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True Blood’s Deborah Ann Woll on Vampire Tears, Jason Stackhouse, and Her Real-Life Teen Rebellion

Photo: Art Streiber/HBO
Deborah Ann Woll as True Blood’s Jessica. Photo: Art Streiber/HBO

At the tender age of 17, True Blood’s quasi-innocent vampire Jessica Hamby has studied up on carnal knowledge, killed a horny trucker, and attacked her boyfriend’s mom. But this works out just fine for Deborah Ann Woll, the actress who plays her, who gets to live out all her unfulfilled adolescent angst. Vulture phoned Woll for more details on her character’s season-four exploits, then got to the bottom of other pressing matters, such as her favorite flavor of blood and her policy on biting folks for a photo op.

Part of being a vampire is being loyal to your maker. How would you defend your character’s maker, Bill Compton, who’s become a jerky politician?
He’s under incredible pressure. And he has some incredibly powerful people making decisions for him. I think Bill is as disappointed with that as we are. Bill is really alone now. He doesn’t have a family except Jess, and I think it’s really wonderful that this season they get to [bond] quite a bit. Because things aren’t going so great with [her human boyfriend] Hoyt, [Bill] is all that she has.

So … Jason Stackhouse and Jessica? Didn’t see that one coming.
I’m actually really excited about that story line. The thing is, Hoyt is such a great guy, but the really sad part of it is that his mom was right: She told Jess all those years ago that Jess can’t give him what he wants. While Hoyt is more open-minded than his mother, Hoyt really wants conventional things. He wants a wife and a normal life. And that’s not something Jess is capable of, nor does she want it.

When she was human, she would’ve been the perfect mate for him.
You’re absolutely right. The only future she had to look forward to when she was a human was being a housewife. But she’s excited that she finally escaped that. It’s really saddening for her to find out a year later that she’s right back where she started. And she did this because she loves him. She had a little two-week rebellion, then immediately was with Hoyt.

Were you rebellious as a teenager growing up in Brooklyn?
No, I was not. This character is fun because it’s a very safe place to act out. I was a very shy, very quiet little girl. I was bullied a lot and really didn’t feel attractive. Being so pale and so blonde, I just disappeared, so I started dying my hair red when I was about 14. And I rebelled against my peers. I never once experimented with a drug. I was a theater geek. I had piano lessons, theater rehearsals, dance.

Your co-star Rutina Wesley also studied dance! Have you had a dance-off yet?
We have very different dance backgrounds. [Laughs.] Mine was actually partner dancing. And it’s been years. You know what I found online? There are, like, whole groups of people in the South who have created line dances to “Bad Things” [the True Blood theme song]. They’re kind of amazing — some of them are really good!

Is it just me, or does your character cry more than the others?
Oh. Yeah. Blood tears! The blood tears are a pain in the ass. Basically they are part physical effect, part digital effect. Sometimes they will tell me not to actually let any real tears fall ‘cause that will affect where they have to put the falling tears. They need to make sure that they place a tear so that it matches up later. And when you’re lying down, the tears fall in a really weird way, and then you have these strange marks on your face. What we figured out this season is that you need diluted wet blood with runny mascara in it. There’s a lot of crying towards the end of the season; we’ll see if people like it more.

While we’re on the subject of blood, what does it taste like when your character bites someone?
We have a couple different bloods. The mouth blood tastes like chocolate-y, minty kind of stuff. The stuff that goes on your face is probably a corn-syrup-based kind of thing. A lot of time they’ll use alcohol makeup to give it a base. You want to get it out of your mouth. For the “True Blood” blood, they were using this purple carrot juice.

What’s the weirdest request you got from a fan last month at Comic-Con?
It’s really when you and another celebrity are in the room — it’s like, “Oh, you should bite him!” I’m like, “Well, I don’t know him. Maybe he’s uncomfortable with me biting him.” But they want the photo op. I allow too much of it. We’ve been talking about what kind of boundaries I should have with that. Because I’m pretty much, “OKAY!”

True Blood’s Deborah Ann Woll on Vampire Tears, Jason Stackhouse, and Her Real-Life Teen Rebellion