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Rutina Wesley Talks HBO's 'True Blood'

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If you're a television addict, then you already know this Sunday (June 13) begins season three of HBO's vampire drama, "True Blood." We couldn't be more excited. The far-fetched story line follows a telepath named Sookie Stackhouse, played by Anna Paquin, who dates a vampire named Bill Compton, played by Stephen Moyer, because she can't hear his thoughts -- he's dead, technically. Sookie also works as a bar waitress with her friend Tara Thorton, played by Rutina Wesley, and Tara's cousin Lafayette Reynolds, played by Nelsan Ellis, who's featured in the June issue of ESSENCE Magazine. If you've ever had a bad day and need a 60 minute break from reality, "True Blood" is it. Not to mention, Rutina, who's performed on Broadway in "The Vertical Hour" and starred in the film "How She Move," kicks butt as she tries to keep Sookie and herself out of trouble in their small Southern town of Bon Temps, Louisiana.   ESSENCE.com chatted with Rutina about how she isn't playing an angry black woman, marrying beyond color and just who controls Tara's mind during this season of "True Blood."   ESSENCE.com: Growing up in Las Vegas, your mother was a showgirl and your father is a professional tap dancer. How did that influence your childhood? RUTINA WESLEY: It was fun and I used to dance with them. Dancing is my first passion but I had to get out of Las Vegas. It's too hot and I belive wherever you're from you should always get out. I wanted to explore the world and make something of myself. Staying in Vegas would've been too easy for me.   ESSENCE.com: You attended Julliard, is that where you met your husband, actor Jacob Fishel? WESLEY: Yes, we were in the same class at Julliard. We thought, 'if we could spend four years together at this crazy school, then we can make it the rest of our lives.' He's an amazing actor, cook and husband. I enjoy him immensely.   ESSENCE.com: We're sure you've heard the discussions surrounding black women's dating habits and Regina King recently told us that black should date outside of their race. Do you agree?   WESLEY: I've always loved who I loved and it never mattered to me where they were from. That's how it should be, wherever your heart tells you to go, you go. A lot of people still have problems with [inter-racial relationships] these days, but I like to focus on what I know in my heart and I found my soul mate. Just because he happens to be outside of my race doesn't matter to me.   ESSENCE.com: You also met your co-star Nelsan Ellis at Julliard. How'd you two become friends? WESLEY: He's was one year above me at Julliard and we became really close at school. We acted together and I performed in one of the plays he'd written called "Ugly." Nelsan is my boy, I love him and I think you can tell on screen that we really know each other. He always makes me laugh, and I always have to be on my toes because he's so good with improv. I just love working with him.   ESSENCE.com: Tara, the original character in the "True Blood" books, entitled "The Sookie Stackhouse" novels, is white and a minor character, how have you molded her into an African-American leading role? WESLEY: It's great for me because I have a job and it makes sense to put some color in the community. "True Blood" creator Alan Ball wanted to make it a little more real life because there's always a mixture of people in small towns even if just one Mexican or one African-American family. It also makes better television if you include different colors and shades. Playing Sookie's best friend, I don't think Tara is the angry black female stereotype because she has so many different shades to her. I see her as yielding to her inner child that needs a lot of attention and love. She had to grow up really fast and I've met black women who've had to take care of siblings or parents and had it tough. So, it's nice to see that experience represented on television, though its not every black woman's experience.   ESSENCE.com: Do you find yourself defending Tara against accusations of portraying another angry black woman?   WESLEY: Some people think she is, but what interests me as an actor is what's underneath. For Tara, it's that small child seeking validation. We don't know where her father is, he's never on the show and I have my own backstory that I've created in my head. It's also nice see her alcoholic mother get her life together and eventually Tara will have some happiness. But in life, we're not happy 24-7. Alan's lets the characters be happy for awhile and then the weeds come in.   ESSENCE.com: We've heard that Tara is somehow enslaved by a vampire this season, how'd that happen? WESLEY: The rug has been pulled from under Tara and she's at such a vulnerable state that she's like whatever. Then this Franklin Mott character comes, played by James Frain, and she follows him kind of by choice and kind of not. It's very interesting because he's tall, dark and handsome with an emphasis on the dark. Tara's struggling with him, to get away from him and to survive. I love this season because you get to see the fight in her and I love working with James. We have a great dynamic, he's a little on the pyschotic side.   ESSENCE.com: Your husband aside, do Tara and Franklin have any steamy scenes we can anticipate? WESLEY: It's "True Blood" so there's a scene or two, or five. You can never escape that... it's HBO. ESSENCE.com: Speaking of sexy, does Ryan Kwanten, who plays Jason Stackhouse, happen to walk around the set naked? If so, we need to visit... WESLEY: No, he's actually kind of shy. He definitely doesn't parade around with shirt off, we don't get to see it all unless it's on screen. Ryan is really a gentlemen.   ESSENCE.com: Finally, got any more spoilers for season three of "True Blood"? WESLEY: It's going to be bloody with plenty of action and stunts -- I actually do my own stunts -- so get ready!   "True Blood" season three premieres on HBO this Sunday, June 13, at 9pm EST.
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