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True Blood’s Rutina Wesley on Tara, the Cage-Fighting Moment, and Her Old Jean Shorts

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 09: Actress Rutina Wesley attends Golden Globes Weekend Audi Celebration at Cecconi's on January 9, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Audi)
True Blood’s Rutina Wesley. Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Warning: The following interview discusses events from the season-seven premiere of True Blood. If you haven’t yet watched the episode, come back after you do. Spoilers to follow.

Poor Tara Thornton! She has died not once but twice on True Blood — first her human death, trying to save Sookie from Debbie Pelt’s shotgun in the season-four finale, and now the True Death, saving her mom Lettie Mae from a Hep Vinfected vampire. If you’re shocked that this happens right away on the show, before you’ve even gotten a chance to get your bearings from where the show left off last season, actress Rutina Wesley is overjoyed. “I died before the credits!” she laughed triumphantly. “Tara’s gone before the credits!” Wesley chatted with Vulture about her death scenes, cage fighting, and coming back from the goo.

Was it a shock to you the way it would be to viewers, that Tara died right away?
It’s kind of fun. [Laughs] It wouldn’t be True Blood if someone didn’t die in the final season. I’ve loved my journey on this show, so I have no regrets. It’s like, “Okay, cool! Let’s do it!” And I got this amazing kick-ass fight. I love that she went out winning, and then you cut to the scene where you just see Lettie Mae, and you realize I lost the fight. I love how all the death scenes have been amazing, like when we lost Terry last season, and the funeral they had for him. I think they really sent him off nicely. And during that table read, everyone kind of lost it, when we got to the part where Arlene was singing for him. I think we clapped for a good ten minutes for him, or if not ten minutes, for a really long time. We cried and sent him off well. That’s kind of the atmosphere at our table reads, and it’s so beautiful, that we could have that environment, and the space to be in these scenes.

What about when Tara died? How did that go over during the table read?
I got some applause, too. I remember it was really sad. I remember crying, especially when Lettie Mae was like, “They killed her, my baby girl.” I loved working with Adina [Porter]. She always brought out the best in me, and just hearing how she connected to the scene, I was crying. Everybody was crying. Kristin [Bauer] was crying.

I kind of wish we’d had more of a chance to see Tara and Pam’s relationship develop.
I know! Me too! Me too! I thought that was going to go somewhere. I loved all of Tara’s relationships. I loved Tara and Sam together, and Tara and Pam, that was great, too. I thought they were so much alike. They were both so feisty! It would have come out a perfect little match. But you can never have happy endings on True Blood. When Pam left Tara to go look for Eric, Pam just flew away! And if she hadn’t, Tara probably would have gone looking for her, because she was like, “Please don’t even tell me you’re going after him.” I think Tara finally came into her own with Pam. She met her match in Pam. I always call Tara the flower that grew through the concrete, because she was incredibly insecure and vulnerable, but also fierce and strong and defensive, all of that mixed together. She was an incredibly complex individual. But if you remember her, I would hope you look back at her strengths, her laugh, her smile. I love that she always spoke her mind. And as a vampire, it was nice to see that she settled into herself. At first, I think she hated it. She had become the thing she hated the most. But she learned to deal with it, and once she did that, she was pretty comfortable. A powerful panther vampire. She was strong. It just took her a minute to get there.

Tara and Lettie Mae also finally got to make peace before she died …
I think that moment, when she finally feeds off her mother, was an act of forgiveness, an act of peace, an act of trust. Lettie Mae was asking for her forgiveness, “If I can’t do anything else, let me feed you, let me nourish you,” and there’s something really beautiful about that. And that was all that was needed to be said. That was all you needed to see in that moment. “Let me feed you.” And since we pick up right where that left off, this season, she loses her right off the bat!

Which is surely going to have some repercussions …
I think Tara’s death is going to be the catalyst for the rest of the season. I can’t say more than that! [Laughs]

It’ll be interesting to see how different characters handle her death …
Yeah, like, “I grieved her once already, so I feel nothing. I feel relief.” Lafayette knows that she doesn’t have to struggle anymore, to be the thing she hates the most. That’s the perfect example. But there is still the very real sense that she’s gone, especially for Sookie. There’s no coming back from the goo!

Although not so much goo on you this time!
It was so cool the way we shot it. Last time Tara died, it was so sad, because it was like Tara and Sookie and Lafayette were this little family, and when Tara got shot in the head, it was like, “Whoa!” This one wasn’t as emotional. It was really emotionally getting shot in the head. Especially because it was a finale, so I kept thinking, “What if they write me out? Oh my God, this could be my last scene!” But this time, I get this amazing fight, I get to fight my way out of it, you get to see her going out fighting. Because she is a fighter.

Literally. Remember the cage fighting?
That was always my favorite part of it all, because I love UFC, actually, and I’ve kind of always secretly wanted to wrestle. That’s the tomboy in me coming out. [Laughs] And it was very cathartic to slam myself down on the mat. And like when I was turned into a vampire, and I got to destroy the Stackhouse kitchen? That’s my ultimate favorite scene ever. I got to jump on the counter and squat like a gargoyle, and just be this angry awesome vampire destroying everything I got to touch. Hurl over the fridge. Throw a lamp. That was so much fun! But oh my gosh, I remember when I was coming out of the grave for the first time, Anna [Paquin] couldn’t keep a straight face. Like when she saw my fangs, she just burst out laughing, and she kept going, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I can’t!” And I was like, “Come on! Stop it! You got to be serious! I’m coming out of the grave!” [Laughs]

Is there anything you did snag, or would have liked to snag, from the set, as a souvenir?
Two things. One, I would like my fangs, and two, those cute, tight jeans cut-off shorts that I wore religiously for the first two seasons. I’d like to frame those and put them in my woman cave, because I literally wore those a lot. That was like my entire wardrobe! They would be nice to have right on my wall, along with my ultimate baby photo when I was not even two and I looked like John Wayne, because I had a robe on and open hands at my side, like I was going to do ten paces and then shoot you. That photo keeps me inspired to keep my spirit young, and to keep smiling. Those jean shorts, though, I don’t think I fit in them anymore, though, because I was right out of school, then. Those were the days!

Rutina Wesley on Tara and True Blood Season 7