Michele Manelis talks to True Blood's Deborah Ann Woll about the evolving story and how she's happy to be naked on screen.
As True Blood's resident redhead teenage vampire, Jessica Hamby sure has packed a lot into her short afterlife. But Deborah Ann Woll says her character is just getting started.
"Oh, God, everything happens to Jess in this season," the 26-year-old Woll, says, enthusiastically. "Her story is a coming-of-age transformation from girl to woman/human to vampire. She's struggling with who she is personally and starting to embrace the vampire side of herself."
In contrast to most of the vampires, Jessica is endowed with feelings of empathy and remorse. "She's closer to her humanity than a lot of the other vampires. I think some of that human guilt still lives within her and in that way, she hasn't completely given in to the vampire nature," she says.
At the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills where she is among her fellow cast-members who are conducting interviews, Woll is personable and speaks candidly about the sexual nature of True Blood.
"As far as the sexual element of the storyline, I'm pretty much game," she says.
Her character, embroiled in love triangle with Hoyt (Jim Parrack) and Jason (Ryan Kwanten) finds her in some intimate situations.
"I have no problem with those scenes. I love seeing naked people, but the interesting thing to me about nudity in acting versus pornography, is context. It's important that there is nudity for a reason. Hopefully, it says something even if it's just that these two people are comfortable with each other to be that naked and vulnerable with one another."
As to the circumstances of being naked, she's evidently given the subject a lot of thought.
"I am more wary of doing nudity on film because anyone can take that out of context and use it in a way I never intended. So, while I love sexuality and I love nudity, and I certainly don't have any judgment about people who chose to do it, but for me, I'm careful about how and when I choose to be nude on film. It's different than I would [feel] if I were doing a stage production."
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, she began acting in theatre productions from a young age, eventually moving into television in 2007 when she began appearing in such programmes as ER and CSI. It wasn't until she was cast as Bill Compton's vampire progeny that her career took off. She has since appeared in The Mentalist and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
"I've always known I wanted to act, even when I was a little girl. We have videotapes of me in turtle costumes with little patent leather tap shoes on and I'm just dancing for my mum. I knew that I liked telling stories, I knew that I liked pretending that I was something else or someone else and it just naturally very much flowed into an acting career," she says.
Woll is the first of her family to enter the entertainment business. Her father is an architect, her mother, a teacher. A natural blonde of Irish and German descent, she began dying her hair red at age 14, a decision that has served her well and has helped her stand apart from the blond Hollywood stereotypes. Woll can often be found on many "most beautiful" lists, though of course, like all actresses (especially vampires who don't succumb to the ageing process), she has to preserve her good looks.
"I don't like to work out much, although I do enough to stay healthy," she says. "But I would like to be able to play any kind of person, not just a person with a perfect physique. And also, I don't really have the patience to stay in a gym for six hours a day because looking attractive is not at the forefront of my mind. I've got other things I'd rather do. I got into acting for the art of it and if people decide that my body is not good enough to be on film, I'll go back to theatre."
Clearly, Woll was not brought up in an overtly conservative household, she says, "As far as movies go, my mother was always against violence, but not sex. "She is a huge fan of True Blood. She can't get enough of it and follows it on Twitter and Facebook. She only recently found out that my grandmother is a little more conservative than the rest of us. She showed it to her and found that it isn't quite for her," she laughs. "But even so, she's supportive of it for me."
With several movies in the can, we're about to see a lot more of Woll. These include roles in Catch .44, starring Bruce Willis, followed by Little Murder with Josh Lucas, and indie movie Highland Park, all due for release this year. "I also just shot a film called He Loves Me, starring opposite Antonio Banderas," she says. "It's an incredible story. It's a really unusual love story, and I really think it will have an impact."
Meanwhile, Woll's day job as vampire Jessica is just as exciting for her as it is for the audience. "We don't get the script very far in advance of shooting it. I find myself always wondering what's going to happen. Right now it's tough, because I know the rest of this season, but now I'm waiting for season five," she says. "I'm on the same cliffhanger that you'll find yourself in a couple of weeks."
Who: Deborah Ann Woll
What: True Blood
When: Prime Mondays, 9.30pm