Best known as the sexy, deliciously evil and emotionally complex Lorena in HBO’s True Blood, Mariana Klaveno has delighted fans as the psycho-vamp who can’t seem to get enough of Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer). The talented actress also starred in the feature film While the Children Sleep (released as The Sitter on DVD). If you’re a fan, you know that HBO has renewed True Blood for a 12-episode fourth season, slated to premiere in June 2011. And like most die hard fans, you’re hoping she’ll somehow return. In this revealing interview, Klaveno explains how she got her start, her thoughts about a role so many have come to love and admire, and the scenes people just can’t stop talking about.
So you literally lived on a Washington farm until you were 18. Did you dream of becoming an actress when you were young?
Mariana Klaveno: For as long as I can remember, acting is something I always wanted to do. I don’t really know where that impulse came from. I was kind of secretive about it until my junior year in high school. I thought it was such a wild, outlandish goal to have.
What were you like in High School?
MK: That’s a good question. Most of the time, I was just waiting to go to college. The area where I grew up was really fantastic, a wonderful place to be a child, but by the time I got to high school, I was ready to go to a big city and experience different cultures, study acting, basically, enjoy all the things a big city has to offer. I wasn’t that great in sports and that was really a big thing where I grew up. So there were some awkward years with me trying to be an athlete. My high school was too small to have a drama class, so I had to wait until college.
You worked as a hostess at Morton’s in Burbank where you met J.J. Abrams who helped get you on Alias. How did that help your career as an actress?
MK: It gave me my first TV credit, which is not a small thing when you’re starting out. It’s a Catch 22 if you’re looking for work. It was a great experience being on Alias and I’m forever grateful to J.J. for that. That first credit does set the wheels in motion.
You thought you didn’t get the role of Lorena after your fist audition. Was it because you thought you should have dressed “evil” for the read?
MK: When I read the scene, which was a great one where we first meet Lorena. She struck me as a sad, lonely character. And I thought it would be so much more effective if you saw that side or her. So when she reveals herself as this powerful, scary vampire, it’s that much more jolting. And so I dressed as innocently as possible—with sweet little curls, almost no makeup, and light pink and beige outfits. Some of the other girls showed up in dyed black hair, heavy makeup and sexy outfits. Fortunately, my gamble worked.
Did you always have this fascination with vampires? Is there something that draws you to them?
MK: I was a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I enjoyed a lot of the mythology, but I wouldn’t call myself a diehard vampire fan. I’m drawn to duplicitous characters more than anything–characters that are complex and more than they seem at first glance. I think that drew me more to Lorena than her being a vampire. That said, it’s a lot of fun to play a super powerful character.
Charlaine Harris’s novels don’t go into a lot of detail about Lorena. Did you work with the writers to define the role?
MK: I got the call that I would be a series regular after doing one episode in season one, which was exciting and unexpected. I thought they would sit down with me and talk about where they wanted Lorena to go, her character arc, but they didn’t, which was terrifying and wonderful at the same time. Because I think that’s the way Alan and the writers work on the show. They really value the actors and they trust them. They want to see what you bring to the table. Once I got over the initial shock of them not telling what to do, I said, “Okay, I guess I get to do what I want to do with this character.” It was really fun to find out where Lorena lived, about her body and voice. The flashback scenes helped me define the character.
Why do you think TRUE BLOOD has such a huge following?
MK: I think the show succeeds on so many levels. It has some much going on stylistically that there’s something for everyone. There’s the romance element, the horror, the camp, the action and comedy. I think the writers do a brilliant job of weaving all those elements together. You’re laughing one moment and scared the next. And it’s sexy in a way you’ve never seen before.
Besides being deliciously evil, what do you think drives Lorena, what makes her likeable, what are her human frailties? Is it more than just unrequited love?
MK: I made some decisions about what her human life may have been like to explain what drives her. I think that she lived a really tragic life as a human. I think she was denied love and possibly even victimized as a human, and that’s what drives her toward a darker, more violent place. She wields that power in a way that she was unable to as a human. It’s really important to her that she finds love and a true companion, and she believes she found that in Bill Compton. And that’s what makes her such a tragic character–she desperately wants someone who will never want her. The reason she loves Bill is the very reason that prevents him from returning the feeling. He’s an honorable man and that’s what drew her to him in the beginning.
You play such a seductively evil character, is there a hint of Lorena buried deep inside you?
MK: I think there has to be. I think she’s somewhere in there. I’m generally a very nice person. I’ve never been a psychotic ex-girlfriend. But I think as an actor, you tap into something you’re very passionate about. And when you live in that place, you plant that seed into your character. There is a rage inside me somewhere that gets to come out through her, which makes it healthier than letting it come out in your real life.
So what did you think when you first read the head-turning sex scene with Stephen Moyer?
MK: I thought about my parents and said, oh, God, I hope they survive this one, which they did. Actually, that scene is very interesting. I know it got various responses from people and that really was the point. Alan and the writers really like to push the envelope in many different directions and take big risks. Playing that scene was difficult for a woman—you feel very uncomfortable and vulnerable to be victimized that way. But I had to keep reminding myself that she’s allowing everything to happen to her, and in a way, it’s empowering to her because the darker Bill becomes, the closer she feels he’s coming to her. The more violent he becomes, the more he’s moving away from Sookie and his human life and back to her and the darkness of vampire life–which makes it even more messed up. So focusing on that made it easier to play that scene, knowing that she still has the power and holds all the cards. Even though it looked horrific, she’s not a helpless woman because she could have thrown him off at any moment.
In the Civil War flashback, you call Bill an “honorable man.” What other traits besides his internal conflict to overcome evil draw you to Bill?
MK: She could sense his capacity for love. He’s a lover, poignantly expressed in one of his lines, “You can’t help but love.” And I think that’s very true. They’re both helpless lovers.
What are some of your favorite scenes?
MK: The 20’s flashback was really fun. The costumes really helped transform Lorena. I really enjoy working with Anna. My scenes with her, getting to play catty were fun. I also loved all my scenes with Denis O’Hare.
You wear some of the most stunning outfits. Do you have your favorites? Do you like Ina Soltani designs?
MK: I’m glad you brought that up. I was so lucky. I loved every time they brought me in for costume fittings. It was so exquisite, the things they’d put me in. Audrey Fisher, the brilliant costume designer was beside herself when my character was killed off because she lost the opportunity to bring out these gorgeous clothes.
Lorena accepted her demise at the very last minute at the hands of Sookie. Do you think she got what she deserved?
MK: I think she got what was poetic and appropriate. I tend to root for my character more than most. But I actually loved the way she went out, which wasn’t scripted for her, to give in the way she did. They were trying to decide what to do with my arms during the scene and rather than struggle, I brought up the fact that she’s not saying, stop, she’s saying she loves Bill. So I suggested, what if she accepts it and wants her last moments to be about what she treasures most–her love for Bill.
What went through your head when you sliced Bill open with that scalpel?
MK: You know, so many people have brought up the torture scene. Did everyone forget the things Bill did to me at the beginning of the season? He lit me on fire, he broke my neck, he punched me in the face. I thought it fitting that she sliced him up a little bit. That was a really fun scene—because the dialog was so great. The characters actually had some real moments they’d never shared before. It was just so sad and so revealing. It actually was a bit nerve wracking to slice him open because we only had one or two of those fake chests. And I had to be careful not to cut too deep.
What can you tell us about Season 4? Are they going to bring you back?
MK: You never know. They have ways of bringing people back. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if she shows up in a flashback. But so far, I don’t think she’s coming back soon. The next season is all about the witches.
So what’s next for you?
MK: I’m back to reading scripts and trying to choose the next project, which is fun but difficult. I try to be thoughtful about it. And look for something far away from the Lorena character, to be challenged and stay fresh.
Are you looking for a comedy or action film?
MK: Just something not so stylized and more reality based. And I’d like to play something other than a villain.
Film or TV?
MK: I would love to do more film. That said, some of the best stuff out there is on TV right now.