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The Vault’s Exclusive Interview with Jim Parrack

jim_parrack

What is it with these men on True Blood? Alan Ball was so right when he talked about Sookie and the parade of hot guys. And they are all so talented as well!

Meet Jim Parrack, the young Texas born actor who portrays Hoyt Fortenberry on True Blood. Hoyt is the cute momma’s boy who is not allowed to drink more than one beer and who gladly accompanies his mother to baby showers.  But there is more to him than that and his world is about the change in the upcoming season. From episode synopsises we have learned that Hoyt is about to meet Jessica and that can only mean one thing: Trouble.

Before landing his recurring role on True Blood, Jim Parrack was seen in the movie Annapolis and made guest appearances on tv shows like Monk, ER, CSI, Grey’s Anatomy, Navy CSI, Criminal Minds and Supernatural.

I asked Jim about how he sees Hoyt, about his experiences on the True Blood set, his aspiration to direct and his view on the Fellowship of the Sun Church.

When did you decide to pursue a career in acting? Which actors did you look up to and influenced you?

“I always wanted to act. I don’t think I felt like that was something that could be admitted when I was growing up, so it took a little longer for me to say outright. But at the end of my junior year of high school I gave up golf and told my parents and a few friends that I wanted to be an actor. I think it surprised most everyone, and no one seemed to hold back much on what they thought of it. I don’t blame them for a second. Robert Duvall had my attention when I was eight. He did the classic Texas Western in a miniseries called “Lonesome Dove”, I was hooked. It’s as good as anything I’ve ever seen since. He’s a friend of mine now and is nice enough to give me advice when I ask. He is electrically into being alive on the earth. He and his wife are wonderful.
And then later when I was about nineteen I saw Brando in “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “On The Waterfront”, and it was like seeing a new primary color or something. He was that refreshing and powerful. I thought I was the only young guy who knew about him. I sat at a Starbucks in Allen and read “Songs My Mother Taught Me” (his autobiography) in one sitting and decided to come to Los Angeles and study acting. Those two guys are still my heroes.”

What was your first acting experience?

“I think a play I wrote in fourth grade that was a “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” rip-off.”

What was your first paid acting job?

“Keith and Margo’s Murder Mystery Dinner Theater at Pierre’s By the Lake in Dallas. My best friend and I would switch off playing Gene Simmons in a disco murder mystery, collect our fifty bucks and then blow at the bar as soon as we finished. We were underage and liked playing grown up with the professional actors. I thought we were living the life man.”

When did you move to Los Angeles? How does a boy from Allen, Texas adapt to life in LA?

“I moved out to Los Angeles in 2001 when I had just turned twenty. I moved in with my buddy’s girlfriend and lived on a pile of clothes on her floor. I started at an acting school out here and was too wayward, let’s say, to get much out of it, but I loved being there. The honest answer is I almost didn’t adjust. If I didn’t have some loving people around to keep me afloat and snap me out of myself, I don’t think I’d be around. My parents were constantly paying for things they hadn’t planned on and I owe them so very much. But I was led to a school, Playhouse West, where I still study twice a week and do plays there with Robert Carnegie, my teacher. And he and a few others helped me find my way. And they still do. Then by the grace of God I got out of a bad relationship and met my wife and now life is entirely adaptable. I miss the hell out of Texas though.”

When you first read the script of True Blood, did you like it immediately? What did you think of it?

“I wasn’t sure. Somehow, I read it without knowing Alan had written it. So I wasn’t thinking of the creative force behind it so much and without that it seemed interesting but maybe too far out. Alan takes the far out and gets you to see that it’s a lot closer to what we know and accept than you think and then anchors it into real, personal human experience. Without that I think this show would be missing the components that set it apart.”

Could you ever have anticipated that the show would be so successful?

“Yes. But it is one thing to reason out why something may be popular or of a certain quality and it is something else entirely to feel why it is when you speak to fans about it. The magnitude of what it does to the fans is impressive. I didn’t have any frame of reference to anticipate that.”

Did you have any interest in the vampire genre before True Blood?

“Ha! Yes. An unhealthy one. All I will say is my mother got a call my freshman year of college from my Dorm manager telling her that I was going to be asked to leave unless I could convince the kitchen staff, that had just quit, that I wasn’t really a vampire. I think my mama said something like, “Why don’t you tell them that Vampires aren’t real?” I was obnoxiously into vampires. There are still a few folks who are certain I am one.”

Can you tell us something about how you got the part of Hoyt. What was the audition process like?

“This is the truest answer and the shortest: God gave me this part as a blessing. The audition was just four or five lines and there wasn’t any real sense of who Hoyt was or what he had to do with all of this. We did it a few times and then I just enjoyed talking with Alan, who I was a huge admirer of, about life in Texas. And then I left with no inclination that I would ever see him again, but thinking, “Cool, you met another one of your heroes!” Then I got straight up and down blessed by God with this part.”

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What do your family and friends think of your recurring role on True Blood? Do they all watch it?

“They are very proud. They are very enthusiastic and I’d be lying if I told you it doesn’t feel terrific. They don’t all watch. This show doesn’t make any apologies for not being for everyone and I don’t think it should. I think when shows do that they push people with different sensitivities away and leave them feeling deceived. Our show says “I am what I am, and we don’t need everyone to like us”.”

Was it hard to master the southern accent? Do you still think about it with every line you say or does it come naturally at some point?

“I doubt I have anything mastered. But I didn’t go for what a lot of people would call a southern accent. There is a guy back home named Brett Bichler who I always thought had an interesting way of talking and I mixed that with my little cousin Sam Parrack. I think the bookstores and bad acting teachers would love for us to think that there is such a thing as a “Southern” accent but there isn’t. I remember Duvall telling me that there were two hundred distinct and distinguishable dialects in his part of Virginia alone. So which one is the Southern accent then? I like coming up with a voice that fits what’s going on. Here part of what is going on is that we are in Louisiana. I try not to forget that but that’s not what this is about for this role.”

What is it like working with such an international cast? Have you picked up some Australian or English slang?

“Yeah. I find myself saying “mate” a lot around Stephen and Ryan. That and I start to say “isn’t it?” instead of “you know” when Stephen and I are talking. Australians remind me of Texans in a lot of ways and Moyer reminds me that the English language, does in fact belong to and is mastered by the peoples of England. I love hearing them talk.”

What does a typical day on the set look like?

“There is no such thing as a typical anything thank goodness.”

I’ve seen a fan describe Hoyt as a cute and sweet momma’s boy. How would you describe Hoyt?

“A younger man deeply interested in the goodness he can give away because of the cutting impressions hate and rejection have made on his heart. He admires virtue, gentleness, optimism, duty, and above all things is totally willing to set himself aside for the ones he loves. He loves as deeply and easily as any person I have ever encountered and continues to even at the expense of his place in society. Nothing would mean more than if someone were to love him and accept him the way he loves and accepts. Where a lot of folks around him have the rags of manmade and manipulated Religiosity, he has a faith that says, “you are more broken and rotten than you would ever want to admit, and in that very same moment more loved than the depths of your imagination could dare to conceive”, which is simply put the Gospel of Christ.”

Do you look like Hoyt? Are you anything like him?

“I am not sure. People always seemed surprised when they find out that I am the actor who plays Hoyt. They say, “Oh yeah, now I can see it”. I am like him on my better days. We operate out of the same desires, but he sure seems to live according to them with greater ease than I do. We are both tall.”

Do people recognize you in the street? What do they say?

“Rarely. People will say, ”Aren’t you on TV?”, and I’ll say, “Yes ma’Am.”, and they’ll say “I thought so”. That’s about it. Sometimes big fans of the show spot me and go on about how excited they are for what’s to come. I get a kick out of people’s enthusiasm for True Blood. I had a gal ask me if I had ever talked to Ryan Kwanten when the cameras weren’t rolling, and I told her, yeah, he’s a buddy of mine, and she just about evaporated!”

What was your favorite scene to shoot in the first season of True Blood?

“It’s tough to pick a favorite. Anything with Mikey [Michael Raymond James] and Ryan was a pleasure.”

Jim Parrack in a scene with Ryan Kwanten and Michael Raymond James

Jim Parrack in a scene with Ryan Kwanten and Michael Raymond James

Did you have any funny bloopers in the scenes that you shot?

“I also remember in episode six when Jason finds out Gran died, Alan had me break the news to him and then look into his eyes and sing “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” with a dead straight face. It threw him off for about a half second and then he joined right in. We also found ways to make anatomical replicas out of whatever was laying around. It’s amazing the idiocy I can come up with if you give me a couple of packets of Sweet and Low.”

In the last episodes if Season 1 it looks like Hoyt is finally manning up a bit, telling his mom off and expressing the wish to date a vampire girl. From the episode synopsis for Season 2 we learn that Hoyt and Jessica will meet at Merlotte’s. Can you tell us a little bit about what to expect from Hoyt in the upcoming episodes?

“I can’t say too much except that I am so in love with the story that they have given me this season that I began to develop premature post partum months ago when we began shooting. I could not ask for a better story to tell or better people to tell it with. Things change for ole Hoyt.”

Are you working on anything else other than True Blood? Is there anything in the pipeline for you as far as other TV projects / Films / Theatre?

“I am always doing plays. Either on my own, or through Playhouse West. We do a play there the first Saturday of every month called “Welcome Home Soldier”. It is the longest running drama in the history of the American Theater. We are going to have its nineteenth anniversary this June. I just directed my first play,” Waiting for Lefty”, in March and Michael Raymond James was in it with my wife and some of my close friends. There are a few movies I know we are tracking. In the not too distant future there is a movie I’ve written and will direct called, “In No Strange Land”. I want to shoot it on location in Madisonville, Texas.”

You are the president of 120 Productions Inc. What can you tell us about that?

“120 is a number that I have seen at least twice a day, every day since I was seventeen. With the exception of “Waiting for Lefty”, it is mostly a vehicle for a half dozen, “someday” projects”. I watch people who are so savvy at the business and technical aspects of telling stories on film or video and I study them. The play and the feedback I got from people I respect immensely gave me the beginning stages of confidence in my aptitude as a director. We will shoot our first feature within a year if all goes as planned.”

What are you personal interests, what do you do in your free time? Do you practice sports? Do you have any pets?

“Recently I have very much enjoyed being a husband. My wife Ciera and I can stand face to face in our kitchen and stare into each other’s eyes and talk for three hours without noticing that any time has passed. She is the kind of gal I spent a lifetime day dreaming about. She is an actor and a creative companion. She was given a double portion of talent and lately has coupled that with a work ethic that inspires the hell out of me. When she acts it feels like you’re watching something being poured out of some basin that was filled by God eons ago. She is mesmerizing. So we nerd it up with the acting stuff together.
I love to read and watch movies. I play golf. Not as often or as well as I used to.
We have two of the most incredible little dogs in the world. Jack and Stella are our sweet little Maltipoos. He’s named after Jack Kerouac because I got him in Oklahoma and he was so good on the road. And Stella is named after the Great Stella Adler. They add so much to our home.”

Jim Parrack and his lovely wife Ciera at the True Blood premiere last year

Jim Parrack and his lovely wife Ciera at the True Blood premiere last year

What place does religion have in your life?

“I am not sure how much of a place it has in my life but I am certain it has a place. Religion isn’t something I have been very clear about when it comes to Christianity because Christianity is a relationship. I feel like I have a faith and out of that faith comes a worldview, but as ignorant as it sounds I know very, very little about religion except that it is the place in the road where man takes the reins part of the way and needs to be careful not to steer away from the heart of the God he is hoping to share.”

As a Christian, what do you think of the Fellowship of the Sun Church?

“It is a spot on depiction of what happens when a group of people want to make God a slave to their agenda or personal code. It is a terrifying reality and my faith is so plagued by this kind of sojourn away from the Gospel message of Christ that it is now hard for the modern world to get a clear view of what that message is. This kind of mentality pollutes a clear view of Christ’s love. How you can derive self righteousness, and self glorification and hatred for anyone who is not as you wish they were from the message and the God that commands you to love your neighbor without discretion and to extend the grace and mercy to others that Christ has extended you, and says in no uncertain terms, “whatever you do to the least of these you do unto Me”, and asks us to forgive no matter the degree of infliction doled out by our offender, I HAVE NO IDEA. It baffles me as much as anything. It pains me as much as anything. The Fellowship is not unrealistic. But it isn’t Christian either. Sookie gets that. Hoyt gets that. I have to wonder if secular America gets that. If they don’t it is by no fault of their own, but by the way people behave towards them in the name of Christianity.

Nelsan Ellis and I have talked about asking HBO if we can do a documentary on this very subject: The De-Christing of Christianity. I cannot think of a message that has been more inverted and twisted up as the Bible has. You would have to try to mess it up for it to get this out of control. That’s exactly what the Fellowship has done. A guy would prefer for God to hate Vampires; so he stuffs that into a faith that blatantly says the opposite, and sells it with a grin on his face. Not unlike what’s happening to homosexuals right now in this country. It breaks my heart.”

Do you check out the True Blood message boards or True Blood fan sites to read fan reactions?

“I have before. It made me nervous so I haven’t in a while. Should I??”

by Shadaliza for The Vault – Copyright The Vault – TrueBlood-Online.com

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