TRUE BLOOD’s Jamie Gray Hyder talks Season 6: “We get back to our roots”

JamieGrayHyderSeason 6 of TRUE BLOOD is off to a crazy start as everyone’s favorite Bon Temps residents deal with the aftermath of last season’s finale.  In tonight’s all new episode, “You’re No Good,”  Eric is still mad about Burrell’s agression, Bill searches for a way to synthesize a new type of blood, and Sookie begins to realize why Warlow is after her.

To preview the rest of Season 6, we spent some time chatting with Jamie Gray Hyder, who plays werewolf Danielle (and whose brutal fight with Lafayette was a highlight of the season so far)!  Check it out and let us know what you think of tonight’s all new TB episode at 9/8c on HBO!

What a crazy ride TRUE BLOOD has been!

When you get a script, do you read through super-fast, trying to figure out what crazy things you’ll be involved in each week?
Yes, definitely, you never know which way it going to be going [laughs].

Looking back on Season 5, and coming into an established show like TRUE BLOOD, was it intimidating to join the show?
You know, I was really nervous.  I got cast, andthe first thing I had to do was going to a table read for the first episode, so I was preparing myself to walk into the room with every single member of the cast, and I felt like the new kid at school, ya know?  I was so nervous.  I didn’t want to look like I didn’t know where I was going or what I was doing.  I knew that they’d all been working together for so many seasons, and it’s a little bit nerve wracking.  First thing, Joe bee-lined it for me, and said “You’re one of the new werewolves.”  He was so excited to have a werewolf section at the table read in season 5 [laughs].  Previously, he hadn’t had a regular pack!  Everybody immediately embraced me, and made me feel welcome.  I’m super grateful for that, because it’s a little daunting walking in there!

RBU_8628 copyThe show is fun to describe to people about what you’re dealing with!  What can you tease us with, or prepare us for, for the rest of the season.
All I can say is more of the same!  On a more extreme level.  The season, as much as the first two episodes were action packed, the rest of the season is the same. We’ve only got 10 episodes, so we’ve got a lot more to fit in in a shorter period of time.  As you can see already, based on the first two episodes, stakes are just so much higher than in the past.  Everyone is in panic mode, which is causing things to be tense, and definitely dealing with more extreme situations as the season progresses.

Will we see Danielle continue to sort-of fight Rikki for Alcide?
I think that the dynamics with my relationship with Rikki and Alcide and everyone, it all kind of changes, the dynamics definitely shift throughout the season.  While Danielle was trying to vie for a leadership position in the pack, she also didn’t hesitate to back down the second that Rikki challenged her, so I think that she kind of knows her place, but she’s going to continue to make sure that the pack know that she’s valuable, and that she’s there for the long haul, and she’s willing to do what needs to be done for the better of the pack.

The fight with Lafayette was great – what kind of training or choreography do you go through for an interaction like that?
Number 1, I was just excited to have the opportunity to work with Nelsan, who plays Lafayette.  I’ve never worked with him, and he’s my favorite character on the show, and I think he’s an incredible actor, so I was excited to work with him period.  But we get on set, we have our stunt doubles, so we do portions of it and our stunt doubles come in and do portions of it.  We run through and rehearse everything, to make sure that everyone feels safe, and comfortable, and what the action is going to be.  We have amazing stunt coordinators on set.  You have to incorporate so many components.  You’re incorporating the fight portion of it, and you’re also incorporating the fact that your eyes will be glowing, so you have to give them that focus for few seconds, as well, to get that across.  We didn’t do specifically any training for it, but we absolutely rehearsed and went through the steps together prior to shooting.

Jamie-Gray-Hyder-as-Danielle-HBOYou mention working with Nelsan for the first time – are there other members of the cast that you haven’t gotten to work with, but would like to?  Or do you work with more this season?
I definitely, the wolves in general, Danielle, we get to work with a different group of people this season, and that will continue throughout.  It was amazing to work Stephen, he directed us in the first episode. I never worked with him from an acting perspective, but he directed us, which was pretty great, espeically with such a difficult scene.  He definitely helped make us more comfortable.  Working with Pam, I think she’s hysterical.  Obviously, Kristin is an amazing actress.  I would love a chance to work with Anna or Alexander.  You obviously want to work with everyone, but the show is so compartmentalized, so we all tend to stick with our own species.

What other show can you say “we stick to our own species?”
I found that some of the conversations I’ve had in the past couple weeks are some of the stranger ones [laughs].  You to get to experience different things than if I was working on a hyper-realistic drama or a crime-type show.  You get to kind of explore more extreme situations, and that’s really fun and that’s a really cool opportunity.

230lrg copyIt’s amazing though, how as crazy as it gets, there are still relateable themes – family, love, power.
Yeah, the show does the great job of balancing the human aspects along with the creature aspects of it all, you know.  That’s what makes the show successful – you’ve gotta have those relateable moments in order to make all of these extreme characters, these extreme situations actually relateable.  I think it’s very important that we keep the human aspect.  For our characters, for the werewolves, for example, that’s something we work on – the balance between what elements about the particular interactions are human and which are animalistic [laughs].  You’re finding that balance throughout the season.

Did you watch the show before becoming a part of it?
You know, I’d only seen a few episodes prior to joining because I don’t have a TV [laughs].  I know that sounds crazy.  All of my good friends were obsessed, so I knew of it, and loved what I saw.  As soon as I booked, I had to watch all four seasons in three days before I started shooting.  After immersing myself so much in it, I really, really began to love it, and get involved in the whole structure of the show.  It made me even more excited to be on it.

Do you have an idea in your head of where you’d like to see the character go?
You know, I definitely do.  I love the direction it’s going in now.  As an actor, I’ve gotten to do such fun things.  I have ideas of where I think she’ll go, and then the writers have ideas, and the producers have ideas, and the directors have ideas, so I just kind of trust what I’ve been doing, and I trust what they do with the show.  We’re all on the same page.  The character develops as the show develops.  You really have to be in the moment of every scene because you don’t know where it’s going next.  You don’t necessarily have the context you would if you were working with an established play, or if you’re working in a film situation where you have the whole arc laid out in front of you.  With TV, you just kind of go with what you’re given that week, and deliver it as honestly as possible, and just wait, rubbing your hands together, to see what the next week will bring.

Why do you think that now, TRUE BLOOD Season 6 is the season to jump back in?
I think we get back to our roots in Season 6.  They streamlined the plots a little bit from last season.  I think it’s less confusing for new people to catch on.  It’s more focused this season.  I think it’s a great time, to be able to come in and revisit the core values of the show.

What else besides TRUE BLOOD are you working on or will we see you in next?
I have a really big project in the works that I’ve been working on for the past six months, but I can’t talk about it for another 4 weeks [laughs].  So there is something in the works, and I’m really excited to be a part of.  It’s something a little different for me, and I think it’s going to appeal to the TRUE BLOOD fans as well. It’s not related to TRUE BLOOD but I think it’s something that will cross-over very well.  So I’ll be able to talk about that in the next couple weeks.

I know you said you don’t have a TV, but are there shows that you find yourself tracking down, watching on Netflix or DVD?
Recently, I’ve kind of been in HBO land.  I didn’t watch GAME OF THRONES when it first started.  With the third season, I watched the first two seasons so I could be caught up.  I love watching GAME OF THRONES and BOARDWALK EMPIRE.  We use a lot of the same directors and writers on the shows.  HBO sticks with a lot of the same people, so it’s really interesting to watch people you’ve worked with in the past apply their style to a different show.

I didn’t realize that they overlap that much – makes me want to go back and watch everything again to see how they apply everything differently!
Yeah, you’ll notice a lot of the same names.  That’s what’s great about HBO – they’re willing to do that.  Once they trust an actor that they’ve worked with, or a director or a writer, then they want to help them work as much as possible.  Some networks shy away from that, but HBO is one of the ones that if you get into the family, it’s such a great opportunity because they love to work with the same people over and over again.  It’s a family environment.

Do you have a role, a drama or comedy, that you’d love trying?
Thus far, I’ve been cast a lot in drama.  I would absolutely love to do a more comedic role.  That’s something that’s more natural for me, that’s what I grew up doing – I’m kind of a goofball at heart, so to be able to do something comedy related would be awesome.  It would be a lot of fun