You were replacing Brooke Kerr, who was originally cast as Tara. What was that process like?
You know, in this business, these things happen all the time — and it’s unfortunate, because I’ve been on the other side as well. When this came my way, I just took it as sort of a blessing that it must have been meant for me at this time. You know, it cuts both ways…no one wants to lose a job, but everybody wants to work.
They must have had a very specific take on the character to recast her and make her so different from the Tara in the novels. Did they share that vision with you?
[True Blood creator] Alan Ball was on NPR’s Fresh Air and he said some things about how he saw the characters, and I think he just liked what I brought to her. When I got the sides, I related to Tara on a level that hit very close to home for me. When I went in there, I played her very vulnerable and tried to take the anger down a notch so that you could see right through it. She’s just this little flower, this wounded child that needs to be taken care of. And that’s where the mouth is coming from, and all that quickfire language.
You’ve got a pretty eclectic resume so far: True Blood, a role in the Sam Mendes production of The Vertical Hour on Broadway, the lead in the hip-hop dance movie How She Move….
If I’m going to be honest with you, when I trained at school, I feel like I was training to be a chameleon. I want to be that versatile actor who can do anything — that’s why you learn fifty different dialects, you do Shakespeare, you do commedia, you do it all so that if any job comes your way, you should be able to do it.
How does your approach to acting, where you’ve been studying it for years, contrast with Anna Paquin’s, who’s simply been in the industry since she was a child?
I learn a lot from Anna because she’s learned by doing. You can’t always come in so prepared that your choices become stale, so from her I learn how to sometimes just forget about all the tools that I have, just put ‘em in a bag and stuff it in the closet, and just go on set and play. Watching Anna and other people who haven’t gone to school, they have this sense of freedom and this knowledge of the camera that I don’t have yet. It’s actually amazing watching her work. She knows every angle, how to position herself, all these things you learn over time that you don’t necessarily find out at school. At Julliard, they don’t teach you where to move your face for the camera, you know?