way, if I find it entertaining, I’d like to do it.
True Blood airs on Sunday nights on HBO.