I'm already counting the hours until this weekend's Once Upon A Time. Not just because of the success of the show's unique and ambitious pilot, but because Episode 2 guest-stars True Blood's Kristin Bauer as Maleficent, Mistress of All Evil (and the lady Sleeping Beauty better keep one eye open for). That's right, the same actress responsible for Pam's dry wit, sinister edge, and drop-dead-gorgeous looks is headed for fairyland, and not the one with the glowing pears. If you want to have a "best day of your life" contest, I just won, because this week I had the opportunity to talk with my favorite vampire about playing the most powerful witch on Once Upon a Time and what she plans on dressing up as for Halloween.
How, as an actress, do you create a fantasy character? What references can you draw from?
When you have a character where it's written in the script that she’s a divorced mother of two, you can look at that and go, okay, she’s this, and pull from elements of people that you know. But with fantasy characters like Pam on True Blood or Maleficent, you rely on your imagination. But you also have the imagination of the other people in the room, the director, your scene partners, the set designers and the costumers—it creates a scaffolding for you to build on. Especially acting with the green screen, which is a whole other animal, and that was something new for me. I was working with Lana Parrilla and she was so great, she literally took me by the hand and showed me the monitor where the post-production guys have a temporary background in place so that they can see for the blocking, to give me a sense of the setting. With Maleficent, I have a staff with a glowing orb. That’s the addiction of this job, of acting, to get to become this different character. So when I read the scene I was like “Yeah!”
You’ve transformed Pam into such a breakout character on True Blood. Everyone loves her, and though she can be sinister, what really defines her is your comedic timing. Are you getting cameos from directors who want to hang out with this presence you’ve created?
You wonder, because there’s this parallel, I feel, between Pam and Maleficent. I kind of feel like, thanks to Charlaine Harris, who wrote Pam as blonde, and Alan Ball, for giving me the shot, and then all the writers for writing this incredible stuff all these years, and the base I have at True Blood. It’s a typecasting that I’m completely in love with. I spent a long time in my career playing the dumb blonde, which I love, but at a certain point you want to do something else. I really wasn’t allowed to play a character who was edgy or tough or smart, based on appearance. But Charlaine and HBO and Alan, and the Lost people, they’re cut from a different cloth, they’re a little bit more visionary, and I’m really the benefactor of that.
Are you going to bring Pam's humor and wit to Maleficent, or is Maleficent a more straightforward villain? And are you interested in exploring more comedy?
I really started out in comedy, and I did sitcoms for years and absolutely loved it and that probably does help with Pam, but their writing is so clear and so funny. I’d love to go back to comedy, sitcoms went away for a while, but they’ve come back. I’d love to do a movie, a comedic movie, that would be heaven. And for Maleficent, once I was wearing the clothing and in the room and looking at Lana and how powerful she is, I was thinking, “I don’t think powerful people have to assert their power.” The big dog at the dog park is the one that looks the most relaxed. So I tried to not have to assert too much, anything in their relationship and the power that they're wielding, I tried to play a good chess game. Poker was more the concept I had in my head. I tried to make up the the history of their friendship that we don’t know yet. So we’ll see if we did it, but Lana and I had a great time.
Right now you’re a vampire at one job, and you’ve just taken on a fairytale character. What are you going to dress as for Halloween?
My agents asked me that, and I said I was going to be Smurfette, because I’m going to be the opposite: the most innocent, harmless, banal, sweet thing.
Bauer will appear in the second episode of Once Upon a Time, "The Thing you Love Most," airing this Sunday at 8pm on ABC.