After playing a character who couldn’t be touched in those “X-Men” movies, Anna Paquin gets touched, bitten, beaten, kicked, pummelled and thoroughly trashed in Alan Ball’s new HBO vampire drama “True Blood.”
What’s more, she loves every bruising minute of it.
“I found it kind of funny that I did three action films and didn’t do any of the action,” she says of her role as untouchable “X-Men” heroine Rogue.
“I was deeply looking forward to getting to mess somebody up or get messed up or to use some super-duper power thing, and that just wasn’t the direction that my character took.”
The Oscar-winning actress says her latest character, innocent but adventurous Louisiana waitress Sookie Stackhouse, “gets her ass kicked pretty thoroughly on several occasions” on “True Blood,” which premieres Sunday night in Canada on the Movie Network and Movie Central.
Speaking on the phone from Los Angeles, the 26-year-old says she has a great stunt double, but begged to get padded up so she could get in on the rough stuff.
“If you can do it, why not,” she says. “You only live once.”
Not to give too much away, but Stackhouse gets ambushed and viciously attacked toward the end of the first episode. At one point, she’s lying on the ground getting kicked half to death. Paquin says the pads protected her rib cage and vital organs but she is really getting kicked in the scene. “It’s not, like, 100 per cent fake,” she says.
Which is cool, says Paquin, who was born in Winnipeg and raised in New Zealand.
“Nothing feels more visceral and exciting than knowing that if you don’t focus on what you’re doing, you might get kicked in the face. It makes it very immediate and very real.”
Some viewers may find “True Blood” a bit of a kick in the face. The first two episodes are incredibly explicit, with plenty of graphic violence and sexual content.
At the centre of it all is Paquin, who plays the wide-eyed heroine of the series. Stackhouse has an unusual gift — she can read other people’s minds. It’s also a curse. Frankly, she’s tired of eavesdropping on the thoughts of her family and co-workers. She’d kill to shut it all out.
Then one day, a vampire walks into her bar. Bill Compton (U.K. actor Stephen Moyer) is brooding, sensual and doesn’t look a day over 30 despite being 173 years old. It is the near future, and now that the Japanese have developed a nourishing blood substitute, vampires are coming out of the coffin (or the closet) and are slowly being integrated into society.
This hunky stranger soon gets Stackhouse’s blood stirring. He’s the latest vampire to emerge in print (this series was inspired by the popular Sookie Stackhouse novels of Charlaine Harris) and network television (including last year’s CBS misfire, “Moonlight”).
Paquin’s not sure why those other blood-suckers had fans, but she knows why Compton clicks: he’s hot.
“You know, the drop-dead gorgeous thing?” she says. “Whatever. Esthetics.”
She also gets the general vampire appeal overall.
“They’re mysterious and dangerous,” she says. “There’s the drinking of the blood, the slightly creepy sensuality and intimacy of the act. The contemplation of would you do it?”
As Paquin says, “you can get close, but you never really know if you’re going to be dinner.”
She feels the chemistry between the two actors was there at the first read through. It had to be, she says.
“These two characters fall in love, so you hope the two actors actually have some click and chemistry on screen, otherwise it would be really boring.”
There have been rumours that Paquin and Moyer are romantically involved off-screen. Paquin deflects that as deftly as a choreographed kick to the face.
“I don’t talk about my personal life,” she says.
And here’s why: Paquin feels that when she’s watching actors she knows too much about in a scene, “I stop thinking about them as characters and I’m just thinking about some stupid thing I read in a magazine and I don’t believe them. Even if they’re really good.”