Actress Rutina Wesley is surprised that she’s recognized by people wherever she goes in the world. No surprise here, as she’s one of the stars on the red-hot HBO series “True Blood”. Playing Tara Thornton, the no nonsense ‘reality chick” who along with her best friend Sookie Stackhouse, navigates the crazy vampire town Bon Temps, Louisiana, Wesley is on the verge of becoming a household name.
The daughter of a Las Vegas tap dancer and showgirl, Rutina grew up with show business in her blood. After attending the Las Vegas Academy of International Studies, Performing and Visual Arts, she went on to the prestigious Julliard School, before making her acting debut in the David Hare’s Broadway play The Vertical Hour, directed by Sam Mendes, alongside Julianne Moore and Bill Nighy. In 2007, the actress made her feature film debut as the star of the Paramount film, “How She Moved,” before scoring her role on “True Blood”.
The Grio: What makes “True Blood” so popular?
Rutina Wesley: It’s reality meets fantasy. That means anything can happen at any time. And that creates the drama and the comedy, and, sometimes, the ridiculousness of it all. Sometimes it’s like, Really? Am I watching what I think I’m watching? Yes, you’re watching an orgy in the middle of the woods and people are really enjoying themselves. And people can’t help but just watch.
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What can we expect from your character this season?
Wesley: Tara goes on an incredible journey this year. Alan Ball has said that this season is all about identity – finding who you are, maybe even WHAT you are, and how you fit into this world. Tara is, above all, a survivor – so you’ll get to see her continue to fight for survival and find her way. She’s a little unstable right now because of everything that happened to her at the end of Season 2, so she’s got quite a journey ahead of her and hopefully she’ll realize that she has value and can love herself.
Do you feel your character represents a departure for an African-American actor?
Wesley: I think it would be easy to see her as the ‘angry black woman’/best friend but she is so far from some of the African American stereotypes we’ve seen on television. Yes, she speaks her mind and is affirmative but she’s also very smart and underneath it all there is humanity and vulnerability. She’s a little girl who’s like everyone else and seeks love and validation, even if sometimes she looks for it in the wrong places. I think of her as the truth on the show…she’s the human reacting to all these supernatural creatures as any human would react if this were real life and not television. And finally, she is an African American woman living in a small town – some of my favorite scenes were the scenes in Season 1 where Tara would confront the racial stereotypes and not let bigotry go unnoticed.
What’s the fascination with the vampires, werewolves and the occult?
Wesley: I think it’s a lot of fun and people enjoy being taken out of reality and escaping to this fantasyland that Alan Ball has created. I think humans living and interacting with these supernatural beings makes for good drama…It’s reality meets fantasy and anything and everything is possible. There’s a freedom that I think we love because we don’t always get to be as free in real life…I know I enjoy getting to play it!
What other projects are you working on?
Wesley: Just working on finishing up filming Season 3 – this season has been so demanding, I can’t think of anything beyond what I’m filming the next day!