TB-N: What did you know in advance about the character of Jessica before you read for it?
Just the breakdown: A conservative religious teenager who is chosen as a sacrifice for a vampire tribunal. She begs for her life and when death seems inevitable she prays for forgiveness…something along those lines.
TB-N: We’ve read that the role of Jessica was initially going to be a recurring role with only two or three episodes. Do you know when the role was expanded to go through season two?
I heard about it just before we filmed the final episode of season one. That’s when they told me that I had been offered a series regular position, which I wasn’t expecting at all. Based on the last episode I thought they might use me for a few more because the story was unfinished, but I had no idea they wanted to expand the role more generously.
TB-N: What surprised you the most about the popularity of Jessica’s character?
I was surprised at how open the fans were to see the character in a different light. She was initially presented as a bit of a pain, but other perhaps more tragic sides of the role have been addressed in the second season. I was surprised that people seemed so willing to change their first impressions.
TB-N: Has your life been changed as a result of your popularity on True Blood?
My life has certainly changed because of True Blood and Jessica. First of all, more roles have opened up to me, and I now have more opportunities to meet other artists. It has also changed how I am perceived. I think before I may have been seen as a more wholesome type; and now edgier projects are opening up to me, which I am very pleased about.
TB-N: We’ve read in other interviews that the character Jessica is nothing like you in real life, but we do see the shyness in Jessica, which we hear is a part of your persona. Are there any other characteristics of Jessica that you share?
Jessica definitely has shyness to her, but I think the difference is she can’t be alone. She needs stimulation to come from outside herself, which is the mark of an extrovert – and why she goes looking for trouble. I am definitely an introvert. I prefer being alone or with a very few close friends. I would never go to a bar by myself to pick up a strange boy. She is far braver than I.
I would say that Jessica and I are romantics. For both of us, the most important thing in the world is to love someone and be loved in return. Everything we do hinges on that. At heart, Jessica is just trying to do the right thing and find out who she wants to be – and that involves making mistakes. Unfortunately, a mistake as a vampire could lead to murder, but to each their own. ; ) Of course, questioning and searching are marks of humanity that we all understand. We just all go about it differently.
TB-N: You play the piano and so does Stephen Moyer. If given the chance, would you consider playing piano on the show, perhaps in a scene where Daddy Compton is teaching Jessica?
Ha Ha. That’s an interesting idea. I’ve often thought that Jessica probably would have had strict lessons growing up and so she might hold some resentment towards the instrument. That would be a fun scene: Daddy Compton tried to get me to go back to it. I could cause some havoc with that. Bwa-Ha-Ha!
TB-N: Can you tell us a bit about your interactions with the other cast members on the show? Do any of the actors on TB act as a mentor?
I’ve worked with only a small group of people. I hope to get to work with more of the cast next year. So far, it’s mostly been Stephen, Anna, Jim, and Dale; and I love them all. Anna and Stephen set such a nice atmosphere for the set: a kind, hardworking, and fun environment. Jim is so talented, easy and dedicated. It’s not often to find an actor who’s willing to put in the extra time like he does. Rehearsals make all the difference for me; so it means a lot that he is willing to commit to that process. And Dale is so brilliant. If there were an award for most transformative performance it would go to her. For such a mean close-minded character, she is the most open and caring person. It’s inspiring. They all act as mentors for me. I am impressed and inspired by all of them everyday. Is that gushy enough for ya? : )
TB-N: If you had to pick just one from each season, what would be your favorite True Blood episode from season one and season two?
Season one: Episode 5 – When we find out about Bill’s past as he comes to the church to talk about the Civil War. The moment I saw that episode, I really started to understand the show and what it had to offer. Now I always give a show at least 5 episodes to hook me.
Season two: Episode 3 – Partly because it contains some of my work that I am most proud of, but mostly because the episode was so riveting – and it set up so much for the season without being boring or didactic. The opening sequence where Sookie gets scratched is terrifying. We also start to see Maryann’s true colors come through for the first time. I loved watching it.
TB-N: Can you tell us a little about your time at USC? Was it difficult to juggle classes and casting calls? Were you a partier or studier?
I didn’t have casting calls during college. I didn’t get representation until after I graduated. I was in their conservatory program, so all my classes were acting related. Outside of class I did productions at USC and did other acting programs during my summer breaks. Yeah, I’m a bit of a theater nerd. In four years, I performed in upwards of 20 plays in various programs. So needless to say, I was a studier. Of course, since parties make me nervous, it was never really a sacrifice. I like acting. I can’t think of anything that I’d rather do with my time.
TB-N: Can you tell us how you landed your first role?
I auditioned. I got my sag card by doing some extra work, and I went in on a guest spot for “Life.” It was quite a significant role and when I look back on it now, I’m not sure I was really ready for it. I had been acting for 10 years, but it was a lot of responsibility for my first film gig. I watch it now and I can see the terror in my eyes. I can see that I was holding back and falling into old acting habits that I had thought I had conquered years before.
TB-N: We know that your boyfriend EJ turned you on to comic books, and in episode 5 “Never Let Me Go,” Hoyt reads a comic book “Space Tomb” to Jessica over the phone. Was that a coincidence or did you have something to do with that?
No, that was all up to props and the writers. The writers felt it appropriate for Hoyt to be a comic book reader, and I suppose props department chose “Space Tomb”. But I won’t lie, Hoyt is definitely my type: kind and nerdy.
TB-N: Can we talk about EJ? I have had the honor of being a pen pal with him and he seems like the sweetest guy with a great sense of humor. How did you meet EJ? What did you do on your first date?
He is the sweetest! I’m so glad you agree. The best thing about dating nerds – and I should know because I am one myself – is that we place great value on the things we care about. And to be the focus of that type of attention and affection is the most amazing feeling in the world. And it doesn’t hurt that he is super cute and funny, too.
We actually met on Match.Com. Yes, I am such a recluse that I even find my boyfriends online. Ha Ha! But it worked out great, because he’s perfect for me. On our first date, I watched him perform at Io West – He’s an improviser and comedian. I saw him on stage before I ever met him. I thought he was really brave. Apparently though, I was less than impressive. As I said, I get nervous in bar situations and I had driven a roommate to the airport really early that morning so I was tired as well. He said I looked bored. the poor guy! At least he didn’t give up on me. I lightened up later. I promise.
TB-N: You have stated previously that you didn’t really have a fan base, but now, after Comic-Con, I hope you believe you HAVE a fan base – a large one – and there are Jessica T-shirts in the wild. When you were at Comic-Con and you heard the crowd go wild for you, were you surprised? Can you tell us how you felt?
Incredibly surprised. I had only just begun to get recognized and couldn’t believe more than a few people even cared; but there was so much warmth and appreciation at Comic-Con, it was overwhelming. I had no idea. Skarsgard was the real hit though. I sat next to him, and I was just blown away and so happy for him. He really deserves it.
I am glad that a character like Jessica can attract a following. She is deeply flawed and as such, she represents those people who need love and support the most. I work really hard to uncover her soul, so it’s gratifying that people are responding to my interpretation.
TB-N: One geek to another, are you still playing Wonderland? What other computer or console games are you playing nowadays? Do you even have time anymore?
Absolutely!! There are 4 Wonderland games. It’s neverending. And I’m sure there will be a new edition before I get completely through with these. I also like the Submachine games and Daymare Town. You can play those online for free. Those are very difficult, elaborate point and click games. I always make time for them. I don’t sleep very well, so there are late nights. Also I’m finding in this business, since there aren’t designated 9 To 5 work hours, I have to set aside time just for myself. I play computer games or watch Mystery Science Theatre.
TB-N: To continue with your self-proclaimed “geekdom,” Comic-Con must have been heaven for you. What were the highlights of Comic-Con for you, besides True Blood of course?
Heaven? Yes and no. One of the wonderful aspects of Comic-Con is that it provides the opportunity for groups of people who may feel ostracized from so-called normal society to come together and feel part of a nonjudgmental community. I love that part about it. However, I am a geek, but I’m not a social geek. There are hundreds of thousands of people there – and even though it’s an alternative community, It’s still a bit difficult for me. I admire it, but I also found it overwhelming.
My favorite was by far the Rifftrax panel. Those are the Mst3K guys. I have big crushes on them all and it was so cool to see them in person. I was shaking because I was so excited and scared. I couldn’t go to the autograph signing, so my boyfriend went and got their signatures and a picture for me. He’s the best.
TB-N: As far as acting goes, what’s been your most satisfying work to date? What was the most fun?
True Blood is high on the list, but my top favorite work was in my senior year at college, the Threepenny opera. That production as a whole was so much fun and I was able to accomplish so much with it, both for myself as an actor and for the message of the play. I don’t often get to sing or dance, and I really love both. So this was a way to do both, but still have it essentially be about acting, with the voice and body being the icing on the cake. Brecht is genius. He and Shakespeare are my favorite playwrights to perform.
TB-N: Has TB opened other doors in the industry for you? Can you tell us about your upcoming projects, Mother’s Day and Little Murder?
True Blood has been instrumental in helping to move my career forward. Now I don’t have to prove that I’m capable every time I enter an office. Now the questions are: is this project right for me? And am I the best choice for it at this time? It relieves so much pressure, which is nice.
I am working on three features this summer. I shot “Little Murder” already; that is going to be an interesting movie, fantastic story and beautifully shot. I am currently in Canada working on “Mother’s Day.” I am very happy with this project because everyone is so serious about it, which is rare for this genre. We are all trying to make the best thriller possible. Plus Bousman and his team are remarkable. “Repo!” Anyone? Wow! Although this should look and feel quite a bit different. The last film is “Highland Park”. It’s a gorgeous script about a forgotten city. I am glad to be a part of such diverse and important projects.
TB-N: You’ve done both television and motion pictures, can you tell us which you prefer?
Well, it’s not TV, it’s HBO. That is true to a point. We film True Blood like a feature. The only difference is that I live at home instead of a hotel room, and I work for 8 consecutive months. That said, compared to the few more typical television guest spots I’ve done, I do prefer features. Television is usually up against the wall in terms of deadlines and budget, therefore, the work must be very quick and efficient. The people who can do it are amazing. For me, it’s hard to keep up that pace. I like to take my time and work through things. Maybe when I’m more experienced, I won’t feel as intimidated by the TV process.
JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS
TB-N: Who (or what) do you look to for inspiration in everyday life?
Research. Artwork. The more I can understand about a certain life experience or personality type, the easier I can imagine myself inhabiting it. For Mother’s Day, I’ve been researching what parenting techniques and personality types lead to criminal behavior. I’ve been looking at Norman Rockwell paintings because Darren said he was going for that aesthetic. Then I looked at photographs of real wounds, so that when someone in the film is harmed, it becomes real for me, because I can visualize it.
Archetype or Macrocosm? One of the very first questions I ask myself when I start a project is “Why does this character’s story need to be told?” Creating an experience and eliciting emotions are important, but art has to have a point of view. I think that no matter how much fun a movie might be, that in some way we recognize the pain a character like Lydia (Whom I play in Mother’s Day) is experiencing and thus we learn how careful we must be in our treatment of others.
TB-N: When Deborah Ann Woll isn’t busy acting, where would we most likely find her? What would she be doing for fun?
I would be on the couch with the boy watching Mst3K or a Rifftrax – or I would be making lists about how I want to run my life and surroundings.
TB-N: What’s your favorite movie of all time?
“Brazil” and “Zulu,” ooh and “Wages Of Fear.”
TB-N: What is your favorite TV show of all time?
Mst3K. No surprise there. I also love “Newsradio” and “The Soup.”
TB-N: Can you give us a favorite line from a TV or Movie show?
“Pain don’t hurt” – The immortal Roadhouse
“Chief, are they slow moving?” “Yeah, they’re… they’re dead. They’re… They’re all messed Up.” – Night Of The Living Dead.
TB-N: Who would you most like to work with that you haven’t yet? And why?
They are mostly dead so I guess I’m out of luck. But of the living, I’d say Terry Gilliam or Lawrence Kasdan. I like that their work says so much about humanity and reality without being naturalistic. Self-reflexive, imaginative movies are my favorites.
TB-N: And if we may be so bold, what was the last thing that pissed you off?
I have only been seriously pissed off a very few times in my life. But the last time would have to be when a concierge lost a script that had been delivered to a hotel for me. Not only did this mishap prevent me from getting any work done, but also a highly confidential script was now potentially compromised. I was pretty mad about that. Luckily, a copy was E-mailed to the hotel and was printed out for me, but I never did hear what happened to the lost one.
TB-N: And the last thing that made you laugh?
My boyfriend. I can’t tell you why. But he makes me laugh all the time. He even sent me flowers the other day for no reason. I love him so.