Rutina Wesley Seeks to Encourage Black Actresses for Leading Roles

September 13, 2009 by  

6a00d8341c630a53ef0120a5bb2bdb970c-250wiNot only does Rutina Wesley get to star in a hugely popular show like True Blood, but her character, Tara Thornton, also gets to break out of stereotypes for black women.

In an article by the LA Times, Rutina gets very excited and emotional talking about how much she loves working on the show. She also expresses her wish that her role would pave the way for other black actresses to have interesting layers to their characters, beyond playing the common trend of the “BBF” or “Black Best Friend.”

A multidimensional leading character like Tara has given Rutina the chance to utilize her extensive classical training–she studied acting at Julliard and did Shakespeare at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Alan Ball appreciates well-trained actors like Rutina because “they can come in and know instantly how to play a scene.”

For her audition, Alan says she brought something unique and complex to her portrayal of Tara:

Rutina just nailed the part from the beginning. She traded the toughness for vulnerability. She was really strong, present and funny in her audition. I didn’t see the actress, I saw Tara.”

Rutina’s conception of Tara has always been that, underneath all of the strength and outspokenness and troubled past, she still feels very deeply rather than becoming hardened to the pain:

“I immediately saw past her anger. You can scream all day long. That would be the easy way to play her. I see Tara more as a flower, a broken woman. People want her to do well, and she doesn’t know how. I try to make her softer. She is tortured, incredibly hard to play.”

Rutina considers herself blessed to get to have this interesting role on such a great series:

“I’m living a dream. I’m so crazy about this show and everything about it. I get so overwhelmed sometimes I cry.”

She also thinks about her situation on the broader scale of the work being done by other black actresses:

“It’s really maddening out there for dark-skinned actresses in terms of the opportunities we get. There’s just so much talent that is being overlooked. Viola Davis should be a household name. So should Angela Bassett.”

Being in the spotlight that True Blood provides, Rutina hopes that Tara would be a stepping stone and inspire other fascinating characters for black actresses to play. For her own future, she wants to continue to work on projects at a level of quality like True Blood has achieved, and to explore new and different roles.


(Photo credit: Kirk McCoy)