Recently, True Blood’s Courtney Ford was interviewed by Collider about her role of Portia Bellefleur on the show. Below are excerpts from that interview where she talks about auditioning for two other roles before landing the role of Portia, learning to overcome her own anxieties of being nude on camera, how worried she was about the fan reaction to Portia coming between Bill and Sookie, the challenge of being so secretive about the show and her role, and how gracious the cast was to work with.
Question: How did you get involved with True Blood? What was your auditioning process like?
COURTNEY FORD: I auditioned for Season 2, for Daphne, the shape-shifter. And then, I auditioned for Season 3, for Debbie Pelt. The feedback was, “Oh, we really like her, but we really want Joe Manganiello and he’s 6’5″. That will be a foot height difference, and that’s just not going to work out.” That was heartbreaking because I was such a huge fan of the show. I never missed an episode. And then, I got an opportunity to audition for Season 4, for Portia Bellefleur, and that was it. I met with them once. I went in and casting was there and Alan Ball was there, and then I went to my car and right when I got home, I got the call that I got the role.
Having auditioned for the show twice in the past, how did you not get discouraged about going back again?
FORD: You can’t. If I let myself get discouraged about anything, I would have stopped a long time ago. I almost did, actually. Talk about being discouraged, after hustling all those years, I almost stopped right before Dexter. I hadn’t seen the show and I thought, “I don’t really want to do this anymore,” but they said, “Oh, it’s a recurring role, you should go out on it.” So, I went over and it was for producers, and Clyde Phillips was there. I went in and did it, and I didn’t think I was going to get it at all, but I ended up getting the role. That was crazy. And then, that changed the trajectory of my career and it changed my plans.
When you get a casting notice that says “the actress must be comfortable with nudity,” what is that like? Is that something you have to put thought into before agreeing, or is that something you’re comfortable with, depending on how it fits with the character?
FORD: There are so many ways to think about it. Both on Dexter and on True Blood, people are getting killed and there’s blood everywhere, but then if you think, “Oh no, I see boobies! How dare you?” something is wrong there. How can you be okay with murder, but not be okay with the natural state of the human body? I think that’s more of an American prudishness coming through, but then again, I am American, so I have that feeling of, “Oh, my god!” I’m not the most comfortable with it, but I have to put it out of my mind and pretend it’s not happening, and I have to call my grandmother and tell her not to watch that episode. It makes you feel very vulnerable, but hopefully – and it has been in my case – the actor that you’re playing opposite is very courteous and considerate, and tries to make a joke out of the whole thing and tries to make you laugh, so it really takes your mind off of it. It actually ends up being very technical. I know actors say that all the time, and then you watch it on screen and you’re like, “Oh, they seem so in-the-moment and passionate,” but it really, truly isn’t like that. Someone is saying, “Okay, stop and move your face half an inch to the left. Can you bend down a little bit? Can you move a little bit less? Can you move more? Don’t block his face.” You have all these people looking at you and directing your every movement, so there is no romance or spontaneity that you would have, in that situation, in real life.
Who is Portia Bellefleur? What kind of woman is she to you?
FORD: I was able to read some of the books. I read Dead Until Dark, Living Dead in Dallas and Dead as a Doornail, and Portia is physically a little bit different on the show, but I think she’s the same Portia on the inside. Portia loves her brother (Andy Bellefleur) and will do anything for him, and she loves him despite his addictions and that very massive chip that he has on his shoulder. I think Andy thinks that he’s not good enough, and there are many around that reinforce that feeling for him, his grandma Caroline being one of them. But unfortunately and unfairly, Portia gets lumped into that group, in his mind. It’s not her fault that their grandmother dotes on her, but scolds him constantly. She loves him and would do anything for him, so it’s sad. Their parents are gone. They live with their grandma, and grandma won’t be around forever. They’re all they’ve got. I see Portia as really trying to hold what’s left of her family together, and if she has to make sacrifices or do crazy things or be thought of as a bitch, so be it.
How has it been to work with Chris Bauer, especially with as crazy as things have gotten for his character this season?
FORD: Chris Bauer is great. I loved working with him, and he really helped show me the ropes. It’s a big show. It’s a wonderful, but huge cast, and he really helped me feel more like I fit in. When he snaps and slips into Andy, it’s a great thing to see.
What was it like to find out that Katherine Helmond would be playing your grandmother?
FORD: That was so cool because I was such a fan of Who’s the Boss? I watched it every week and never missed an episode. I thought, “Oh my god, Aunt Mona is going to be my grandmother!” She’s been in the business for so long and has so many great stories about her experiences on set. She was just a real sweetheart.
What do you think it was that drew Portia to Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer)?
FORD: Portia really respected Bill’s power. She respected his intelligence, and he respected hers, so they definitely got along on that level. There was a mutual respect for each other, and that’s a lot different than their relationship in the books because, in the books, he definitely has history with the Bellefleurs and there’s a tension there. Andy and Portia dislike everything supernatural, in the books. On the show, they’re a little bit more accepting. Since practically everyone in the town has some supernatural aspect to them, you have to be a little bit more open to that.
How surprised were you to find out about the true relationship between Portia and Bill?
FORD: Well, I knew they had dated in the books, but that was only because Portia was trying to get information in order to clear her brother’s name, and Bill was trying to make Sookie jealous. I was surprised when that relationship was taken further in the show, and even more surprised when Portia wanted it to continue after she found out who Bill really was to her. I had to get inside her head and come to an understanding that 1) Bill is a vampire – he’s dead. So, if you’re cool with necrophilia, you might be cool with a lot of things. And 2) this must happen a lot for vampires. Think about it – the longer they live, the more likely it is that they’re going to encounter a distant relation. This can’t be the first time it’s happened. And 3) Hey, it’s Bon Temps. Look around. Pretty slim pickings for a girl like Portia!
Were you worried about how fans of Bill and Sookie would react to Portia, when you took on this role?
FORD: To be honest, yes. Being a fan of the show myself, I didn’t want to come between them. My first day of shooting, I really had to focus because “fan” me kept saying, “Stop being so mean to Sookie!” It was hard. I also like Anna [Paquin] as a person, so it was definitely strange. But, I did know that Sookie was going to be having fun with Eric (Alexander Skarsgard), so that took a bit of the sting away. I don’t think she sat around crying in her Corn Flakes.
How has Stephen Moyer been to work with?
FORD: Both Stephen and Anna [Paquin] were so gracious and kind and really put me at ease. Anna was the first person that I worked with. The scene in Episode 1, between Sookie and Portia at Merlotte’s, was my very first day. So, it could have been a really intimidating and nerve-wracking experience, but Anna really diffused that tension right away. And then, my next scene was with Stephen, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in the first episode. It was four o’clock in the morning and we were freezing, and he was charming, funny, kind and really welcoming to me. Once I had finished the first episode, I really felt like part of the True Blood family because of them.
What have been the biggest challenges of being a part of this show?
FORD: Not being able to talk about it! Portia is so put together, with her hair, her long nails, her pantyhose and her tailored outfits. She is so much more put together than I am, and she speaks very quickly. She’s really on her game, all the time. That can sometimes be a challenge, in itself, because she’s just so different than I am, in those ways.
Is there anyone that you didn’t get to work with much, that you’d love to have done more scenes with?
FORD: Yeah, Lafayette – Nelsan Ellis. I was a huge fan of the show and Lafayette was my favorite character. Last year, I was at the Emmys for Dexter, with the Dexter cast, and the True Blood cast was right there, walking the press line in the same group. On the carpet, I walked up to Nelsan and I was like, “I’m such a huge fan! You do such an amazing job with the character!” And then, I realized I was rambling and had to spit out, “I’m with the Dexter cast! I’m not a weirdo!” And then, that just made me sound like even more of a weirdo, but he was so kind. He had to be like, “Oh my god, this girl’s crazy!” At the table read for Episode 1, I actually sat right across from him and that was kind of awkward. It’s a small world.
To read the rest of this interview, go to: collider.com