In an interview with True Blood’s Kristin Bauer van Straten below, she speaks to AfterEllen about her vampire character, Pamela Swynford de Beaufort, what is was like saying goodbye to the show and more.
AE: So you just wrapped shooting for the whole series a couple of weeks ago, so how does it feel to be done?
Kristin Bauer van Straten: It feels very surreal. But for the last few months I’ve had scenes with different people and realized it my last scene with someone or my last table read, and then there was the last day of shooting. But then we went in to the premiere and then I went into press, so it helps that it’s split up and I’ve been able to say “we’ll see you at the wrap party!” or “I’ll see you at Comic Con!” But a couple of times I’ve run into people—I ran into Ryan Kwanten at looping, and said “OK, well I’ll see you at Comic Con” and he said “Yeah, I’m not going.” And I went, “Oh, so I’ll see you—when?” And we both just shrugged and it was exceedingly surreal.
AE: What do you think you’re going to miss most about it?
KB: I’m gonna miss the set. That’s really my favorite thing about acting. I’m a carnie and I really love living on this set with this dysfunctional but chosen family. And these particular people are just exceptional to me, and I know them so well. They accept me, warts and all, and choices and all, and viewpoints and all. And we not only accept each other, we like and support each other, so I’ve had a lot of feelings about family, and what that means as an adult with the family you choose. Because sometimes our DNA family, we kind of get each other, if we’re lucky, and we accept each other to a certain degree but there’s a lot of water under the bridge. But this family, my most objectionable trait—which would be my bluntness—they pay me for! They find my bluntness funny! They actually enjoy me. So that unconditional love and acceptance that you can usually only get from your dog, I actually got on this set.
AE: Well it’s hard to leave your pretend family. And I don’t mean “pretend” disparagingly, I mean the people you play pretend with. But you’re also leaving Pam behind, who I’m sure in your own way you’ve also gotten very close to. And you said that you have bluntness in common with Pam. Do you think you’ve taken anything from Pam over seven years?
KB: I think I have and I wish that I’d taken more. I truly admire her lack of concern over being liked. I think that’s one of the harder things for me and for humans [because] I really don’t like upsetting people and she could care less for speaking the truth. Because she really isn’t overly vicious or blunt, she’s actually overly truthful. I think that’s why she’s fun to watch because she says what we’re all thinking. And I wish I had that comfortableness in my own shoes. And I think people do gain that ability over the course of a lifetime; vampires just have many lifetimes.
AE: Well I’ve watched True Blood religiously from the beginning, and Pam is one of the characters that’s grown the most and gone from being a character where you loved her and could count on her for a great one-liner, to the past two seasons, where you’ve had the opportunity to play a variety of emotions. And you’ve seen her be vulnerable, especially with Eric. How do you feel like she in general and her relationship with Eric in particular have evolved?
KB: For me as an actress, I feel that Pam has gotten a huge evolution from the beginning, as far as us getting to know her. Because she really was tough as nails, and by season three we started to see how incredibly vulnerable she was in regard to Eric. I’ve always said: everybody has one person. The toughest people that we know, the most unlikeable assholes we know, have a spouse. And Eric is her one person. And as we’ve gotten to see her flashbacks and her making, we found out more why that was. But going into Season 7, Pam chose Eric again above all else. And now that he’s ill with Hep-V it’s probably her most vulnerable season. Because she actually could lose him. And as an actor, that’s been a huge gift to play dire circumstances. And it’s also been so linear and clean for me and for Pam over the years. You know, she’s stayed very consistent and we’ve just gotten to know her better and better. But this season, because of the circumstances, she has to dig deep into a strength we haven’t seen, and also a vulnerability that we’ll see even more.
AE: The past two episodes have been, for me, some of the strongest of the entire series. And you have been a big part of that.
KB: I know; I thought the same thing when I saw episode four, I thought “Wow, that had the core of every character.” And the same with last week.
AE: Yeah, it’s been great. I have to say I was sad–and I know a lot of my readers were sad–about both the fact that Tara died and that, after what felt like a very natural and graceful buildup of Pam and Tara’s relationship, it never ultimately came to very much. I talked to Angela Robinson last week and she said that you shot a scene in which you cried about Tara’s death, but how did you feel about how that storyline was resolved.
KB: That’s interesting that Angela told you we shot that scene. Because we did shoot a scene of a very emotional reaction when I felt Tara’s death. I think there’s so many things editors have to think about that actors don’t, and one of them is the length of the episode. [Laughs] So that may have been why. Did she say why?
AE: She said it didn’t match the tone and they wanted to move up the search for Eric storyline, so they moved a scene from episode two to episode one.
KB: Ah, I was wondering why they did that as well. That’s interesting, because the actor has different concerns and we just have to take care of our own area, thank god. But they have to think about so many other things. I really felt like that relationship that I got to play with Tara and Rutina was so much fun. I haven’t had many relationships outside of Eric and when Rutina (Wesley) and I realized we’d be working together, we didn’t know each other at all. We had only glared at each other from across a scene. You know, I had been wanting to kill her for a year. And we had no idea if we would enjoy working with each other, and we had so much fun. I just love that girl and I love that relationship. This year there’s a couple other people I at least got to pass in scenes. But it such a big cast, that it’s hard. Like, Chris Bauer and I—the two Bauers—was one of the few I never even got to walk past. But I loved everything they wrote for me and Rutina.
AE: Yeah, I was definitely sad to see her go, although I know the fallout from that is still ongoing.
KB: It is. And they had decided to focus on significant relationships for the last season. And that [Tara’s] relationship with her mother is so central to that character.
AE: Although, in a different kind of way, Pam was Tara’s surrogate mother, which lends a whole new air of weirdness to their romance.
KB: Totally! It was so interesting to try and kill her for a year and then be forced to be her new “mother,” though not the most nurturing mother. And then to be attracted to her and then we got to make out and then I chose Eric over my child. My child/lover.
AE: It’s actually really interesting to hear you say that, because saying she “chooses” Eric over Tara makes it feel like a cleaner narrative choice than the idea that the relationship got left by the wayside. You’re saying this was just Pam making her priorities. And I think you’re right; everyone does have that one person that everything else is second to.
KB: Yeah, for me it really was a big choice to leave everything and then even play Russian roulette just for the next piece of information to possibly find him.
AE: But even as you’ve been focusing on Eric, every time Tara is mentioned I feel you playing that moment and really processing it and you can see it in your eyes that Pam in mourning her in a real way.
KB: Yeah, that’s how I feel. My relationship with Rutina helped that, and my relationship with all the cast makes it so much easier to play all these deep emotions, especially in the last season. Because there’s so many dire circumstances, and when I have to play that people could die, I just think about the fact that I’m not going to see them all the time next year, and I just start to cry.
AE: So Pam has had so many incredible one-liners—I read someone say that she’s like the Dowager Countess of True Blood, which is so true.
KB: (Beacoup laughter) That is so true. I’m actually watching Downton Abbey and I thought, “Oh my god! She’s the Pam of Downton Abbey.” It’s so hilarious.
AE: Do you have any favorite lines, that you just read and cackled?
KB: I forget them, and I have to, when I get a minute, put them all in one document.
AE: I’m sure someone’s made a YouTube video of it already. [Note: Yep!]
KB: That’s what I thought. Because I keep forgetting different ones. I loved when I threatened Nelsan (Lafayette) and said, “I don’t know why people think I want to hear their problems. Maybe I smile too much. Maybe I wear too much pink.”
AE: I remember that! That was great! He just made some serious waves with an interview actually, where he very candidly addressed Luke Grimes’ departure.
KB: Oookay. I have to Google that.
AE: There’s a supercut on YouTube of Tara Buck, who plays Ginger of all of her screams throughout all the seasons. And I said that I hope that in her contract they’ve covered voice therapy for her, poor thing.
KB: I know! That girl is a comic genius. It’s been so interesting to be on set and see what actually happened with Pam as well, which is that we auditioned for guest star roles, possibly recurring. And it’s written in the script that Longshadow explodes and she screams. But because she screamed so loud and so long, all the sudden it becomes her signature thing. These writers and producers are so amazing, how they actually pay attention and fall in love with something, and get inspired and write to it. And this season, I love the backstory we get with Ginger.
AE: It’s been great and it’s been some of the most fun scenes to watch have been the flashback scenes from the ’80s and ’90s. And Tara Buck was joking that there should be a spinoff of just Pam and Ginger, and I totally support that. Just as pure comedy.
KB: Right? I keep thinking about the ’60s and ’70s.
AE: I wanna say Pam was, like, hard into the Velvet Underground, just laughing at all of the hippies.
KB: I think the ’60s and ’70s would have been like going to Denny’s. Just an all you can eat buffet of humans, because they’re all stoned, free love. Pam would have cleaned up like shooting fish in a barrel.
AE: For serious. Man, now I’m sad. This season has been so good, it’ made me realize how much I’m going to miss True Blood. But what’s next for you?
KB: The first think I’m focusing on is a documentary I’ve been working on for the past couple of years. It’s been very hard to juggle it and also impossible for me to turn it over to someone else. And then I’m going to look at what the next acting step will be. My bar is for great writing is kind of high right now, so that’s the first thing I’ll be looking for. I also wouldn’t mind doing comedy again. My roots are in comedy; that’s where I started and I really love it. Of course anything HBO does, anytime, any place, any where, I’ll be first in line. Because it’s been a really lovely experience. The life I’ve lived behind the closed doors with HBO has just been class A incredible.
Read this entire interview at: afterellen.com