Long before London 2012 saw women’s boxing make its Olympic debut, Anna Paquin – the sometime cute 11-year-old who won an Oscar for her bonnet-wearing performance in The Piano – had been regularly pummelling all-comers round the ring.
‘I’ve boxed for years – I love it,’ she enthuses. ‘I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say girls get angry, angsty and frustrated, too, so it’s good to have a healthy… release. You have to have a bit of a sick desire to experience pain. It’s exhausting, it’s so hard. But I’m a fitness junkie, so anything that isn’t hard is kind of boring for me.’
Paquin, 30, star of HBO’s True Blood is also, it seems, something of a challenge junkie: not only not your average Hollywood actress but a vegetarian ex-goth feminist bisexual who calls herself a ‘geeky weirdo’. On the day we speak, she is seven months pregnant with twins [born healthily the day before we go to press], and clearly deliriously happy with her husband, True Blood co-star Stephen Moyer.
She fell for Moyer after landing the role that has made her a bona fide TV icon: True Blood’s tantalisingly named Sookie Stackhouse, the brave, sweet, liberal, ass-kicking, telepathic and highly sexual ‘human-fairy’ hybrid. A small-town waitress in micro-shorts who has become a feminist emblem for millions (tap ‘Anna’ into Google today, and she’s the planet’s number-one search).
True Blood, HBO’s most-watched show since The Sopranos, is now in season five and is arguably TV’s sexiest show – a graphically sexual fantasy drama, featuring vampires, werewolves and shape shifters, living alongside humans in the fictional small town of Bon Temps, Louisiana (also a poetic allegory for civil and gay rights). Season five continues a three-way pull of spooky suitors for ‘fang banger’ Sookie between three preposterously handsome men: vampire Eric (Alexander Skarsgård), werewolf Alcide (Joe Manganiello) and on/off lover vampire Bill (played by Moyer). The men, gratifyingly, are more often than not just as naked as she is.
‘Nudity just doesn’t faze me,’ muses Paquin in her measured voice – a Canada-born New Zealander, who sounds American with a sporadic burst of pure Kiwi. ‘If it wasn’t something I was up for, I certainly wouldn’t have got involved. I’m sure sometimes it feels like they just take our clothes away because… they like taking our clothes away. But in True Blood, it feels creatively motivated. Sex and sexuality is a big part of adult life. Our target audience is not teenagers.’
Since season one, Paquin has often simulated explosive, completely naked sex with the man who became her real-life boyfriend in 2007, British-born Moyer, whom she married on a beach in Malibu in 2010. Which certainly begs a question: while she could get away with any real erotic stirrings on set, things wouldn’t be, surely, quite so discreet for him. Have they had any, you know, compromising moments?
‘There is a fine line between what we do and what adult actors do,’ she giggles. ‘But we have the Cock Sock that goes around the boys’ bits. It’s a little modesty pouch and they put everything inside there, and it gets tied up. So it’s all very appropriate and professional. And there’s the little patch that goes over the lady bits, basically a thong with the sides cut out of it, which you tape to yourself. Which is not massively pleasant, but it certainly draws clean lines around what they can and cannot show on camera. And it’s not just for the comfort of the actors: the crew don’t want to see more than they absolutely have to. I think it’s kind of polite, y’know?’
Beneath the dyed-blonde hair she kept after Sookie’s creation, the real-life Paquin is an introverted, alabaster-pale brunette, who arrived in New Zealand from Canada, aged four, and grew up into a skateboarding goth besotted with Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Radiohead.
She was nine in 1992 when Jane Campion picked her from an open audition in New Zealand to play Holly Hunter’s daughter in The Piano, despite no acting experience, other than as a skunk in a school play.
A creative kid, Paquin moved to Los Angeles with her mum and older sister in 1995, following her parents’ divorce, where she was ‘picked on’ in school for being ‘the weirdo’. But her acting career flourished, and she was soon increasingly employed as the edgy teen in Hurlyburly (1998), A Walk On The Moon (1999) and Almost Famous (2000) – until the role of Rogue in X-Men (2000) redefined her as an action siren. Unfeasibly, though, despite 10 years as a child/teen star, Paquin never became either an unbearable luvvie or actually insane.
‘I had my own priorities, involving doing well at school and also having a job that mattered to me,’ she notes. ‘And, frankly, if I fucked up at school and was a complete monster to be around, my parents wouldn’t have let me continue to work.’