iF MAGAZINE: When you got the part, what did you know about Jessica?
DEBORAH ANN WOLL: Almost nothing. I had a three-line description – she was a sheltered Christian girl who’d been kidnapped for sacrifice. I had the scene from [Season One’s] Episode Eleven, running through the woods with Bill, so I knew that she had a nice little twist for her right in the beginning there. And then I think they pushed me as far as they could into the bratty mode. I was a little reluctant at first, but I think it turned out better for that.
I would say that [playing] the vulnerability is a little bit easier for me. Whenever you’re playing a side of a character that’s a little irritating or annoying, it’s a little bit of a worry that people will think that’s just how you are [laughs], so I think there’s a hesitation for me, which is why I was glad that they pushed me and said, ‘Keep going, we promise you this is right for the character.’ I had to trust the writer and the director a lot at that time. The vulnerable side is fun. It’s easy to play when you’re acting with someone like Jim Parrack – you just look in his eyes and it’s quite easy to fall in love [laughs]. That’s a really fun thing to play every day. It’s not a bad day at work when a cute boy makes love to you for hours. While I really enjoy the bratty side, and that’s the side you don’t get to explore very often, I like working with Jim and [playing] those scenes.
iF: How do you feel about Jessica’s relationships with Bill and Sookie?
WOLL: Well, honestly, for this season, they’ve kind of abandoned Jessica a little bit. They’ve had bigger problems to deal with and I think the redheaded stepchild was kind of pushed off into another room. I think it’s interesting that in the episode when Maxine Fortenberry accuses her of being an orphan vampire, she says, ‘Well, I was made against my will, I don’t have a family any more.’ I don’t think I’m quite to the point yet of considering Bill and Sookie to be my family or close in that sense. I hope that’s something we can explore and there’s certainly a scene or two coming up that I think is interesting in that regard, but with Jessica, we haven’t spent that much time with [those relationships] yet to make any kind of clear statement on that.
iF: Most of your scenes this season have been certainly with Jim Parrack as Hoyt and with Dale Raoul, who plays his mother Maxine …
WOLL: She is fantastic. She is so much fun to work with.
iF: Were you surprised by Jessica’s ongoing problems with having her virginity physically regenerate after every time she has sex?
WOLL: My father said, ‘You’re probably the very first actor that has ever had to portray that particular situation,’ so I am now the source material for the regenerating hymen. It’s great. I had dig real deep, it took a lot of imagination [laughs] to come up with what that would feel like. I think for me it has more to do with growing up, being a woman, trying to break away from whatever bonds my family had put on me and feeling like now, physically and because of the curse of being a vampire was put on me, I can’t do that. I’m again being restricted and caged in some way.
iF: Are you parents excited for you, or are they going, ‘Ack, our little girl is doing vampy things!’
WOLL: No, they’re very excited. I don’t know if they ever would have expected to be seeing me in a role like this, or on a show like this, but they love it, they watch every week, they invite all their friends – they’re incredibly supportive.
iF: When did you know that Jessica was going to be a regular part of the show?
WOLL: After we filmed the last episode, they had left it kind of open and I thought, ‘Oh, I should be back for an episode or two to take the story further, it hasn’t been completed.’ But then they gave me a call and offered a series regular position for the second season and that was a huge surprise and it really changed my life. Jessica was my first true recurring role. I had never done more than one episode of a character. So to be given the opportunity to work on it as twelve one-hour movies is really an opportunity for me to learn and really get my feet wet [in terms of playing a character over a long period of time]. Even in theatre, we would have runs that were a couple of weeks. This is the longest I’ve performed one role.
I always found when I was in theatre, I would do the run, and then it would end, and a month or two later, something new would occur to me and I’d go, ‘Oh, man, I wish I had thought of that when we were working on it,’ because it would be something new to add to it. Because in theatre, every single performance, you try and just find something else, something different, something more involved to lend it new life each time you do it. With film and working on a role for this amount of time, it’s like that month or two later, when I have new epiphany about a character, I am still working on it, so I can start to incorporate. There’s never been a moment when I was bored or thought I’ve figured this all out. If that happens, then I should quit [laughs]. I am constantly finding new little things that interest me about her and this character and the writing absolutely helps with that. They give you incredibly cool little tidbits that spark your imagination, Even now, weeks and months after filming, when I watch the episodes when they air, I go, ‘Oh, that’s interesting. I didn’t even notice I was thinking about that at that moment, but now I want to play with that later on.’
iF: Do you have any specific epiphanies about Jessica that you can point to and say, ‘I suddenly realized …’?
WOLL: Hmm. There was one quite early on. Loneliness was one of the things that hit on me right away [about Jessica]. When I shot the first season, it had been clear to me that this was a very repressed young girl who was now freeing herself and trying to be an individual in a way she hadn’t been allowed to before. But then when they started writing the stuff with Hoyt, I started exploring this relationship with a boy and that love feeling, it occurred to me that this is the first time any man, or woman, or human being, had ever said something to her like, “You, by yourself, are great.” Or “I think your smile is beautiful.” These words are the first time I was ever being complimented in my life or anyone was accepting me and realizing actually what an incredibly lonely life that must be, so Jessica began for me as sort of this strike for freedom, then became this kind of desire and need for a companion, for love and a relationship, and now – I can’t reveal too much – it’s starting to pick up another little thing for me.
One thing that really fascinates me about working in television, unlike working in the theatre and I think even in film, that idea that I’ve spent more time with this character than any film or theatre production would ask me to. I think that as an audience member watching that [evolution over time], you get a really unique perspective on the characters, because you spend that full amount of time with them. You can’t watch them for two hours and form an opinion and then leave. You come back next week and see them do something else, and that might change your opinion or make you realize that what you first thought was wrong. I think about when Jessica was first introduced, she’s kind of this annoying child who speaks back to her maker, but then a couple episodes later, you find that her father was abusive to her, so yeah, maybe she might be a bit aggressive and angry with another father figure who was trying to be controlling. I think in a film, you might have only seen that bratty side and never looked deeper. TV sort of forces you to see that background, and I think people have really adjusted their opinions of Jessica, and I think that’s great, that we can use TV, we can use that medium to do that, to remind us that everybody has a story. I’ve been enjoying that aspect of working in television.
iF: On TRUE BLOOD, when vamps suddenly sport fangs, this is accomplished on set by having the actor raise his or her hand for everything to stop while the fangs are inserted. Have you gotten used to that yet?
WOLL: [laughs] Oh, yeah, it’s pretty routine now. I get to bare my fangs quite a bit this season. The first couple of times the special effects guy comes in and shows you how to do it so they have everything they need. Now I understand the process. I wear tight little dresses, so there’s not a lot of places to keep fangs [hidden] on my costume, but we tend to put it just outside the frame, on a table or the arm of a chair or something, or sometimes even a makeup person will just put their hand right outside [frame] and hold it there for me to reach out and grab.
iF: In the scene where Jessica throws her abusive father against the wall, how that was actually accomplished?
WOLL: They put us on a track, on a moving platform and sort of strapped us into the thing, and then a big strong guy grabbed the back and the camera was sitting on it with us. We rehearsed it a couple of times in slow motion, but then when it was time to go, they rammed us into the wall. [The wall] didn’t break the first time, so they really just rammed this poor actor playing my father into a wall, but then they went in and made a few more scores [in the breakaway wall, so that it would break] and they did it again and it worked right, so that was essentially a one-take scene.
iF: Do you gear up in any way for playing Jessica’s super-strength?
WOLL: You mean push-ups or something [laughs]? No, I – the only thing that I have to adjust is my mentality. I’m not used to being stronger than, say, a big man, so it has more to do with just switching that and knowing in my mind that there’s no hesitation, that without any kind of effort, I can ram that gigantic man against the wall. I think I just tell myself that I’m in control and that there’s nothing he can do about it [laughs].
iF: Is that one of the reasons you got into acting, that you can play something that is not physically likely to happen in reality?
WOLL: For sure. I started in classical acting, in Shakespeare, and most of the stuff that happens in a Shakespeare play is practically fantasy [laughs]. It’s all very heightened. But you have to commit one hundred percent to, ‘I am a vampire, I can throw this man against the wall and there’s no other way about it.’ Or even something as small as speaking with an accent. ‘That’s just how I talk – that’s not an accent, that’s how I speak.’
iF: Do you have a favorite TRUE BLOOD scene so far?
WOLL: Well, I really love Episode Three [of Season Two], meeting Hoyt. For me, that was sort of the first episode where I was working on it and reading the script with this new idea about another struggle, another thing that Jessica was struggling with came to light, so it was very fresh for me, that episode, and I’m quite proud of what Jim and I and Stephen [Moyer as Bill] and Anna [Paquin as Sookie] all found within ourselves to add to that. I really love that episode.
iF: Are you working on any other projects?
WOLL: I’m doing a [film] called LITTLE MURDERS, another called HIGHLAND PARK and a third called MOTHER’S DAY.
iF: Is LITTLE MURDERS based on the Jules Pfeiffer play?
WOLL: I don’t think so.
iF: Are the roles similar to or different from Jessica?
WOLL: Oh, very different from Jessica. I don’t think anybody will ever write a character like Jessica again [laughs]. I’m really safe from repeating that one. Part of the reason I like all three of these pieces so much is that they are very different characters. One is a mother, another is a sexy chain-smoking waitress and the third is a very interesting part, kind of a repressed young girl, but in a very different way than Jessica was. I’m very much looking forward to all of them. I’m happy to have these projects this summer to work on and keep my acting chops warm and fresh.
iF: How was your Comic-Con experience?
WOLL: Out of this world. I have never experienced anything like that before. I went because I had time with my boyfriend. We’re big nerdy genre fans ourselves, so we went to panels every day, we did autograph signings, I waited in line like every other fan girl for my autographs [laughs], so I actually spent more of my time being a fan girl than actually being [approached by] fan girls. But then our actual [TRUE BLOOD panel] was unbelievable. I’ve never seen that kind of [reaction] – people like the show and I’m so honored that they’re willing to tell us about that.
Source: If magazine