More Interviews with Vampires: DEBORAH ANN WOLL (Jessica Hamby) – TRUE BLOOD, SEASON 4: HBO {Mild Spoilers}

Deborah Ann Woll plays Jessica Hamby in HBO’s supernatural dark comedy True Blood. Jessica is a young girl whose life is changed when vampire Bill Compton bites her to fulfil a promise. In real life, True Blood has propelled Deborah to stardom – she’s now a muse for Karl Lagerfeld, amongst others whilst her movie career is taking off. Not bad for a part where she died in her first scene…

Deborah Ann Woll:I still have some trouble watching that because it’s pretty traumatic and I remember going home from that night and really just sobbing in my bed. It was four years ago so I was younger and I was less experienced and I’m really proud of that scene. I feel like I really found something and the fact that it still scares me is rare.

  • Q: Did you anticipate the emotional roller-coaster element?

DAW: No. When I was younger in acting I was very much technical. And the idea was you would go home, you would work on it, you would find the best way to say it and how good your performance was depended on how well you mimicked what you’d come up with at home. And I was actually quite repressed emotionally. I didn’t allow myself to feel very much. And at one point I just said “When I feel like crying I’m going to cry. And when I feel like yelling I’m going to yell. And when I feel like laughing I’m going to laugh.” I’m better for it, you know. I’m not nearly as scared anymore. I’m comfortable with a wide range of emotion and I know that severe grief will not cripple me that I can go there and I can feel it and I will come out the other end. And it’s always worth it because it’s a better performance and it’s more useful to your audience if it’s authentic.

  • Q: At the beginning you were kind of the bratty kid – how’s it been shaping up with where she’s going?

DAW: Jessica will always look 17 – but because time passes and experiences happen she can age in terms of her maturity. At the start of this season we’ve skipped a year, which was great because get to jump down the line of that. It’s kind of a coming of age story for her. That’s fun to play because you get to have aspects of the young bratty child and aspects of a very mature woman so when Jessica comes across a challenge you’re not quite sure how she’s going to react, which side of her you’ll get.

  • Q: She’s obviously troubled by her relationship – there’s something darker pulling on her.

DAW: I think Jessica loves Hoyt really truly deeply. The trouble is that Hoyt’s mum was right. When she first met Jessica she said to her “You can’t give my son what he needs.” And then they were in love and they said; “Of course we can.” But it’s true – what Hoyt wants is a wife. He wants a very conventional, happy home and not only does Jessica not want to do that she’s not capable of it. She’s 17 and she’s a predator. She’s tried for a year but she can’t do it. This season is a little about Jessica saying “You know what? I’ve compromised too much of who I am for the love of this man.” It’s a tricky tricky situation.

  • Q: How do you find playing a vampire predator?

DAW: I have powerful insight into something that doesn’t exist. [Laughs] My job is constructive day-dreaming – to just sit around and think about what it would be like. There is research – you can look at animals, at predators and how they exist within the world. But a crocodile doesn’t know it’s a killer while a vampire does. I think something like feeding can be very very sexual or it can be very much just a meal. I’d say the great thing about our show is we haven’t laid down rules that say that this is only one way.

  • Q: How do you describe Jessica to yourself?

DAW: Impulsive is definitely the word that I use for Jessica. There’s this great old poem that I like to use that is basically just a list of archetypes and my favourite one for Jess is “I am the blaze on every hill.” A fire is beautiful and warm and caring – it takes care of you and provides for you but it’s also dangerous and scary and unpredictable.

  • Q: How much do you have in common with her?

DAW: At the very basic drive a lot. And I think that’s true of every character an actor plays. For me everything is about love; do I have it? Do I need it? Who am I getting it from? Who am I giving it to? I must have love in some capacity for myself. And I don’t think that that’s something I can change about myself. I can change every circumstance surrounding me but I cannot change that core value. So every role that I play has to do with love.
But I am very much more reserved and practical than Jessica. I plan things out and she just leaps.

  • Q: In this season you’re going to be spending a lot of time with Ryan as Jason – how was that?

DAW: Ryan and I were figuring each other out at the same pace as the characters. By the end of the season when Jessica and Jason become more comfortable Ryan and I’ve gotten to know each other. So in a way the actor experience parallels the character experience. Certainly you don’t hate people in your real life that you would hate on the screen but it’s not a bad thing in a way that some of that finds its way in.

  • Q: And now everything is bedded down out here, how do you, the Brooklyn girl, feel about the West Coast?

DAW: I definitely feel like a New Yorker. I don’t feel like a Los Angelina yet. But I drive better than most New Yorkers for being out here…

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