Deborah Ann Woll is the beautiful young red-head who brought Jessica, Bill’s teenage vampire “child”, to life.
Deborah made her first appearance on True Blood in one of the most impressive scenes of the first season: the Tribunal scene. She will be back in the second season with a very interesting and exciting storyline.
Before landing a recurring role on True Blood, Deborah made guest appearances on well-known shows as Life, Aces ‘N’ Eights, ER, CSI, My Name Is Earl and The Mentalist.
I talked to Deborah about the shooting of the Tribunal scene, her character Jessica, her views on the vampire nature and her private life.
When you first read the script of True Blood, did you like it immediately?
“Absolutely. Great writing, cool twists, and a genre that I already have a liking for. What more could I ask?”
Could you ever have anticipated that the show would be so successful?
“Yes. I don’t know if I knew it would take off the way it did, but I was pretty confident that it would get a following. The heart of every single cast and crew and production member is so big and warm and hardworking, there is no way that can go unrecognized for long.”
Did you have any interest in the vampire genre before True Blood?
“Oh yes. As I mentioned I am a fan of the horror genre. There is something about horror that is incredibly affecting. We know dramas affect us when we cry, and comedies when we laugh, but if something really scares you, it got under your skin like nothing else can. There’s a power in that. Combine that ability to affect with the message this show contains about disenfranchisement and fear of intimacy, maybe we can really start to reach some people. There’s no point in doing horror if it doesn’t say something about humanity.
I have seen every episode of Buffy and Angel ever created. I hadn’t watched them when they were airing, but my boyfriend is a HUGE Joss Whedon fan and so he sat me down and we watched it all straight through over a few months. I loved it. Joss Whedon and everyone involved are so talented how could you not.”
Did you read the books by Charlaine Harris?
“I did read some of them. I read them after I was cast just to get a flavor for the stories and the world of the show. Jessica isn’t in the books so it was less help to me in character work than it was in creating atmosphere and environment for myself. I haven’t been to deep south on many occasions so anything I could find that would give me that essence was useful.”
Can you tell us something about how you got the part of Jessica. What was the audition process like?
“Nothing special really. I came in for a recurring guest spot (2 or 3 episodes). I was given the tribunal scene and the “cussing” scene after being turned, to prepare. I only came in once for the initial audition as far as I can remember. I know I waited a long time outside cause other actors were having scheduling problems and I think I ended up being the last to be seen that day. I was totally into this character so I just went for it and it must have gone well cause they cast me. There were a lot of people in the room. I know the director of that tribunal episode [Scott Winant] was there, he was so encouraging and wonderful, I owe a lot to him as well. That was a tough first scene on a show and he made it as comfortable as it could be.”
After your recurring role in the first season of True Blood, you are back for the second season. Have you signed as a series regular for Series 2? Or possibly longer?
“I am not sure how much I am allowed to reveal here, but yes I am back for season 2 as a regular. It’s been quite a ride already, and I hope to be around as long as they want me. But I suppose that is up to the writers and the viewers mostly.”
What do your family and friends think of your recurring role on True Blood?
“Oh they’re excited for sure. It’s the first real extended meaty role I’ve gotten to work on since doing theatre in college and they know how pleased I am to have the opportunity. Some aren’t so into the blood and guts of it all, but they suffer through it in support. My greatest thanks to them all.”
You made quite an entrance on True Blood in one of the most impressive scenes of the whole first season: the Tribunal Scene. What can you tell us about shooting that scene?
“Wow, yeah that was a tough one. Amazingly it only took two night shoots. They did the first half the first night and then I joined them for the second half the second night. It was shot in a real junkyard in Sun Valley and yes most of the scrapes and dirt all over me are real. It was not cold just dirty and long and some difficult subject matter. I remember being so impressed with the actor who played the Magister [Zeljko Ivanek]. His side had been left to the last both nights and so we were racing the sun both times. (hazards of being on a vampire show) And he kept his cool and did his job. Never let the frenzy and pressure of dawn effect him the way it might have effected a less experienced film actor like myself. When I watch that scene I am amazed how skillfully it all came together. It is very effective and that is due to each and every person who applied their trade to it. I am honored to have been included.”
As far as your fangs on True Blood – are you getting used to them? Are they comfortable, can you talk with them in?
“I love the fangs. They look fantastic and so real!! I am getting better at talking with them in. I find the less I think about them the easier it is. After a long shoot though I do find I have some roughness on my inner lower lips. It’s all part of the job. There’s always a price to pay for cool.”
What is it like working with Alan Ball and experienced actors like Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer?
“Unbelievably rewarding. Need I say more? I am quite easily intimidated and the idea of working with such huge talents was an exhilarating and terrifying prospect. So imagine my relief and joy when upon meeting everyone they were all as kind and unaffected as could be. Willing to teach and learn along with the rest of us. Everyone has such respect and love for what they do, that any pettiness that could exist doesn’t even cross our minds. They are an enviable bunch.”
Bon Temps is filled with multi-layered residents. How would you describe Jessica?
“Unpredictable. Considering the conditions Jessica is living under, her past as a repressed human teenager, her present as an out of control vamp, and her future as the devil only knows what, they make for a compelling story that can go just about anywhere. My favorite part of playing characters like this is they surprise you. Jessica has unexpected depth and maturity when allowed the chance. But a fire in her that won’t let anybody control her ever again. It’s incredibly liberating to play with. She says and does what she feels and doesn’t give a hoot what anybody thinks about it. I wish I had that kind of confidence myself!”
How was the look of Jessica created, how did she come to life?
“When it comes to hair, make up, and costuming, it has to be collaborative. These are very talented, creative individuals who work those departments and they really put a lot of thought into their choices. I have total faith in their expertise, so when they show me their ideas we talk about it and agree on what we think would be best. It’s been interesting though, because once becoming a vampire, Jessica had to leave everything behind. So her look tends to be very influenced by whatever situation she’s stuck in at the moment. Including Daddy Compton’s fashion sense!”
How did you prepare for the role of Jessica?
“Well, in my opinion one of the interesting things about human beings is that essentially there are two different kinds of consciousness at play. The ancient “Crocodile” brain, consumed with survival, and the modern human brain, concerned with morals and decency. In the civilized world, the modern brain is of more use to us so it has dominated for centuries. But that doesn’t mean those ancient primitive impulses are not there. My feeling is when you become vampire, you reawaken that dormant aspect of self. For example with the tribunal episode, I watched clips of animal attacks. The one that really drew me was a lioness stalking and attacking a gazelle. There was this frenzied struggle to escape and then even though it hadn’t yet died, it seemed to accept and go limp, as though it were playing dead. At the top of the food chain, we have no real concept of life and death in this way and to me that was one of the most important differences in the True Blood world. Now I was not only hunted, I am also a hunter. Humans are not only companions but now food. That is a very dangerous space in which to exist. The Magister himself referred to humans as cattle. Totally appropriate for a predator but an egregious comparison within society.
As for Jessica’s less primal side. I really see her as this blaze of fire. Passionate and dangerous. Unpredictable and beautiful. Warm and painful. I looked up definitions for “blaze” and I think my favorite was ” to be brilliantly conspicuous”. That feels pretty right to me.
Furthermore, It is difficult being a teenager, when you are having all these complex adult feelings and perhaps don’t have the language or experience to express them. It can be very frustrating as I am sure most of us remember. Hence the common angst complaints, “You never listen to me,” “nobody understands me,” “that’s not fair.” We don’t take kindly to being written off as childish when we feel exactly the opposite. So people who treat us as adults, with respect, will be responded to as such. But condescend to us and watch out!
There is so much more, but I’m probably boring everyone to death with my lectures so I’ll leave it at that. :)”
Was it hard to master the southern accent? How did you go about learning it? Do you still think about it with every line you say or does it come naturally at some point?
“I’m not sure I’ve mastered it yet. Although I feel much more comfortable than I did at the beginning. Southern is hard, because there are so many specific regional differences. We can’t possibly master it to everybody’s satisfaction. Especially not in the time given. I spent time learning the basic differences and applying those. As the season has gone on I’ve found my own way to bring in what the feeling of the accent is that gives it some flavor but without totally abandoning the natural quality I want to have in the role. I don’t want to be thinking about my voice when I’m having a fight with my dad in a scene, so it’s important that it be second nature and comfortable to do.”
Jessica’s transformation from christian girl to bloodthirsty vampire was remarkable. Can you tell us a little bit about what to expect from Jessica in the upcoming episodes?
“You’ll mostly just have to wait and see. It’s a confusing time, to say the least, for myself as Jessica. I have a lot of different feelings about my past and what has happened to me, and now I’ve been handed an enormous power, which I don’t fully understand. It’s like a child with a loaded gun, they may think it’s cool until it goes off unexpectedly, at which point it’s very dangerous.”
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?
“Not at the moment. I’m focusing on this project for now. But I hope to have something to work on come hiatus. I am thinking of learning the violin however. I like taking classes and enriching my breadth and depth of knowledge. So I will probably continue to do that.”
Will we ever see you on stage – Broadway, theatre or do you prefer to solely concentrate on television and film?
“Oh my God, I would LOVE to do theatre again. I haven’t done any since college and it’s really where my passion began. I have done some staged readings recently, but it’s not quite the same. It is mostly difficult scheduling wise. Theatre takes a huge chunk of time out of your life where you can’t do much else. Plus they have to cast you, isn’t that always the hard part. But I am sure I will return to the stage many times in my life, maybe not Broadway, I wouldn’t dare dream so high, but it is a pleasure at any level.
I am enjoying for the moment though, learning about the craft of film acting. I don’t know much about it and have had to learn very quickly these last two years. Luckily on True Blood there are a number of very skilled, very experienced actors and crew members that have been kind enough to help me along. I owe them a lot for this “apprenticeship”. Film is a fascinating medium and I don’t mind working here awhile as I scope it out.”
When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in acting? Were you the girl always playing the lead in the school plays?
“I knew quite early on I wanted to be a performer of some kind. I did a lot of dance and music when I was young and I liked the feeling of working within a form but then filling it with life and expression. But it wasn’t until high school that I really focused on acting. We had a fantastic Director of Performing Arts at my school and she really expected a lot out of her students. I was shy and a hard worker, so acting was a way to focus whatever nervous energy I was experiencing onto a goal. I also think there is something in me that actually enjoys being a little scared. I like horror films and roller coasters, and for a shy person to have to put everything that they are out there for a performance, carried an element of fear and challenge for me.
I would say that yes, I was probably the girl who got most of the leads in the school plays. But more than that I usually got the roles that required homework. Which aren’t always the leads. Since acting was more than a hobby for me, my director knew she could trust me to take on something a little outside myself. Luckily too, the other students I went to high school with were very talented and took it very seriously so our director was never hard pressed for leads.”
You were born in Brooklyn, how did you end up studying Theatre at USC? Why choose LA over NY?
“Good question, and one I spent a good deal of time mulling over myself. There are so many great theatre schools in the U.S. and abroad that I think the question becomes not how do I find the best school? But how do I find the best fit for me? Acting is somewhat mysteriously taught. There are so many different methods and systems and processes for teaching acting because it will always be an elusive art-form. I’m not sure any actor really knows for sure how it is done. You have to find what works for you and cultivate that. Many of the schools in NY, while brilliant, tend to teach very specific methodologies of acting. All I knew was that at 18 I needed to explore my craft a bit more before I decided on one specific method. USC allowed their students to begin auditioning and acting in plays their first semester which was important to me. I think I learn best by practicing rather than studying. And the focus of the program seemed to be aimed at helping you discover how you specifically work. And from that and the teachings of the greats help you to create a process unique to yourself. So I am not defined by my process, rather I define it.
On top of all that though I was just lucky to get in. BFA programs are very competitive and I was only admitted to two programs (neither in NY) and the USC folk seemed interested in working with me instead of at me. So I went with them.”
Our male readers would like to know a little more about your personal life. Do you have a boyfriend? What are you personal interests, what do you do in your free time?
“I do have a boyfriend. He’s the nicest kind of guy you’d ever want to know. He’s a huge comic book fan and has gotten me interested in it as well. I’m still a beginning reader but man am I hooked. I got into Alias, by Brian Michael Bendis and the Secret Invasion stuff is too cool. Other than that I play piano, and I am a puzzle geek. I like all the Japanese logic games, kakuro, kenken, takegaki. And I probably spend too much time playing computer games. I’m currently hooked on the Wonderland series from Midnight Synergy, but for a while I spent hours working my way through the submachine series. Finally, I am a super fan of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. Nerdgasm. Nuff said. Or I’ll reveal too much of my geeky lifestyle. Sorry to disappoint you male readers, you were probably hoping for cool.”
You have Celiacs disease. What kind of disease is that? How does is effect your every day life? Does the catering on the set prepare special food for you?
“Celiacs is a severe intolerance or allergy to wheat products or Gluten. Basically no bread, pasta, cookies, crackers, etc. A lot of stuff is made with wheat so it can be difficult to avoid and difficult to feel satisfied. I find I eat a lot of rice products as substitutes and of course meats and veggies. There are some companies that make wheat free mixes for cookies or brownies some are good, some are terrible. I usually can find food at catering without wheat I just have to be sure to ask how they prepare it. I do tend to keep rice cakes or corn chips with me just in case I get hungry and can’t find anything at crafty. It really isn’t too bad. I’m still learning how to do it right so I don’t lose out on valuable nutrients. My boyfriend really is my inspiration to stay healthy and not put myself in jeopardy by being careless about it. He has a rare eye disease called Choroideremia, which is causing him to slowly go blind. He is so courageous and proactive about preparing for this inevitability in the face of something so scary, I can only be awed by his strength and commitment. I feel as though I honor him by being equally as strong in my much less life changing predicament with Celiacs.”
One last question…. Do you check out the official True Blood message boards (HBO and True Blood Wiki) or True Blood fan sites?
“hee hee. Not if I can help it. And sometimes I do feel tempted. It’s like 2 of your best friends and 2 of your worst enemies are talking about you and you’re allowed to secretly listen in. It’s torture. I did look at the beginning of my episodes on True Blood, and while much of it is very flattering, just as much can really make you doubt yourself, neither of which is any help to me in my work. So I appreciate that they exist and I look at boards for the shows I watch, but I have decided to avoid the boards that discuss the work I’m involved in. So I stay focused on the job and not on reviews.
I am happy however to support and encourage the continued success of such sites in any way I can. Even if I cannot experience them for myself. And so I wish the best for you and The Vault, although it doesn’t seem like you need it. I hear it’s very popular. Congratulations.”
by Shadaliza for The Vault – Copyright The Vault – TrueBlood-Online.com
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