We’re in for some old school double, double toil and trouble this season on True Blood! Let’s just say, Lord Voldemort would be shaking on his broomstick if he came face to face with Marnie. In this exclusive interview with Wetpaint, Fiona Saw dishes on her role, how True Blood differs from Harry Potter, and the rumored Marnie + Eric love connection!
Wetpaint: What can you tell us about Marnie’s character? She seems so sweet and innocent, but we have a feeling she’s trouble.
Fiona Shaw: I love my character. We haven’t seen much of her yet, but she’s going to change into something quite amazing. It depends on how you look at it, but she definitely doesn’t remain as this little mouse who can just about juice a bird to fly. She seems to gain a few more powers due to tapping into a source who’s much more powerful than she is.
You have such an impressive career behind you, and especially after the huge success that was Harry Potter, it seems like you could have your pick when it comes to work. What drew you to True Blood?
I’m not sure that’s true about Harry Potter. Well, probably yes, there were a lot of very good English actors in it that are very well-known in their own right. I was absolutely delighted to be asked to do True Blood because I had been doing Mother Courage with a brilliant rock band called Duke Special at the National Theater, and I’d just done John Gabriel Borkman with Alan Rickman in New York. So I was very pleased to do something that was in a completely in a different vocabulary and got me to lovely California. So I’ve had a lovely time.
Were you a fan of True Blood before you started working on it?
I’d heard about it, but I really became a fan of it when I began to study. I looked at three seasons in about two weeks, and I then went to the read-though when I got to Los Angeles and I was absolutely terrified, because I walked in the room and saw all these vampires sitting around the table. I thought, "Oh my god!
I only knew them from the show and had been so involved with them, that I was absolutely terrified.
How is working on True Blood different from other shows and movies you’ve been a part of?
Well, one of the great things about True Blood is you get to speak a lot. They’re very unlikely to cut your scenes in True Blood, because it is written in way that is then filmed and timed to take on everyone’s performance. So the scariest story-lines that you’re being offered every week are genuinely performed, rehearsed, performed and shot in every direction to make them as exciting as possible. In that way, it’s not like film, it’s much more like theater — where you’re in some control of what you say. But it’s not like theater, because you have no idea what’s going to happen in two episodes down the road. On the one hand, your loquacious and you have opportunity to act things, but you’ve got to make sure its not in profound contradiction to what’s going to happen in two episode’s time!
Many of the actors in True Blood got their start in theater. Is there a different dynamic when you’re working in film and television alongside actors with a theater background?
Well, a lot of film is about the viewer imposing their imaginations on an often very still face of the actor, and probably the theater is about making huge, brave decisions that are sometimes ugly and sometimes terrifying, but really going out there. And I think a lot of the acting in True Blood is really out there. A lot of brave performances; people banging doors, jumping out of cars. Which in film is often much more restrained because people are so frightened of that giant close-up. In television, people are much braver, it seems to me.
What’s it like working with Alan Ball?
Well, he was very useful and kind to me when I first arrived, so I could talk to him about orientating myself. Any ideas I had, I ran past him and he was very helpful with them, and encouraging. And then, obviously, on each show, the writers are present as are the producers. [Alan] only wrote one of them this season, and he was entirely there for that one. But one does see him remarkably in the background as someone you can always go to if there’s a problem or a query or an artistic question. He’s always there and very on it.
What do you like most about your character?
I think personally I’ve been very brave to allow it to be that weird. Because I feel very sorry for people who have huge imaginations like this woman has, and no opportunities like this woman has not had in her life. I really want it to be about something very real, it’s out there, but it’s real. And then allow it to be True Blood-ish later. I was very keen to find out something about somebody that is so underprivileged and so over life, that she never got to really live. And it makes people mad when they’re frustrated to that extent, which is very common. I was trying to get at somebody really, very ordinary. And what I like about her is that she’s very ordinary!
Which characters does Marnie interact with the most?
To my great pleasure, I think you’ll find that I’m acting with a lot of them. I get around to most of the cast, and that’s really great. Lovely for me.
In the books, Marnie has a sexual attraction to Eric. Can we expect to see that this season?
Something much more elaborate has been concocted for this. It’s certainly about love, but I think it’s more about love of power. Almost a neurotic love of power. And maybe about identity. I think if Marnie’s about anything, she’s about someone trying to find their identity. In reaching for identity, you are able to find parts of yourself you were well-off without. So it’s much more in that way narcissistic, maybe, than it is about Eric and her. I wish I could tell you more, but I’m going to not tell you about it! I have to say, I’ve enjoyed the complexity of what I play very much. It’s been very hard to play. I play someone who is from Louisiana and then gets very involved with Spanish 17th century witchcraft. It’s quite elaborate and there’s a lot of Latin.
Can you tell us a little bit about the upcoming battle between witches vs. vampires on True Blood? We expect it to be epic!
In brief, it’s a lot of night shoots, great arrays of warriors on both sides and very witty dialogue between them all. And really a lot of blood and gore. Everything you love about True Blood is played out.
Villains in True Blood often stick around for a season and then get killed off, but we’re already really attached to your character. Do you have any Season 5 plans?
You never know, do you, with True Blood, so I don’t know either, but I would be enchanted if I were asked back. I would be very, very interested if they could find a way of getting me back! It might take a lot of magic, but if they did I’d be thrilled to. I have had the most wonderful time with this group of actors, who I’m full of admiration for. They’re very friendly and we’ve had great fun and a lot of hard work. And I think that’s the most beautiful combination. I’ve enjoyed myself and if there’s a way I could get back, I’d love it.
Has starring in Harry Potter changed your career at all? Do you tend to move towards bigger budget features now, or are you still drawn to stage work?
I don’t see stage work as lower down the ladder. It’s a performance, I was trained for performance. So I’m incredibly happy to perform in any medium that will allow me the most opportunity to be my most imaginative. In England, our theater budgets are pretty high, compared to here. We do huge shows that cost millions of dollars there, so in that way I don’t feel like they’re that different. But I’m very happy to have a wider audience base and it’s great fun to perform abroad. I must say, it’s fantastic to travel and to shoot, and to make the world your set design. It’s a great privilege. So big budget movies are great fun because you get the chance to be somewhere marvelous. And the thing about very big budget films is you normally are only in a part of them, so you’re not experiencing the huge budget extravaganza that the entire film is, but you are participating in working with excellent people. To my great delight, I’m always working with fantastic people at the top of their game.