Kristen Bauer

By Ted Simmons,
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Actress Kristen Bauer is best known for her role as Pam, the blood-thirsty diva on HBO's <i>True Blood</a>. Kristen is committed to her acting, but she is also deeply committed to working for great causes, including the <a hr

Ted Simmons: You're on this wildly successful show, True Blood, and you play Pam. How would you describe Pam?

Kristen Bauer: Pam is just unremorseful. What's fun about her to play is she's a true vampire. How humans look at a Big Mac, that's how she looks at humans. They're just an entertainment and a food source. So she's endlessly fun to play. The costume people are amazing. Pam is just all about being immortal, powerful, and having an outfit for every occasion. It's such a blast.

TS: It really is fun trying to play those evil characters, the ones who are maybe a little unlike you.

KB: I know that's the thing. I don't know why it's so unbelievably fun to play someone who's just 100 percent evil, but it's a blast. There are no complicating feelings, there's no feeling bad for anybody. It's just 100 percent selfish.

TS: True Blood just started its second season. What's your schedule been like as the episodes are coming out?

KB: When we do work there's a huge cast and so many story lines going on, we only work a few days an episode. But when we do, we work long hours; especially last season. Whenever there are special effects or a lot of blood, it takes a long time. And because we're vampires, if the scene is outside we're shooting at night. So we're shooting 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Though the hours are really long, and half the time you're delirious, the fun part is once you get past the physical pain of either the clothing or the hours or the special effects, you get sort of giddy. And Alexander Skarsgard is so funny. And Stephen [Moyer] and Anna [Paquin] are so much fun, and they're also the ones I'm in scenes with. We just laugh and have such a ball. It's just a fun set to be on. And the directors are nice, and [show creator] Alan Ball is so lovely and gracious.

TS: You mentioned that you're a painter, and I saw some of the paintings you did and they look quite professional, at least to me. How did that avenue kind of come to be?

KB: I started drawing probably in junior high. My sister went to fine arts school, so I kind of was aware of it, and my school had a small art department. Then by high school, when I was trying to think about what I might want to do in college, I was so sick of academics. I couldn't imagine the pain of having to go to college to study math and science and history. It just made me want to hang myself. So I just started drawing a lot and got a portfolio together so I could get into fine art school, which is what I did.

I mainly drew, I didn't paint very much. And then one my first acting jobs was with Peter Falk I did a Colombo movie of the week. And he's a big art lover. So, he mentioned this art school in L.A. that was wonderful, that taught people how to really paint like they were masters.

So I enrolled and started painting for at least a decade, maybe less. And when you have been drawing as long as I have, painting is just sort of the logical next step. So I've been doing portraits and landscapes and drawing weekly for almost, what feels like 20 years, but I've taken a few breaks when I get busy.

TS: Is it nice to turn such a passion of yours into something you can really pursue and get out there, post on the Web and stuff like that?

KB: It is. It was also, not really scary, but it was a real conscientious decision because I've been doing it so long, and it was my sanctuary that nobody knew about. Because acting in this business is so hectic that I wanted this thing that was just mine and I just did for me. It's the opposite of acting; you're alone in a room by yourself, or with my dogs. And then at a certain point, for some reason, something changed and I wanted to let people know that I do this, and that's why I did the web site.

I never had a web site before that, and the whole purpose was to kind of go, "look what I do in my off time," and I was actually a little nervous about it. But what's been fun is because of True Blood, people Google me and look at my site, and if I do get any mail, I get the nicest e-mails from people. So, my nervousness has kind of faded. And I also, when I'm not working I do portraits for people. So, it's actually becoming quite a lovely thing. And I've been approached about doing some art shows. So, I guess that'll be the next step to kind of stand in a room with people while they look at my art.

TS: In what ways do you think painting allows for different artistic expression than acting?

KB: It's really, really different. Standing in a room by yourself acting, I think they put you away for that. Acting is this huge collaboration.

My nieces were just here and came to the set with me, and they can't believe how many people it takes to make a show, and how many hours it takes to shoot one scene. There's a hundred-man crew, and somebody else wrote it, and somebody produced it, and a network decided whether or not to air it, and somebody dresses you and someone does your hair and someone does your make up.

The actor, we're the front man of the band but we're a tiny, tiny part of this. But for some reason, because it all comes together on us we get the credit. But it's an enormous collaboration, and art is the polar opposite of that. And the other thing about acting is, all day long you are surrounded and communicating with a hundred people, and in between every take, hair and make-up and wardrobe people come over and touch you. So you're literally being touched and talked to for 16 hours.

When I'm painting, every single part of it is the opposite. I only create what I want to create, every single decision is mine, and nobody gets any input whatsoever. It's silence, no one talks to you, nobody sees you. After every take they say "would you like a chair, would you like some water?" Painting, no, I've got to get up and go get my food, the chair is only there if I put it there. Which is why I didn't become a professional artist first, because it's kind of lonely. But when I've been working a lot, I really need that quiet down time where I create something on my own to recuperate.

TS: It sounds like a nice balance.

KB: It's an extremely nice balance. And that's why I was so hesitant to kind of even put my art out there because I didn't want it to become sort of tarnished or kind of like acting. I didn't want to hear people's criticisms; I just kind of wanted it to be my thing. But so far, I've got a couple toes in the water and it's been really pleasant.

TS: You mentioned your pets earlier, and I know you have a big heart for animals and have taken on the role as spokesperson for IFAW. Can you share how big of a spot they hold?

KB: That's such a huge thing for me. Everybody probably had pets as a kid. We had horses and cats and dogs and chickens. I think people are so interesting and so wonderful, and also so frustrating. And when we all go through enormous ups and downs at the hands of our fellow man, animals know.

They're always in a good mood, they're always happy to see you, it's just pure joy to be around them; they're always in the moment, they're never worrying about things. In years that were really difficult, deaths that I've had, my best friend and my father, or career lows, or horrible break ups, they've just gotten me through. Through those periods, and maybe it's because I'm from Wisconsin, but I can go to the woods and see trees and I can just feel so much better about things. I can play with my dog or go on go for a hike with the dogs, and it just changes my entire outlook. I can go to the ocean and look out there, and think about the unbelievable wonder.

Nature is so beautiful and so astoundingly incomprehensible to me. Then when I see anything that's beautiful like that, I just have this feeling that it's like if somebody handed you a beautiful glass. They give you a glass of water in a pretty glass if they just took the glass in went, "Yeah" and threw it at the wall and smashed it, you'd go, "Jesus!"

And that's what I see happening in the environment, I look at that beautiful ocean and then I will trip across some sort of information about dumping stuff in it. Can you imagine buying a new rug and someone walks in your house and just takes a soda and just dumps it on the floor? You'd go "What is wrong with you?"

I just don't see any difference. Somehow I think people protect their home, protect their yard, protect their car, but beyond that it's not theirs, it's somebody else's problem, it's somebody else's thing, it's somebody else's creation. And to me it's not. It's like this whole planet--well, not the whole planet, I haven't seen the whole thing--but every part of it that I've seen very quickly starts to feel like this is an enormous gift. I'll pick up the trash if I see trash just like I would in my own living room.

TS: You have this great love for animals and in a sense you're getting to play one in Pam, who has these animalistic instincts.

KB: [laughs] Totally. She's definitely the top of the food chain, and that's what she enjoys.

 

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