Rutina Wesley’s No Nonsense Character on True Blood

January 31, 2009 by  

rutinahboRutina Wesley’s character on Alan Ball’s hit HBO TV series “True Blood” doesn’t mince her words and tells people straight in their face what she’s thinking. Rutina Wesley portrays Tara Thornton, a foul-mouth, anger young woman raised by an abusive, alcoholic mother and best friend to the main character in “True Blood”, Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin). Rutina explains that people may have this image that she is tough like Tara but in reality she is the opposite of her. Rutina states that she can understand her character and the anger that is always simmering on the surface but can also convey a sense of vulnerability and sweetness lying deep inside of her. Rutina states that she herself may appear to people to have a very tough exterior but she is the opposite and is really very sweet inside.

For her audition for Alan Ball to get the part of Tara, Rutina had to act out the scene from Episode One where she is working at the “Super Save-a-bunch” store and bad mouths to a customer and her boss before quitting. Alan Ball chose this scene to cast the character because he wanted someone to

“establish her as the smartest citizen of the fictional backwater town of Bon Temps, La., but also as a hot-tempered, curse-happy person who doesn’t suffer fools. “Other actresses played it for laughs, like something on the CW,” Mr. Ball said. “But Rutina was the first person who showed her vulnerable side.”

Rutina’s character is perhaps the one character in Charlaine Harris’ books who has been changed the most by Alan Ball in his adaptation of “True Blood”. In the books Tara is Caucasian and is not foul mouth and in your face as Alan Ball’s version. In fact Tara doesn’t really have a large role in the Charlaine Harris’ novels however, Mr. Ball wanted to expand her character and change her around. Mr. Ball stated “It’s in Louisiana — it couldn’t be all about the Caucasians”.

On “True Blood” Tara may swear at people constantly and put them in their place but when it come to Sookie’s brother, Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten) she has a soft spot for him. Rutina states that Tara believes that one day Jason will realize that she is the one for him and they will get married, have children and live happily ever after. Unfortunately Rutina states that Jason see and treats Tara like one of his buddies.

Rutina’s decision to follow an acting career may have been influenced by her parents who were both being entertainers. Rutina’s mother, Cassandra Wesley, was a feather-headed showgirl and her father, Ivery Wheeler, is a professional tap dancer. Adding to the fact that she grew up 10 minutes away from the Las Vegas strip, the glistening lights may all have contributed to her decision to attend Las Vegas Academy of International Studies, Performing and Visual high school. Afterwards she received a full scholarship to the University of Evansville in Indiana and majored in theatre arts. She states that it was a quite a culture chock for her during her freshman year there because of two main factors: she was the only African-American female in the theatre performance department and her hometown setting set her apart. She recently graduated from Juilliard and appeared on Broadway in David Hare’s “Vertical Hour” and a movie entitled “How She Move” (2007). “True Blood” is the first television series that she has worked on. Currently she is married to actor Jacob Fishel and divides her time between Los Angeles and Astoria, Queens. In closing Rutina states that the concept of vampires being seen as outsiders is something she can relate to and how sometimes people need to look beyond the surface.

“I get to create this girl and make her not the stereotypical — for lack of a better phrase — black woman with an attitude,” Ms. Wesley said of moments like these. “We see a lot of that. But with Tara we’re also going to see a woman who has been through a lot of things.”

SOURCE: “Television – Flesh and Blood in a Town of Vampires –” The New York Times. 2008.

(Photo credit: HBO Inc.)