FLASHBACK: Anna Paquin Talks on How She Got Her Role On ‘The Piano,’ ‘True Blood’ & More

TRUE BLOOD, Anna Paquin, (Season 2), 2008-.
Steven Lippman/HBO/Courtesy: Everett Collection

As News broke of True Blood star Anna Paquin’s recent health struggles we dug up an old interview our sister publication Channel Guide Magazine did when the show first premiered in 2008. Check it out!

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 03: Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer attend "A Bit Of Light" New York Screening at Crosby Street Hotel on April 03, 2024 in New York City.

Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Southern Vamp

By Elaine Bergstrom

One of the most dramatic moments in Academy Awards history came when 11-year-old Anna Paquin stood at the podium, gripping the Oscar she’d just won for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, struggling to breathe while the applause washed over her. Then she found her voice and gave a beautiful acceptance speech. It was, fans would say, a preview of the success that would come.

Anna Pasquin At 1994 Oscars,Winner For Piano-

Paul Harris/Getty Images

But what’s odd about that moment — and her triumph as young Flora in The Piano — was that Paquin never dreamed of being an actress at all. “I didn’t want to act. I went to an open call shoot for The Piano [because] I got to miss half a day of school,” she shares. Laughing, Paquin adds, “I didn’t have to go to school and I got a career.” Ironic indeed, yet it’s a career she’s in love with. “It’s what I’m most passionate about. I love what I do.”

THE PIANO, Anna Paquin, 1993,

Courtesy Everett Collection

When she landed the role of Flora — because she was the right height — it was the first time she had stepped in front of a camera. With no acting experience and no real role model, Paquin relied on instinct and learned from the best. “When you’re sitting around watching Holly Hunter work every single day and you have no idea what you are doing, you say, ‘I’ll just kind of do what she does.’ I mean, that’s a pretty sweet role model to have,” she shares. “I didn’t watch a lot of films or television. My parents were pretty conservative in that way. I would say that most of the people I consider to be role models were the people I worked with, and I happened to work with some of the most incredible people in my industry, so lucky me.”

X-MEN, Anna Paquin as 'Rogue', 2000.

Joe PuglieseTV Guide/20th Century Fox Film Corp./

Now 26, Paquin has more than two dozen films on her resumé. She followed The Piano with the family films Jane Eyre and Fly Away Home, then took on more diverse roles, including a teen with superpowers in the X-Men series. Now she stars in her first television series, True Blood, airing on HBO. (Editor’s note: the show wrapped in 2014 but is available on streaming)

In the series, Paquin plays Sookie Stackhouse, a Southern waitress at Merlotte’s, a roadhouse in the small Louisiana town of Bon Temps. The story is set in the near future, when vampires finally dare to make their existence known to humans, now that a new synthetic blood beverage, Tru-Blood, has alleviated their need for the real thing. When 173-year-old vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) walks into Merlotte’s, Sookie discovers that his power complements hers. Sookie, it seems, can read minds — a secret only her closest friends know — but she can’t read Bill’s. It’s the beginning of a bond that leads to romance and plenty of complications.

TRUE BLOOD, Anna Paquin, (Season 1), 2008-.

John P. Johnson/HBO/Courtesy: Everett Collection

Her power also makes her an intriguing character to play. Speaking so quickly that her sentences seem to run together, Paquin says, “I think that Sookie’s made the most of circumstances that she has. She didn’t necessarily have a lot of options, being a girl in a small town and not really knowing what else is out there. She is still a really positive and optimistic and good person and is open-minded about things like, obviously, the vampire thing. She is really interested in people and not like a lot of the people she grew up around. And really tough. She can pretty much withstand anything, it seems. I love that in our little world I can be the girly girl and the tough girl who’s going out there and kicking ass, and kind of the pretty damsel in distress with the blond hair and the tan. … She is a fun character to play.”

TRUE BLOOD, (from left): Rutina Wesley, Anna Paquin, 'It Hurts Me Too', (Season 3, airing June 27, 2010), 2008-.

John P. Johnson/HBO/Courtesy: Everett Collection

When cast, Paquin was a “pasty brunette from New Zealand” who transformed into a Southern blonde. Paquin had assumed the change in looks would give her a bit of anonymity. It didn’t. “People stare at blond girls more than they stare at kind of famous people, so they stare at you because you are blond and they go, ‘Oh, I think I recognize you,’” she says. “I thought it would be like having an invisible mask on. Not so much.”

TRUE BLOOD, (from left): Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Alan Ball on-set, (Season 1), 2008-.

Jamie Trueblood/HBO/Courtesy: Everett Collection

But being blond is proving to be fun. Series creator Alan Ball — the force behind HBO’s acclaimed Six Feet Under — sets a tone that Paquin loves. “I don’t think I’ve ever been asked so many times by one director if I’m still having fun,” she laughs. “Like when it’s 5 in the morning and you are literally being kicked repeatedly or something. He says, ‘You’re still having fun, right? You’re still having a time, right? Because that’s what it’s about.’”

TRUE BLOOD, (from left): Anna Paquin, Denis O'Hare, 'Evil Is Going On', (Season 3, aired Sept. 12, 2010), 2008-.

Doug Hyun/HBO/Courtesy: Everett Collection

With much of the action taking place in a bar and grill, the set also creates a relaxed atmosphere. “Everyone is just hanging out and chatting and gossiping and whatever we’re doing on the show. … A lot of the time it doesn’t feel like work at all.” And then she adds some other perks. “There’s blood, and prosthetic arms that you can drink out of, and chains to beat people up with, and all kinds of crazier and crazier stuff with every episode. It’s all pretty out there.” But one thing that isn’t over the top — at least not yet — is the romance between Sookie and Bill. When asked about it, Paquin is coy. “He’s a true Southern gentleman,” she admits. “But he is, you know, a vampire, so you’ll have to wait and see.”

TRUE BLOOD, (from left): Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, (Season 1), 2008-.

Jamie Trueblood/HBO/Courtesy: Everett Collection

SPOILER ALERT: Paquin and Moyer have been a real-life couple since meeting on the show.

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