Kristin Bauer Straten walks the good-evil line as Pam on ‘True Blood’
When we last left HBO’s “True Blood,” the war between the humans and the vampires had just reached a boiling point and the air was thick with the threat of impending violence. Well, more violence. A lot of blood is spilled in this show, but there’s a lot of humor as well. More than most shows of its ilk (despite, perhaps Showtime’s “Dexter”) “True Blood” has managed to strike a fine balance between darkness and light. Pam — the bisexual, acid-tongued, bar-owning vampire, who stomps all over human and vamp underlings alike in spike-heeled boots — exacts violence and comedy in equally skilled measure. We checked in with Kristin Bauer Straten, who plays Pam, before Season 6 premieres on June 16.
What can you tell me about what’s going on with Pam this season, without revealing any spoilers?
That’s always the challenge, isn’t it? We’ve been shooting such long hours all week that I’ve got to get caught up on the trailers so I know what they reveal. I think it’s safe to say there is a human-vampire conflict that’s escalated from what the Authority did last year. And that, of course, causes problems for Pam. So she’s trying to figure out her relationship with her new baby/lover, you know, Rutina (Wesley, who plays Tara). And she’s just reunited with her Maker; she wasn’t sure if he was alive. And then, on top of it, the humans are fighting back.
So it’s safe to say that things are pretty complicated?
Things are a little intense.
When the show first started, did you know that Pam was going to become such a big part of the show?
I definitely did not. Yeah, that was a really lovely surprise because, when I auditioned, they said that it was a guest starring role, possibly recurring. And first season, once Alex (Skarsgård) and I started they kept calling us back. But Season 2, there wasn’t as much Pam. So all of a sudden when Season 3 came around and they started adding quite a bit more Pam, that was a lovely surprise because I love the role and I also love the people I’m working with. We have so much fun. They’re very, very fun people. The hours are long so it makes a huge difference.
Pam is actually one of my favorite characters on the show, and she has really evolved: straight-up evil in the beginning, but now they’re revealing a lot more layers. Do you think she’s more good than bad?
I don’t know if it is a bad sign, or if I’m becoming sort of delusional, but I don’t know if she’s good or evil — but she’s definitely… correct. I feel like what she says, we’re all thinking. You know, she only kills bad people. I feel like she’s a little bit of the person we all wish we could be, but we wouldn’t be able to maintain jobs and friends. (laughs). And Pam is lucky enough to have stepped out of, on purpose, all of those concerns. And, you know, to be top of the food chain, she doesn’t have to worry about liking anybody or vice-versa, people liking her especially. I just think it’s really refreshing.
Speaking to that, I feel that there are more powerful female characters in the show than weak ones. In fact, maybe more powerful female characters than powerful male characters. Do you think that’s true?
Yup, I agree with you. These writers, I think are very sensitive to writing strong female characters. And in my career, that’s just been rare. I haven’t personally gotten to play terribly strong characters before this. I really enjoyed the characters I played, but they were vulnerable, possibly not too bright. You know, using sexuality to try and get by. I think it’s a combination of HBO, and Alan Ball, and our other producers that are sensitive to this. I mean, this week we have a woman DP, which is unusual; we have a lot of women directors. We were sitting around Video Village this week and someone was reading an article about the astoundingly small percentage of females in top positions in Hollywood, and we looked up and realized that there were seven women and only on guy — the director this week, Romeo — in that area. We had a woman producer, a woman DP, a woman script supervisor, me, and then just one guy. And I thought ‘Wow, what a lovely world for a woman to be in.’ It’s so unusual.
On that note, I think Pam and other female characters do use their sexuality as a tool, but it’s in an empowered way, not in a weak way.
Yeah, that’s Pam. I think everyone in “True Blood” is very sexual but definitely from the vampire perspective, they’re always in charge. They’re in the leadership role in all of their relationships. It’s probably another reason why we as a culture love to watch vampires. You know, we get to escape our regular roles and our regular lives.
Yeah. I was actually going to ask if you felt that the influx of vampire shows, and movies and books, and just sort of the obsession with vampires of late has made people lose interest? Do you think it’s on the wane?
I don’t know. I’m so surprised by it. I am a little out of touch with all of the different TV shows and movies, but just this week, I saw that there was another one coming out, or just came, out with vampire teens, and I thought ‘Wow, it’s apparently not waning.’ I find that so interesting. And we’ve all analyzed it, all of us on the show, to try to make some sense of it, but all I can do is sort of make up a theory. I’m not exactly sure if it’s true, but it may be a symptom of our time, of wanting to escape and, for me as an actress, it’s an incredible place to escape to — a character that has no fear of dying, of poverty, of illness, of aging. You know, those are all of the things that we, as humans, spend a lot of time thinking about.
Absolutely. I think that’s a pretty good theory. So, with that, how many more seasons have you guys been approved for?
They pick us up as we go along. They usually air the season and decide, so we’re all on the set coming to the end of shooting Season 6 and really hoping that we get to stay together and keep having so much fun.
Where do you see yourself going next, once it’s run its course?
A couple of things would be fun for me. One is to go back to comedy, which is where I started. I did a lot of sitcoms. Super fun. I would love to go back to that world, possibly with a live audience. And then, I have a secret hope that I can stay in the world of cable television, HBO. It’s just nice to be in a world without advertising. And I know that, the other networks — kids today don’t know that the networks are free. You can get a coat hanger and you can watch ABC and CBS and NBC. So, I understand they have to be paid for, but it is a different feel working for HBO, where the creative content doesn’t have that control and so, clearly, we get to do things that you cant do when, you know, little kids might be watching and people might be trying to sell soap.
I want to ask you a few random, fun questions. To start, if you could be a werewolf or a vampire in real life, which would you choose? And you can’t be human.
I’d usually pick a vampire. Yeah. I mean, I have gotten very comfortable in falling in love with the vampire world, but I’m a huge dog lover and I think it would be kind of incredible to get to live in a pack. So it’s only by a hair that I’d say I would like to stay a vampire.
No pun intended.
If we were to hear on the news that one of the mythical creatures from the show, and there are so many, turned out to actually exist in real life, what do you think would most likely be a real creature?
Um, let’s see. Well, I’d like to say a shapeshifter.
I feel like in my life I’ve been called a shapeshifter because I’ve played so many different roles. And for some reason, if I dye my hair brown, I’m unrecognizable, even to the people I’ve dated. A friend of mine who’s a photographer has taken a lot of pictures of me will say, ‘You know, you shapeshift. Even within the same roll of film, you look different.’ And I’ve certainly dated people that I thought were one person and turned out to be another. So I think we’re just one chromosome away from making that actually happen one of these days. I think that’s the most likely.
If you were a vampire in real life, do you think that you would be satisfied drinking True Blood? Or would you just go the human blood route?
I’d prefer to stay away from modern — what would you call them — chemically altered beverages. (laughs) You know, I don’t drink soda, I stick with green tea, I try to eat organic, and I try to eat free range. So I would definitely go the old school route and find willing donors… most of the time.
To steal a ‘Twilight’ thing, are you Team Bill or Team Eric?
There’s just no way for me to separate myself completely from the character; I just have to be Team Eric.
I’m Team Eric too, but maybe I just think he’s cuter. But I do like Bill.
I like Bill too, and I certainly like how Pam makes fun of Bill.
Which character do you most personally relate to?
Again, I spent so many years running next to Alex, and having my feelings and Pam’s feelings cross over at times, that I’d relate the most to Eric. I’ve worked really hard to perfect that, and for that to be my job. But when I watch the show, I tend to really love the way that Ryan [Kwanten] plays Jason Stackhouse. I think he’s just a comic genius. He’s so different from his character that I find it fascinating to watch such an eloquent, sweet, lovely, evolved Australian play Jason. It’s quite miraculous.