True Blood’s Tanya Wright Discusses Her Many Talents and Passions

August 9, 2012

There is Much More to the Actress Than Just Her Portrayal of Kenya Jones in the Popular HBO Series

hbo_true_blood_kenya_jonesActress Tanya Wright plays Kenya Jones on HBO’s series True Blood. Ms. Jones is an intelligent, educated, multi-faceted talent whose resume also includes writer, director, and producer among her skills. Recently, she has showcased her talents with a trans-media project called ‘Butterfly Rising’.

Ms. Wright developed ‘Butterfly Rising’ over the course of fifteen years. In addition to writing, directing and starring in the film that has enjoyed a successful festival run, Ms. Wright authored the ‘Butterfly Rising’ novel. The next incarnation of her project is an interactive game.

“BR (Butterfly Rising) is really an outgrowth of a script that I wrote 15 years ago called ‘A Turn to Grace’. It was a screenplay I wrote that was a semi-finalist in the (Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’) Nicholl screenwriting competition.”

Ms. Wright says that this first screenplay generated interest in her as a young, female, African-American screenwriter. The script itself languished because no one was interested in making a film about African-American characters in the 1920’s. After the death of Ms. Wright’s brother, she says the story of Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, understandably resonated with her. She became slightly obsessed with the activity of butterflies in a tree outside of her house, even making up stories about the delicate creatures. When the character of ‘Grace’ from ‘A Turn to Grace’ began to invade these stories, ‘Butterfly Rising’ developed into an updated telling of her original script with a multi-cultural cast.

Writing is Tanya Wright’s First Love, but Both Acting and Writing Are Like Her ‘children’

Ms. Wright says that early in her career, she began to get acting role after acting role, all the while continuing to write. She was told she would have to choose between the two because she wouldn’t be able to do both.

“But I saw lots of people that I liked and I admired doing it. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck did it with Good Will Hunting and Emma Thompson did it with Sense and Sensibility, Billy Bob Thorton did it with Sling Blade.  Now it’s common place but the idea that those two things needed to be separated was a prevalent idea and it’s like asking which one of your children do you want to kill off: the actor or the writer.”

Ms. Wright did not choose between the two. She kept writing as she got work as an actor, the culmination of which is the script for ‘Butterfly Rising’. Ms. Wright says that acting and writing are both vitally important and each one helps her to be better at the other.

Tanya Wright Believes Her Education Has Given Her Confidence and Choices

Ms. Wright is a graduate of both Vassar and George School. She characterizes her education as ‘world class’. Born in the Bronx to a teenage mother, Ms. Wright credits her education with providing her with choices that are limited only by her own vision. She says her education has empowered her to go into the world to make changes or make a difference.

“In fact there is a quote in BR (Butterfly Rising) where my character says “you always got a choice even when your back is up against a wall. You always have a choice so don’t ever think you don’t have a choice”.”

True Blood is a Deep and Complicated Show

Ms. Wright says that True Blood is a fantastic world that is complicated and different than anything she could imagine. In addition to being a sexy show about vampires, it’s also about love, being an outsider, and other fundamentally human things. She says these themes are simply couched in entertainment and sexuality.

When asked about the most difficult or fun things about working on True Blood, Ms. Wright admitted to not liking the high number of night shoots. She claims to not be a night person and does a lot of sleeping in her dressing room.

“The greatest thing about working on the show like TB (True Blood) is that the reality is so heightened that it’s almost like doing a play or an opera because it’s so over the top the externals are so stylized that for an actor to be working in that world it’s so much like theater that you don’t really get a chance to do that too much in television so that’s probably the coolest thing working on a show like that.”

Ms. Wright has many other projects that are moving along quickly, now that she’s experienced some success with ‘Butterfly Rising’. Still, she says BR is the project nearest and dearest to her heart and refers to it as her “passion project”.

You can read more about Tanya Wright’s personal and professional thoughts on education and cinema, being an African-American woman in Hollywood, and working with Heavy D. ‘Butterfly Rising’ was the Opening Night film at Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival Tuesday, August 7, 2012 at 7:30 PM.

 

Sources: The Jackie Movie, Butterfly Rising The Movie, HBO

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True Blood Season 5 Episode 8 “Somebody That I Used to Know” Recap

August 3, 2012

The Evolution Begins:

True Blood Season 5 Episode 8 - RosalynWe start this episode with Luna flipping out as one of the shifter-haters is physically removed from the hospital. Sam manages to calm her down – or so he thinks. Not only does Luna plan to escape, but she goes all free-form shifter and turns into Sam! Later on, when Andy and Sam are playing good cop/bad cop with the shifter-hater they arrested at the hospital, Sam-Luna arrives and scares the crap out of everyone.What is going on here? I must say, I have always loved Sam Trammell as an actor, but Trammell playing Luna playing Sam is acting genius. Not only does he nail being Sam (Merlotte), but he also has Luna’s characteristics down pat. Probably could have gone without the Sam on Sam action that happens a little later, it was creepy enough to make you want to look away.

Next we find the drunk vampires returning to the Authority headquarters. This scene lays everyone’s cards out on the table. We know Eric will stay true to Godric’s words, we also know the others are still too high to believe in any other way than the Sanguinista way -even Bill shocks us, with his apparent aligience to the new Authority Regime. Now this could be part of a bigger plan on Bill’s behalf, one that he is not ready to share with Eric or us viewers…

Jason manages to convince Sookie to keep her special powers and not throw them all away – pretty as it may look when she really warms up her microwave fingers. He also encourages her to go to Claude and find out how they can track down their parents killer. A faerie ring is formed and Sookie not only manages to connect to her parents as they died, but to the vampire that was responsible for their murder as well! We don’t know yet, but is it possible this vampire is connected to her by a blood tie? And why does Claudine seem to know the vampire? Turns out he has a name too: Warlow. There goes the blood-bond theory.

As we suspected last week, Jessica gets caught by the Supe-haters and is offered to Hoyt to seek his vengence on her, revenge to this Hate Group means the death of Jessica. It gets a bit scary for a while there as we wonder how deep his hatred for Jessica really goes. For dramatic suspense we think for a moment that Hoyt is actually going to put Jessica to the True Death, but we quickly realize how deep his love runs for Jessica, regardless of the hate he claims to have for her!  Hoyt doesnt put a wooden bullet in Jessica’s head, and Jessica is only too willing to kill one of Hoyts new-found ‘friends’, as part of their escape plan.  Their plan comes to a halt when they realize they are in the middle of nowhere and it is daylight, making it impossible for Jessica to leave. Hoyt leaves promising to send help Jessica’s way, his parting words to Jessica are less than kind, but nonetheless he leaves to find help!  While he’s is gone, Andy, Sam and Luna-Sam arrive to rescue her after getting Jessica’s whereabouts out of the terrified shifter-hater they were interrogating. Seems the Sam and Luna-Sam show really did the trick!  Luna-Sam smells another female in the room; ‘a large, menthol smoking, Cheetos-eater who is now dead’ – wonder what significance this information will turn out to hold? But what of Hoyt, I hear you ask? It seems he has jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire now.  On his pursuit to find help, he is approached by a truck and ends up looking into the barrel of a gun, the holder of the gun isn’t revealed to us…yet..

We discover in this episode just how ‘energetic’ were-sex is as Alcide and Rikki get jiggy before they attempt a pack master challenge. While they think their days are numbered due to the challenge and the unfair advantage of JD’s ‘V’ addiction, it turns out they are wrong. JD announces that the pack challenge is to hunt down a human and kill him in order to be declared the winner. Alcide forfeits but the life of the human is still at risk. JD claims the upper hand, and Alcide almost pays for this defeat with his life, but is saved by Martha who is no longer blinded by JD. Though Alcide’s life is spared, he is badly beaten and banished from the pack.

Salome tries to work out which side Bill is truly on by offering him a human to drain. Bill wavers and we get a flashback to a horrible moment in his past when he visits his dying daughter and she begs for immortality. Eventually Bill drains the victim to show his solidarity to the Sanguinista, and his loyalty to Salome. We have yet to see how he will cope with his actions afterwards.

Next we are taken to a poignant scene involving Lafayette and Jesus. Lafayette is driving away from Jesus’s grandfather’s and he finds a stash of ‘V’ that heals his lips, Jesus appears in the car and comforts him. Nothing else enlightening really happens here, other than we now know that Jesus’s spirit is with Lafayette, and gives Lafayette a newfound confidence that we have not seen in Lafayette for some time.

Speaking of Lafayette, Holly and Arlene concoct a plan to get Terry over his belief in the curse – but Lafayette has to pretend to be a medium who contacts the woman who cursed Terry and Patrick. This is all good and well until the woman really does arrive via Lafayette and tells Terry and Patrick that the only way to lift the curse is for one of them to kill the other one!  It looks like Holly and Arlene’s plan failed miserably.

While Tara is serving at Fangtasia, she comes face to face with a blast from her high school past. Tracy is the obnoxious woman we met when Jessica was trying on dresses as Claude first arrived on the scene. It turns out she is even more horrible than we first suspected! Tara gets all vampire uppity on her and Pam has to step in. We are led to believe Pam is concerned about the image that must be upheld in Fangtasia, and that humans are off-limits. We get another Pam surprise when we find that Pam has in fact chained Tracy up for Tara to do as she pleases with. It seems Tara has to learn the difference between Pam’s mad face and her happy one. Pam glamours Tracy so that she adores Tara and leaves the two alone to their own devices.

Eric tries to talk to Nora alone. He tells her about his vision of Godric. Nora seems to be a hard nut to crack though. She spits on the memory of Godric. Eric, becomes visibly upset, and is close to tears, his hope for getting Nora to see things his way is faltering, and the realization that he may have lost his sister forever is apparent. While Bill embraces his dark side, it seems that Eric is developing a softer side.

The Sam on Luna-Sam action is interrupted by Luna-Sam shifting back into Luna, but we nearly miss it because we are looking away from the screen at the time! Will Luna die? Not in this episode, but her future is not looking too good at all.

Warlow appears as a ghostly image to Sookie and announces that he is coming for her. It seems Sookie has yet another vampire to worry about!

We finish this episode with the vampires discussing how to eradicate mainstreaming. While they have many vile ideas, Bill comes up with the ball-breaker: bomb the Tru Blood factories. Apparently there are only five in existence, which makes you wonder how many vampires are out there – this world domination plan by the Sanguinistas may take a while if this is the case. Eric questions Bill’s integrity and is told by Bill that he is ‘evolving.’

Is he? I’m still hoping it is all just a really good act on Bill’s behalf, but I’d love to hear all your thoughts on the matter. Make sure you let me know in the comments below!

(Photo Credit: HBO Inc.)

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