True Blood Interview: Kristin Bauer

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Vampire Pam’s been getting more and more prominent in the hit show. Meet the actress who plays her

Kristin Bauer returns as sexy vampire Pam in the third season of the award-winning hit show, True Blood which is released on DVD today.

Created by Oscar winner Alan Ball from the best selling novels by Charlaine Harris, True Blood has gone from strength to strength over three seasons – the third aired in the States in 2010 – and Pam, chief of staff to vampire chief Eric (played by Alexander Skarsgard) has become a favourite with the fans.

The youngest of three children Bauer was indeed born and raised in Racine County, Wisconsin, and as a teenager rebelled against the Ivy League path that her siblings had chosen.

She choose to study art – first in New York and later in Boston – and after a string of fill-in jobs (waitress, washing windows, working as a nanny) she headed to California mostly, she says, because the climate was temperate and the natural beauty inspiring, especially if you want to paint. But she still had to pay the rent.

After a brief stint as a model and then a make-up artist, she was asked to appear in a movie (it was never released) and found her calling. But Bauer was hooked. She enrolled in an acting class, got herself an agent and was working as an actress almost before she realised what, exactly, was happening.

She landed roles in TV shows, including Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman , Seinfeld and Everybody Loves Raymond . There have been movies too, including Dancing at the Blue Iguana .

What’s it like on the True Blood set? Are some of the things that are scary – and very bloody – to watch, actually quite funny to film?

Kristin Bauer: Oh, shooting on stage is hysterical. It’s not bloody and scary and gross because when you are there, filming it, it just isn’t like that. A good example came during the first season when Sookie was soaked with like a fire hose of blood for what seemed like minutes. And it was pretty intense on screen – an amazing sequence. And Anna (Paquin) was great. And it wasn’t easy because the director was saying to her “make sure that for the first shot of blood your eyes are open.” And she was like, “Oh my God, okay…”
And what they did is they ran a garden hose up the side of the actor’s face but the camera can’t see it. From the camera side all you can see is the guy vomiting blood. But when you’re actually there, if you look three feet to the right you see an orange construction ladder with a big sweaty guy on top, with a flannel shirt and construction boots, pouring gallons of blood into this thing and pumping it (laughs). So you look one way and it’s creepy and scary and you look the other way and it’s hysterically funny.

And that’s how everything is – I’m immortal and powerful with my cool fangs but I’m in a graveyard scene and my heels keep sinking and I’m waving at the director as I slowly sink into the earth and also, with those fangs in, I’m lisping! It really is a lot of fun. And you know there is a third actor in every scene – these special effects guys and they do an incredible job. You can’t see them on screen but believe me, they are a big part of it.

Art is clearly a big part of your life. How did you end up as an actor?

Actually, I thought art would be my career for a while. You try and remember in hindsight how your life ended up where it is and, it’s not necessarily accurate, but I remember my family was very big into Ivy League schools. I’m the youngest of three children. There was Stanford and Harvard and masters degrees and then I came along and I had no idea what I wanted to do. But I did know what I didn’t want to do – and I did not want to do Maths, Science and History. So that sort of left my art class.

How old were you when you figured that out?

I remember by 15 I was starting to sort of torture my parents with dying my hair purple and starting to rebel, and going, “I want something different.” And my sister had gone to Fine Arts school and she ended up being an architect, which was always what she wanted to do. My brother always knew what he wanted to do and he did political science and he became a politician and then, when he lost a race for Congress, he took over my father’s business. My father ran a distribution business in Wisconsin for all these different products.

And you chose a very different path…

I could always draw and I loved just sitting and drawing so I went to art school

Were you acting at that point?

The only thing we had in my high school was musical theatre. And so you had to dance and sing, and that’s not good for me (laughs). No one wants to see that. It was not my forte. I was more of a jock; I was good at soccer and field hockey (laughs).

With the purple hair?

Right, that was me. I wasn’t girly like this and blonde and pretty, I was sort of like a little butch. It’s hysterical. So I went to art school between junior and senior year, a summer programme at Parsons in New York for graphic design.

What was it like, going to New York at that age?

Oh my god, that was heaven! I was 16, because I graduated school a year early, and I thought it was the greatest thing in the world. I loved the classes too, it was art from nine to five and it was heaven. And then I went to Washington University in St Louis for Fine Art and they have an amazing programme and it’s still the training that I use today. They really taught me how to draw even though I was only there for one year. I’m so thankful for that year but at the time I shaved my head, pierced my nose and it was like “I’m getting out of here.” I refused to go to my Maths, Science and History classes so I got Fs in all of those and all As in my Art. My poor Dad! I was like “You oppressor!” It’s such a luxury of the white upper middle classes – you can hate your parents for being almost perfect.

What happened?

Well, we compromised and I went to a modern arts school in Boston – my sister was in Boston at the time and somehow it comforted him that I’d be able to stay there with her. I’m afraid I didn’t have a lot of respect for the school and when I left it was like, “That’s it, I’m done with school.” So then your parents are freaking out and you have to get a job. I did about five crap jobs whilst taking music classes because for a while I thought, “Maybe I can become a rock star....” (laughs). But that didn’t last long because you have to practice…

What kind of “crap” jobs did you do?

I was a waitress in a comedy club, which is extremely challenging (laughs) and then a window washer, I was a nanny, I worked all through college, because I was so severely wanting to be independent, which in hindsight, I’m like, “Why did I rush that?” I came to LA because I thought it was a neat place but also the weather was a big factor and I was fed up working these crap jobs and taking the subway in the rain.

And were you still thinking about making your way as an artist at that time?

Yes. And doing art, you are alone all the time, so I thought, “If I’m going to be alone all the time, I want to be in a friendly city, I want to be in a warm city, I want parking, and I want to be able to afford a car.” And that was how I ended up here. I was about 21.

And how did you get into acting?

When I got here I started thinking that I could do some of the stuff that everybody does – so I did a little modelling, which didn’t totally suit me, it’s pretty brutal and they are not interested in your personality. It was just a little too hard for me but through that I got hooked up with a make-up artist. It was kind of complimentary to my art, so I did make-up for a while. And then I got asked to be in a B movie; it was like an Attack of the Killer Tomatoes movie that never came out. But I had so much fun.

And that was literally your first acting job?

Yes, non-union or whatever, and I just asked them how much they paid. And it was more than I was getting paid at three other jobs in a week, and I went, “Are you kidding? Awesome!” The grips hid a rubber chicken in every shot; I mean, it was that kind of movie (laughs). But it was so much fun and it was a nice compliment to sitting at home alone and drawing. And I could make money. At first I knew I wasn’t very good but I also knew I could learn. So I went to an acting class and learnt all I could and then I started trying to get myself an agent, which was tough.

So you were up and running as an actress. Was it easy to find work at first?

Not so easy, really. I went through a couple of hard years with strikes and a couple of tough series. At one point the business was hard for me and I thought, “Man, I don’t want to do this anymore…”

But that was before True Blood ?

That was before True Blood . It was a few years ago during the strikes and also I had two series that just didn’t go how I wanted them to go. It was so depressing and it’s hard sometimes. When people say to me, “I want to be an actor, what’s your advice?” I always say “Is there anything else you really love? If there is, I would recommend that because acting is not what you think it is.” It’s not the red carpet and it’s not the hit show. It’s like marriage. People want to get married and they think of the dress and the party, the soul mate. No, it comes down to the minute of the day.

So it’s about hard knocks, hard work and some disappointments…

Yes it is and if you think it's all glamour and parties that’s a fool’s dream. I wanted to be a rock star, but I couldn’t sit there and learn these frickin' chords. Then you don’t want to be a rock star, you want that idea of being a rock star. And that’s not it. So acting is something that I seem to be able to do: I can handle auditioning, I can handle rejection, mostly, (laughs) and then, I like being on the set – I like those days.

So then True Blood came along…

Yeah and that was a dream part. Wonderful!

Playing a character, Pam, who seems to get some of the very best lines in the show…?

I know! I think I get the best lines. It’s just a dream come true to be working with Alan Ball on a script as good as this.

And in season three Pam really comes to the fore right?

Well the first season is really all about Bill and Sookie but there’s this other vampire, Eric, and there’s this chick that always with him – that’s Pam. She wears great outfits and she’s fantastic! Like the best, right? And wardrobe is half of Pam’s impact. Audrey Fisher (the costumer designer) is incredible. She does an amazing job. Anyway, in season three Eric is in serious trouble and we get to see how that affects Pam. Does she advise him? Is she just a follower? How much are they peers at this point? Does Pam have an Achilles Heel? We find out what she does and it’s fascinating. How strong is she? That’s the question. So this season we find out much more abut Pam and she’s really tested.
What’s it like when you first get a script for an episode?

It’s fantastic because first you flip through to see how much you are in it. It’s like, “where’s Pam?” And with that first reading is probably where I get the best impression of how I’m going to do it, the first instincts. That’s the way it works for me anyway. And then I get a little nervous. It’s like, “I want to do good, I want to pull it off…” I want to do it justice because those first images, first impressions you get when you read the script are very powerful.

Is there a lot of camaraderie on set?

There’s huge camaraderie on set, which again, is great. On every other series I’ve been on you go, “Oh, hi, nice to meet you…” and you think to yourself, “Who is it? Who is the trouble maker?” And on True Blood we don’t have one. Not one. This group of actors is incredible. And that comes from the top down because that’s who Alan (Ball) wants to work with, that’s who he hires. He’s assembled a group of people who want to be there, who want to do the work and treat it with the respect that it deserves. Alan’s a fascinating guy. He’s the best. The quality of his work is astounding, from American Beauty to True Blood. It’s just great to be part of that.

TRUE BLOOD – THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON IS OUT ON BLU-RAY AND DVD NOW

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