During this past Sunday’s heart-wrenching episode of True Blood, Eric Northman watched helplessly as his beloved vampire “sister,” Nora Gainesborough, perished from a government-engineered disease called Hepatitis V. As she took her last undead breaths, Nora beseeched Eric to seek comfort in his two remaining “family” members: his progeny, Pam Swynford de Beaufort, and the newly turned baby vamp Willa Burrell.
Willa, the daughter of recently decapitated vampire hatemonger Gov. Truman Burrell, has already proven herself a loyal and cunning addition to Eric’s clan. Over the past two episodes, she single-handedly helped Eric and a dying Nora to escape from her father’s diabolical Vamp Camp. While she remains unaware that her double-crossing dad is, ahem, no longer in office, she is poised to take a significant role in the ongoing human-vampire war as True Blood approaches its final three episodes of the season.
Shortly after wrapping on TB, Willa herself, a/k/a Amelia Rose Blaire, called up Rolling Stone from Los Angeles, where she was enjoying some much-deserved downtime, to talk about joining the cast of one of her favorite TV shows.
Were you a fan of True Blood before you got cast?
I’ve been a Truebie since Season One. I was hooked when it first started, and I would go to my friends’ houses and watch it every single week. So being on the show itself was unreal.
Who were your favorite characters?
I’ve always loved the vampires on the show, like Eric and Pam and Bill. And the guest characters that they bring on, like Fiona Shaw.
Besides Fiona Shaw, anyone else in particular?
Rutger Hauer. He’s incredible! Such a character on- and offscreen. I always saw him riding around the lot on his bicycle with his hair all big and crazy, smoking cigarettes. And he does such a fantastic job. I’m really liking his Niall.
Did he give you any advice for someone who is still starting out in the business?
I talked a lot to Arliss Howard, who played my father, and he gave me some great advice on the first day. Because I was nervous and I was like, “I want to do a good job. I want to prove that they made the right choice in hiring me.” And he pulled me aside and was like, “Hey, you’ve got the job, so anything you do, everything you do, is right. There’s nothing wrong. All of your choices from here on out, are right, because the character is yours.” And so that was really cool to have him tell me that, especially because he’s such a talented actor. It was so fascinating to watch him on set, because every single time he would do something different. He was very physical, always yipping and yelping [laughs] in his character, so having him tell me that was really special.
What was your reaction when you saw the finished product of the scene where Willa was turned? It was the first beautiful vampire-turning scene that I’ve seen on True Blood.
It was a trip when I saw it because I don’t remember shooting that scene. We shot it in many different sections because with the blood, we couldn’t do it in one seamless shot. But seeing it afterward, I thought it turned out really well. I remember after I shot the scene, I got home and the next morning I woke up and I went through such a strange reaction. Like, I woke up really, really angry, and then I got really, really sad, and then I got really, really happy and then angry again. I was like, “Whoa, what is going on?” And then I realized, “I died last night!” So of course I’m going to have this extremely volatile reaction to that, and it was also a very similar reaction to the one Willa had when she woke up the next evening. She was really, really happy, then really, really mad, and then very betrayed, so I definitely had a parallel with my reaction afterward.
Do you think Willa really wanted to become a vampire, or did she just want to get closer to Eric? It’s tough to know now because the second she was turned, she got sent to Vamp Camp!
I think she probably didn’t know what it meant to be a vampire. I think the idea of it was extremely fascinating and very seductive. And, of course, Eric is such a compelling character and he’s scary – but he’s also really sexy. And I think that when she made that decision, when she said, “OK, let’s do this,” I don’t think she necessarily thought of what it would mean for the rest of her life, so I think she knew what she was doing but didn’t think it all the way through. She was like, “This is what I want,” and jumped.
Do you think she has some regrets now?
For me, as an actor, the thing that moved me about what happened to her afterward was her disappointment in her father. The scene when she comes back to him, when I read it, I thought it was so sad, especially because she gets what she wants, she convinces him and it’s her own demon that comes out and ruins it. I thought that was very tragic. But then the fact that he still sends her to this camp, I think that she has this huge disappointment. It’s her father, this man whom she’s known for her entire life, who helped her walk, and has been there for everything, has completely forsaken her. Her one hope is dashed.
What do you think Eric saw in Willa that persuaded him to make her a vampire? He said he didn’t make this decision lightly, and even in the case of Pam, she gave him no choice. Willa is the first person he has voluntarily turned.
I’d like to think that he saw something in her that surprised him, and that was a power that he didn’t recognize before. But Alex [Skarsgård], the way that he built his character, it’s so multidimensional, and I think that he probably had many reasons why, and that was one of them. I don’t know what was going on in his head, but I’d like to think that it was because he saw a strength and a power in her that was different.
How does the fake blood taste?
Minty and very sweet! Yeah, I got many mouthfuls of it. If you drink too much of it the next day it’s like, “OK, my stomach is a little queasy.” But it’s a fun prop to play with.
Most of the vampires on True Blood get to wear the sexiest, slinkiest costumes out of everyone, but Willa’s only gotten to wear a dirty, bloody nightgown and prison blues! Any costume envy going on?
I actually loved that nightgown. I got really attached to it, and all of the different stages of it. They had the first one, and then in the beginning of episode four, it started getting a little muddy around the bottom, and then the final one was all covered in blood. So by the time I had to go into the prison scrubs I was like, “I want to go back in the nightgown!” [laughs]. It was just so beautiful; Audrey [Fisher] just does a fantastic job, all of the costume department. But I love wearing costumes and anything puts you in a certain state of mind, so the prison scrubs definitely put me in a very specific state of mind, too. But I would love to get to eventually wear some kind of traditional, sexy vampire outfit.
True Blood has dealt over the seasons with the vampires’ struggle with humanity. We’ve seen it with Bill, Eric, Pam and especially with Jessica. Do you think it will be easy for Willa to maintain her humanity or will it be a struggle? I mean, two minutes into her reunion with her father, she’s trying to eat him!
I think that for me, what it means to be a vampire – it’s kind of like your eyes have been opened. Willa has been very sheltered, her father has kept her in the dark, and toward the end, she was snooping around and trying to figure things out for herself. So I think that there will definitely be some rebellion because she completely went against her father, and she’s in this new life with this new set of eyes. But I also think that the battle that she’s joined now, this war, is very human as well. It’s about people’s rights and vampires’ rights, so I think that that’s something that’s very close to her, and now she’s in the middle of it. So she has to maintain her humanity for that fight.
What can you dish on the rest of the season?
There are definitely going to be a lot of things that are going to make people’s jaws drop, and people’s heartstrings are going to get pulled. And because I was a fan of the show from the beginning, something that I love about what [showrunner] Brian Buckner has done is, he’s grounded it back in something that was very similar to what I loved about the show when it first came out, which was the humanity in the vampires.