It’s difficult enough making it as a working actor, but it’s even trickier if you’re an actor on the HBO vampire-fetish drama True Blood. The show has a Cannonball Run–sized cast, with storylines competing, like a gang of prepubescent boys with a stick and a dead frog, to see which can be the grossest. If you’re in the True Blood cast and you want to be noticed, you have to either have explicit and blood-soaked sex in which you or your partner (or both) is bitten, mauled, disfigured, or had his or her head turned 180 degrees, or be a hot guy with ridiculously ripped abs who repeatedly takes off his shirt for no apparent reason. And then there’s Pam, played with sassy swagger by Kristin Bauer, who has gone from being a barely noticeable minor character—she runs the Fangtasia nightclub and is vampire sheriff Eric Northman’s B.F.F.—to one of True Blood’s most beloved and memorable vamps. And she did it without once flashing an areola. On last Sunday’s episode, Pam stole the show yet again with just one badass line: “I’ll give you 24 hours to deliver that witch to me,” she announced to a group of very freaked-out wiccans. “And if you don’t, I will personally eat, fuck, and kill all three of you.” Juicy dialogue like that has become de rigueur for Pam, who always gets the best zingers while the rest of the cast are busy flexing their pasty-white muscles. I called Bauer as she was preparing for a busy few weeks—first with a True Blood charity concert tonight in Los Angeles, and then with San Diego’s Comic-Con, where she’ll be appearing in a True Blood panel (along with her mostly naked co-stars) on Friday, July 22.
Eric Spitznagel: I just watched last Sunday’s show, and once again you had the best line of the night.
Kristin Bauer: Which one? “Fuck, eat and kill?”
That’s it. Was Pam being hyperbolic, or was that a real threat?
Oh no, she was being very literal. And I also took the order literally. You have to do that stuff in the right order. If you fuck somebody after you kill them, that’s a whole other ball game.
So she’s a monster but she’s also classy?
Exactly. She’s a serial killer with integrity.
What a great lesson for the kids who maybe take this show too seriously.
Oh god, yeah. And they’re out there. I do worry about some of the fans. The majority of them are fantastic, but there about two percent where the line between reality and fantasy is blurred.
When you’re at Comic-Con next week and you’re surrounded by hundreds of True Blood fans, how do you know who the freaks are?
I just stay away from anybody wearing a cape.
That’s going to be tough at a comic convention.
Well, the rules are made to be broken. If they’re dressed like Darth Vader, they get a pass. Obviously. Star Wars is where I cross over into geekdom. I was at Comic-Con last year and I just wanted my picture taken with Chewbacca. Who doesn’t love Chewie? But, I’m well aware none of it is real. Chewbacca isn’t a real guy. It’s a guy in a suit. Not long ago, some True Blood fan gave me her journal, and I got a little disturbed while reading it. She had these very vivid imaginations that I was her maker.
I don’t even know how to respond to that. It’s a little spooky and weird. It crosses a line.
A Vulcan with a boner is one thing.
Right, right. [Laughs.] That’s understandable. I mean, it happens. Vulcan boners happen. But stuff like that journal, you kind of feel like you’ve glimpsed another world. You want to say to them, “Let’s just agree to disagree.”
Has a fan ever asked you to bite them?
All the time. Oh my gosh. But the only person I’ve bitten is Mario Lopez on Extra. But that, you know, it’s just part of doing press for a show. It’s part of my job. I’d bite Jay Leno. I’d bite Conan O’Brien. That’s just a day in the life. But you go around biting fans, there’s no way that’s not leading to a lawsuit.
Exactly, right. How about an autograph instead? Let’s not share bodily fluids.
If you don’t mind, I’d like to read you an interesting news item from the latest issue of Star magazine.
Please do. [Laughs.] All reliable news comes from there.
Absolutely. O.K., it says here that your True Blood costars Ryan Kwanten and Alex Skarsgard, and I’m quoting from the article here, “are constantly competing… about who can lift more weight or do more crunches. They always have their shirts off, flexing their abs.” That’s got to be 100% true, right?
Oh my god! That couldn’t be further from the truth. For one thing, they’re never in scenes together, so they don’t even see each other. I don’t even see Ryan. I only see him at parties. The other day, after a table read, I accosted him in the parking lot just to find out how he was and how his experience on True Blood had been this year.
And then he lifted his shirt to show you his six pack?
Well, only when Alex walked by. No, no, I’m kidding.
But you see how these rumors get started, right? There is a lot of male shirtlessness on the show.
That’s true, yeah.
It’s not like there are rumors about the cast of Modern Family competing to see who has the most sinewy forearms.
[Laughs.] Sure, yeah, I understand that. But both Alex and Ryan are so relaxed and not in any way vain. They get in and out of the makeup chair in four seconds. They’re guys. Alex takes longer because he has to be paled. But neither one of them has that competitive thing.
If Star magazine never lies and Alex and Ryan don’t have crunch contests, who were they talking about? You and Anna Paquin?
Probably, yeah. But it’s not crunches with us. We arm wrestle. It’s all about upper body strength. She has some guns, so she always wins. [Laughs.] I wish that was true and we actually did that. Can you imagine?
Growing up, I remember movie vampires being kinda scary. But these days, vampires are all about tight bodies and constant fucking.
Yeah, vampires are pretty horny apparently. I don’t know what that is. They’re very angry and they’re very, very horny. And a little vain, too. They like to look good.
Which is kind of new for the vampire genre. It’s not like Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee ever thought, “I have to get to the gym and work on my abs.”
[Laughs.] Probably not, no. When I was younger, I loved those Anne Rice books and the movies. They were always sexy and kind of rock n’ roll. But now that I think about it, I don’t remember any love scenes. There was seduction, but not actual coitus. I guess vampires used to be more conservative.
If given the choice of just one vampire lover, who would you jump into the sack with, Robert Pattinson or Bela Lugosi in his prime?
I think you have to go with Robert, right? I don’t know. I’ll say Robert.
Really? Is that because Lugosi wore a cape?
[Laughs.] Is that what it is? I think you’re right. Across the board, I’m just not a cape girl.
When you or anybody in the True Blood cast gets a new script, is your first thought always, “I wonder if I’m going to have to show my ass in this one?”
Oh yeah, among other things. First thing I do is flip through that thing looking for Pam. To hell with everybody else. It’s only on like the second or third pass that I start thinking about the rest of the show. And I wonder so many things. Will I be in a love scene, will I be killing someone? In season two, I think it was, Alex got to rip a body apart and be really wild and feral. And I remember thinking, “Oh man, it is so cool! I want to do that!” I have my wish list. But to answer your question, I can’t speak for everybody else, but I don’t think about nudity. Pam is more about skin-tight latex outfits than going in the buff.
And some really painful looking shoes.
That’s right. She loves her heels.
You’d think having been alive as long as Pam has, she’d realize that stilettos just aren’t worth the trouble.
I’m slightly impressed and curious that she’s so devoted to her footwear. Do vampires just not feel the pain of a pair of high heels? Or is she tougher than I am?
You have to live with those feet for the rest of eternity. Put on a pair of Converse.
Right? Is she unfamiliar with calluses? What about bunions? Do vampires not get bunions? It could be that vampires just heal so quickly. If she gets a blister, it’s gone before she realizes it hurts.
Why does Pam spend so much time on her wardrobe? She’s been alive, what, 100 years at least, and she’s still dressing to impress? Why should a vampire give a shit what she looks like?
I think that’s actually a pretty fascinating question. I’ve wondered about it myself.
If I was a vampire, I’d totally let myself go. Nothing but sweatpants and carbs.
When I think about what takes up 95% of my thoughts every day, vampires don’t have to worry about any of it. For some reason, vampires always have money. They’re never going to age. They never have to fear any illness, and they don’t have to worry about dying. If I removed all of those day-to-day concerns, what the hell else do I have to think about but what I’m going to wear?
All told, Pam has a relatively simple existence. Her status quo day is trying to decide who am I going to eat, who am I going to fuck, who am I going to kill, and more importantly, what am I going to wear while doing it? That’s it.
Tell me about the fangs. They look uncomfortable and awkward. How are you not always lisping?
I did that all the time when I first got my fangs. I still haven’t completely gotten it down. I don’t wear them enough apparently. Stephen Moyer does it the best. He’s a natural with fangs. I asked him for advice once, and he said, “You just have to take the pain.” And that’s really what it is. The fangs are big and sharp and they’re always hitting your bottom lip. If you try and talk differently, so the fangs are’t rubbing your lips raw, it changes the whole way you speak. You just have to suck it up and ignore the pain.
Another difficult part of being on that show, I would imagine, is being constantly splattered with blood.
You do need to have a high tolerance for that kind of stuff.
As a vegetarian, do you ever get a little queasy?
Ironically, I have a high tolerance for people guts. If it was supposed to be dog guts, I’d probably be in tears. I can watch a movie where they kill people and I’m fine, but if they kill one dog I’ll walk out. On the set, there’s always some guy in a flannel shirt and work boots carrying a gallon plastic milk jug labeled “blood.” When you see fake blood enough, or you taste it, you kind of get used to it.
What does fake blood taste like?
It’s really sweet. It’s like sugar water. I turned the bottle around once and read the ingredients. It’s corn syrup, red dye and a gelatin. It’s amazing some of the things the special effects people on True Blood can cook up. Last year I walked by a prop table and went “Oh my god, what is that?” Is was The Magister’s head, which they were going to explode in an episode. And they were painting all the little pieces of brain before they stuffed them in the head. So of course, I asked somebody to take my picture with the head.
Obviously. Isn’t that what anybody does when they see a disembodied head?
Exactly. How could I not? So I picked it up, and the skin actually had a little squoosh to it. It was cold and clammy and I could feel the stubble on my cheek. As the person was trying to figure out how to work my camera, my imagination was running wild. I remember saying, “Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up!” Because I was starting to get really grossed out.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think you’ve had any blood or guts sprayed on you yet.
No yet. But I’ve seen it happen on the set countless times. And I’ve heard actresses say, “Not in my hair, please!” [Laughs.] But there’s just no controlling that. There was a scene in the first season when Anna was soaked with blood for what seemed like several minutes, and I remember being on the set when it happened and the director said to her, “I need the blood to hit you in the face and I need your eyes open for the first shot.” The producers came, everyone from the office, all the writers, they all came out to watch. There were like thirty people behind the camera. And Anna was such a pro and such a trooper.
You got a tattoo recently, right?
Yeah, yeah. It’s a string of orchids.
Did you have to clear that with HBO?
Well, I found out later that I should have. I spoke to the makeup artist and asked if I got a tattoo over the hiatus, if it’d be coverable. And she said, “Sure, we cover them all the time now.” But I ended up getting a much bigger tattoo than I anticipated. So when I saw her, she was like, “Oh… wow. Okay, let’s see what we can do.” But it was fine.
I guess they couldn’t just write it into the plot. If Pam got a tattoo, it sure as hell wouldn’t be orchids.
Actually, the producers decided that a vampire couldn’t have a tattoo at all, because their skin would heal. You’d have to get a new tattoo every day.
Which could either be a lot of fun or a huge pain in the ass.
They’re less likely to have a tattoo that they’d regret later.
There are no vampires with Soul Asylum tramp stamps.
That’s right, yeah. [Laughs.] And no misspelled tattoos. I saw a photo of one online where they spelled “awesome” as “awsome.” They forgot the e.
I think you automatically negate your awesomeness by misspelling awesome.
That’s true. And a vampire is way too awesome for that.
If Pam did get a tattoo, what do you think it’d be?
Knowing her, she’d probably get a portrait of Eric. It’d have to be some sort of tribute to her maker.
Or maybe she and Eric could get matching tattoos, like the Chinese symbol for friendship.
Right! Like a really ill-advised bonding thing. They got really loaded one night and stumbled into a tattoo parlor. [Drunkenly.] “You’re my best friend!” [Laughs.] I love it.
(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, in VanityFair.com.)