I feel kind of stupid saying that music inspires me,” says Anna Paquin, during her morning commute to the set of HBO’s vampire drama True Blood, in which she stars as Sookie Stackhouse, a big-hearted waitress with a thing for the undead. “I love music, but when I try to narrow it down, to describe it, I feel dumb.” The 27-year-old Oscar winner recently acquired a new outlook on the power of the playlist. “I just learned to drive, and I’ve discovered the pleasure of good driving music,” she says, “especially now that I’m confident enough to have noise around me when I’m behind the wheel.” Fully immersed in True Blood’s third season, which premieres next month, Paquin admits that she has been too busy to search out new songs, so it’s helpful that Stephen Moyer—her real-life fiancé and love interest on the show—came into her life with a large music library. “A lot of the music I listen to comes from him,” she admits. “I think he has half of iTunes on his computer.”
Lady Gaga’s “Teeth.” I’m sure that everyone else on the planet jumped on the Lady Gaga bandwagon long ago, but I was just introduced to her music last month. She has this amazing voice and, honest to God, it sounds like this song was written about our TV show. It’s great workout music.
Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People.” This one is a throwback to my sad, little goth-girl adolescence. It’s been on my playlist since I was 14, when I dyed my hair black and wore kneehigh Doc Martens. I went to a Marilyn Manson concert about two years ago, and there were no teenagers in the audience.
Radiohead’s “Talk Show Host.” This is embarrassing, because my taste in music hasn’t changed much since I was a kid. This was on the soundtrack for Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, and it wasn’t on any of Radiohead’s albums at that point. Stephen and I got tickets for the Haiti benefit they did a few months back, so I finally got to see them in concert. It was a tiny, amazing gig. I’ve missed hearing them perform so many times that I’d stopped trying. I’d get tickets and then get a job far, far away, almost to the point where if I were superstitious about it, I’d have started buying Radiohead tickets just to get the jobs I really wanted.
Johnny Cash and June Carter’s “Jackson.” This was my theme song when I was auditioning for the role of Sookie. June Carter has a sassy Southern galtype voice that my coach and I worked with to get Sookie’s accent just right. I love their banter at the beginning of the song, him saying naughty things and her being cute and flirty about it.
Kings of Leon’s “Sex on Fire.” I love bands that still make rock music.
Anna Nalick’s “Wreck of the Day.” She’s a singersongwriter in the vein of Aimee Mann, very sweet and slightly melancholic. When I’m trying to get into the mood for a scene, I’ll listen to a song like this. Sets are noisy places and if you’re trying to get into a less happy place, it’s good to have some way of tuning all that out. I usually put together a playlist of songs that make me cry, and this is one of them.
Mark Ronson’s “Toxic.” This is a cover of a Britney Spears song. Mark Ronson and Ol’ Dirty Bastard covering Britney is pretty funny.
Modest Mouse’s “Bukowski.” I have to plead complete idiocy because I’ve never actually read any Charles Bukowski. I may seem it, but I’m not particularly book-smart. I don’t sit around reading important philosophical texts. There’s a perception that if you’re not someone who smiles all the time, then you’re someone who sits around reading tortured literature. I’d rather ride my bike to the beach.
The Puppini Sisters’ “Crazy in Love (The Real Tuesday Weld Remix).” They’re an electrosinging trio, a throwback to the ’60s and they remixed the Beyoncé song. I was obsessed with this one for quite some time.
Fiona Apple’s “Parting Gift.” I’ve loved her for so many years. She’s an icon for sad-girl singer-songwriters everywhere. I don’t think you’re allowed to be a tortured teen, in the most on-the-nose pretentious way possible, without having listened to Fiona Apple. This song has interesting insight into relationships—but not the one I’m in right now.