SFX Issue 193

April 2010

Profile:

Michelle Forbes

As True Blood ’s mysterious Maryann, she finds an orgy just another day at the office…

“You know, I could kill Anna Paquin,” says Michelle Forbes with mock anguish. “She gets to make out and have sex with all the gorgeous guys. What did I get? A love scene with a bull.”

Then she bursts out laughing. “But I have to say he was one of my favourite co-stars ever. He was gorgeous.”

Quite how the bull fits into the weird and wacky world of True Blood is a story we’ve yet to discover here in the UK, where season two is only just beginning to air on FX. But we’ve already seen Forbes in the show; she was introduced as the mysterious Maryann towards the end of season one, seemingly in telepathic communication with a pig.

“I worked with a lot of animals over the second season,” she recalls with a laugh. “A lot with those pigs – there were two, Sprout and Bean, no joke. And there is this scene in one of the early season two episodes that Chris Bauer – who plays detective Bellefleur – and I had with one of the pigs. The pig was in a dollhouse, and this pig had a thing against Andreas, one of our crew members. He charged the door, broke it and then started charging Andreas, and Chris Bower and I were in the way. So yes, those pigs were very temperamental, actually. Much more so than the actors.”

The image of the ultra-cool Maryann being chased by a porker is one to cherish, because in the show she’s never less than in total control. Taking Sookie’s best mate Tara under her wing she starts to exert a strange hold over Bon Temps. She also has a gluttonous streak, but Forbes reckons, “I’m the lazy Hollywood actress who loves her carbs so I was happy to have all that food thrown at me.”

True Blood is also a show renowned for its regular bouts of rumpy pumpy, and there’s certainly no let up on that front in season two. Forbes admits (though she may be sending herself up) that, “Initially, for somebody as shy as myself, it was a bit daunting,” though she adds, “it becomes ordinary. Especially after the third orgy, it becomes just another day at the office.”

Forbes has been loving her time on True Blood , but baulks at the suggestion that she’s a genre star, despite a long list of SF credits.

“What do you mean by a lot? I’m going to challenge you...”

Battlestar Galactica , Star Trek: The Next Generation , Global Frequency , Escape From LA

“Oh, I forgot about that one... ”

Sorry to remind you.

“Yes, you’re SFX , aren’t you? You would remember that one,” she laughs. “But in 20 years I’ve really only done 14 hours of science fiction. That’s why I’m challenging you. In a very humble, gracious way. You can challenge me back now!”

Well, there’s nothing wrong with being associated with sci-fi!

“And I’m honoured to be. There’s only 14 hours of it so I’m honoured to be embraced by that world. But I can’t lay claim to an entire career of it. It used to just be about sci-fi but now it’s grown into horror and fantasy. It’s encompassing a whole greater stratosphere than before. Right?”

She’s not wrong. Though she claims never to have been a fan of vampires (“I found them poncy and dour”) she reckons that True Blood has given the genre a much-needed wake-up call.

“Charlaine [Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse books], Alan [Ball, showrunner] and our writers have chosen to look at it in a very post-modern way. To turn that mythology on its head, turn it inside out, and to look at vampires in a very real way… that is fascinating to me. It’s always been about that titillating mythology of vampires, about sucking blood and what have you. But they look at it in a much more emotional and grounded way which I think is extraordinary.”

Without giving too much away, Maryann is not human (you may have guessed that from the pig-telepathy) but Forbes doesn’t feel there’s a particular trick to making potentially “cheesy” fantasy characters realistic.

“I guess that’s just kind of my job. It sounds cheesy but then you have to make it real. That’s what we do for a living. You can look at a show like 24 and say there’s a bomb headed for LA – you have to make it real. That’s what you do. But in this world, what makes it easy for us are the people involved. The writers make it so emotionally grounded for each character. Then you also have the support and the help of the production designer, the costume designer, the crew, who create this environment around you which also helps you to make it real.”

She has special praise for the show’s costume designer. “Many of these characters are built from the ground up. Certainly Marynann. And that is the first stop as an actor when you walk into a new world, the first place of creation is the fitting room. And if you have someone who is creative, dedicated and enthusiastic the way Audrey Fisher is, half your job is done for you. She probably has more to do with Maryann than I do. Her, hair and make-up and the writers. I just dip in there and have fun.”