Kristina Anapau’s Faerie Tale

by Micah Haley on June 25, 2014

IMG_4569dThis interview originally ran in the May/June 2013 issue of Scene Magazine.

With a smash series returning and four films scheduled for release this year, Kristina Anapau has a full slate.On June 16 is the return of HBO’s Louisiana set vampire saga True Blood, where for the last two seasons the brunette beauty has played Maurella, a fellow faerie to series star Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin). “It’s the best family of any on-set family experience I’ve ever had,” says Anapau. “It’s a pleasure to come to work every day. You look forward to it. When the season ended, it was such a downer because it wasn’t just that you missed the actual work of it, but you missed seeing your family every day. It’s a wonderful environment.”

With each of True Blood’s first five seasons, creator and showrunner Alan Ball has kept the show centered on camp-infused character development, while also expanding the world in and around the fictitious town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. Season two expands out of Louisiana to Dallas, where a pseudo-Christian cult is hellbent on killing vampires, and into the drunken world of a maenad named Maryann. Season three takes us to Texas, where we meet Mississippi King Russell Edgington and a pack of werewolves. Season four crowns Bill the King of Louisiana, and introduced Marnie, who leads a coven of witches, which had never before been seen in the vamp camp series. And season five finally began to reveal more about the faerie world from whence Sookie, and Maurella, came.

Anapau joined the series in season four. “It was a very quick audition. I just did the scene once through with Alan [Ball] in the room,” she recalls of the audition that earned her the role of Maurella. “HBO really trusts Alan to make the call, so there wasn’t a really big bureaucratic process of meetings that I had to go through. That is usually the case on an established television show. Usually there’s at least one more meeting where there’s a bunch of executives, but there wasn’t any of that. They really trust him to create the show he wants to create. Maybe three hours later, I got a phone call.”

“I was a fan of the show, and was up-to-date on everything that was going on,” says Anapau. “I was very up-to-date with what was happening in the faerie world, and with Sookie finding out she was half-faerie. It was exciting to be a faerie! At the time, I couldn’t think of any other creature on the show that I would rather be than a faerie. To read people’s minds and shoot balls of light out of your hands?! I got this!”

The Hawaii native notes how much the depiction of faeries on the show has changed since they were first introduced. “The faeries have changed a lot,” she says. “Even from my first episodes in season four to the episodes in season five, our whole look changed. When Sookie first found out she was a faerie, she was eating those golden fruits. It was a totally different world than it is now with the faerie night club, where it’s sexier and edgier. It’s almost like a different species of faeries. It’s a fun realm to be a part of, for sure.” Unlike a feature film, in which an actor can read their character’s entire arc in one sitting, television expects the actor to learn about the character piecemeal, in much the same way that the audience learns. “I was just trying to find my niche within Alan’s world,” says Anapau of her first days on set. “I didn’t know I was five hundred years old until [later]. I didn’t know that I was the next in line to become an Elder, so I had to incorporate that pretty quickly. On set, I tried to inject an element of regality. Not aristocratic, but a timeless regal nobility. A way of carrying myself. That helped physically.”

Joining the show midstream, Anapau relied on one of the show’s veterans to help her acclimate to the humid Southern weather. “Chris taught me a bunch of things about shaping the character and how the writer’s write on that show,” says Anapau of her co-star Chris Bauer, who plays Bon Temps sheriff Andy Belfleur, the father of Maurella’s faerie child. “It’s a Darwinian process. The little things you do as an actor, that you inject into the role, they will take that and run with it. You’ll be a part of shaping the character into who you want them to be. We decided together, in that first scene, that she should have an element of ‘creatureness’ to her, and that has helped shape the character on down the line. She’s a faerie; essentially they are little woodland creatures. I always think that before a scene: how can I inject a sense of ‘creatureness’ into her?”

trueblood12_79The little hints of animal instinct embedded within Maurella’s voluptuous pixie persona are just one of the character’s attributes, though. “You have to make sure to keep a sense of humanity in the scene,” she says. “Which all of the supernatural creatures on True Blood do really well. All of the werewolves and vampires. That’s part of the success of the show, I think. They are these fantastical creatures that have very human experiences that people can relate to.”

“Andy is such a sweet character, and so innocent in a lot of ways,” says Anapau of her character’s mate.

“And I feel like, ‘Oh Maurella! Always taking advantage of Andy!’ He allows it to happen, of course, but the faeries need the humans. They are obviously trying to repopulate their faerie population. It seemingly doesn’t matter if it’s a hybrid faerie or not. Maybe a hybrid faerie is better in some regard: maybe it can kind of straddle both worlds easier. Maybe the vampires are less likely to kill them. But the faeries do seem to be repopulating with the help of the humans.”

With her character very pregnant, Anapau had to wear a body suit to provide the necessary belly bump. “It’s like a one piece bathing suit. It’s very lightweight. It’s made of foam. Very comfortable,” she recalls. “I missed it when it was gone. I missed having something to rest my hands on. I started feeling very maternal! I would be rocking back and forth, rubbing it, without thinking about it. And castmates would be commenting about it, like, ‘What is going on?! Maybe she’s just getting into character.’ But I wasn’t! It was sort of a biological thing that happened. Just having that pregnant belly triggered something in my brain that I gotta take care of that belly!”

During the filming of season five, Anna Paquin was actually pregnant, while her character Sookie Stackhouse was not. The camera had to be carefully placed to hide Paquin’s stomach. “If our characters were walking together, they would put me in front of her to hide her real belly.”

Prior to entering the ether of the faerie world, Kristina Anapau landed a plumb gig in director Darren Aronofsky’s ballet horror opus Black Swan. Though the film shot in New York, it was financed by Louisiana-based Cross Creek Pictures. Alongside Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman, who won an Oscar for her performance, was Anapau as Galina.

“Auditions were here in L.A., even though we shot in New York. I went in for the casting director and did a reading, and she brought me back the next day for Darren, which was frightening!” she remembers of the casting process. “I read for Darren, and he wanted me to put myself on tape doing ballet. He sat me down on the couch next to him, and he wanted to show me a clip of ABT doing Swan Lake.”

The clip featured the American Ballet Theatre, one of the best ballet companies doing one of the most difficult ballets. “They sat me down and showed me this woman doing one of the hardest solos in ballet. Darren asks, ‘You can do this, right?” I was like, ‘Yeah! Oh, no problem!’ And I really wasn’t lying. I felt like I could, I believed it! And so, I left the room, super excited, and I thought, ‘I’ve got to do this. This is the final step to being in Black Swan. I’m going to be in Black Swan! This is going to be great!’”

“I took out my old pointe shoes. I had my computer up with the ABT woman dancing, and I was just going to do the same thing. I downloaded that piece of music. I strapped on my pointe shoes,” she remembers. “But I hadn’t danced in so long, I forgot that you are supposed to cut your toenails short, or else bad things can start happening. And bad things did happen.”

Anapau hadn’t danced in years, with the exception of attending classes sporadically for exercise. She estimates her absence from regular training at ten years prior to her audition for Black Swan. “First of all, I couldn’t emulate that lady like I thought I could. So, I got a little panicked, but I had a few weeks to prepare, and I just thought, ‘I’ll work really hard, get back in class and get my endurance back,” she says. “But the next day, I put my pointe shoes back on and I couldn’t even put any pressure on one of my feet. I’d bruised my toe so bad because I forgot to cut it. I ended up having to have that toenail removed. It was so bruised because I’d jumped back into things so ambitiously. So I had to put myself on tape in flat shoes, in ballet slippers, knowing that they were going to ask to see me on pointe. But that’s all I could do for that weekend.”

While at the podiatrist’s office having the damaged toenail removed, Anapau’s agent called, telling her, “They love it, but they want to see you on pointe.”

“No problem, I’ll get right on that!” was all she could tell her agent, while looking at her injured foot. “It seemed impossible that that was going to happen. But I somehow did it, within that week,” she says. “It was excruciatingly painful. But I got in a ballet studio, and had a friend come and video it. I remember not being able to keep up with the music, and my whole foot was throbbing like my leg was going to fall off. But I remember thinking, ‘If I can’t put this on tape, I’m not going to get the job.’ I don’t know what happened, but that final take, I just channeled everything I had and was able to keep up with the music enough to send a clip to them.”
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There were several months in between the audition and when casting for the film would be finalized, so Anapau took the initiative to begin training. “I had trained since I was four up until the time I was about seventeen. I had a good base for sure. From when I submitted my toenail-less audition tape, until I found out I got the role, I just decided I may as well be in class everyday,” she says. “I went to a school here in Los Angeles that’s a classical Russian school, and did intense training, got back on pointe, and was able to get comfortable with everything again.”

After winning the role, the ballet classes continued. “Even before arriving in New York, we had teachers from ABT – very, very strict Russian teachers – that were assigned to us,” she says. “We had intense training sessions leading up to the first day of filming, and even filtered in during filming. For me, that was very stressful, and I was so focused on that. We had to become professional ballerinas, essentially. Most of us had had a lot of dance training, but there’s a huge difference between having a lot of dance training and looking like you are a professional ballerina who has been in a company for five years and danced eight hours a day, every single day.”

Black Swan was one of the most prestigious opportunities of her career to date, but there was no time for nerves. “My focus was so wrapped up in ballet, I didn’t have any time to be nervous. I should have been! But it eliminated any nerves I had about working on a project with such an incredible director that I admired, and this amazing cast that I admired.”

“I think all of those stressful moments were there to help us experience the things that a struggling professional ballerina in the dead of winter in New York experiences,” Anapau muses. “We all lost so much weight! Natalie lost a lot of weight, I was eighty-seven pounds. We were all super, super skinny and it was really cold. It was what a ballerina would experience.”

Anapau saved a memento from the painful ordeal of auditioning, and later, after she received the part and principle photography had wrapped on Black Swan, she gave it to Aronofsky as a wrap present.

“I saved the toenail!” She laughs. “He doesn’t even know the whole story! I’ve never told him, ‘I lost my toenail in the process of auditioning for you.’ I wrote it in the card after we had completed filming. It was a fancy card with the paper on the inside, so I wrote on the paper, and underneath the paper was a little plastic bag with the toenail in it. He said that I’ve joined the long list of actors that have dramatically injured themselves. I told him, ‘You can’t do voodoo with this, Darren.’”

“This is an industry that allows for so much expansion as a person,” says Anapau of filming Black Swan. After growing up training as a dancer, the film allowed her to fulfill a childhood dream of being a ballerina. “The whole thing was cathartic.”

Aside from True Blood’s return, Kristina Anapau will appear in several other projects this year, including Blackjacks, which she describes as a “special ops action thriller,” and Sighting, a paranormal thriller set in West Coast wine country.

She also recently finished a Verizon campaign to raise money for the charity Stand Up to Cancer. It was a tribute to her mother, who was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, and passed away only a few months ago. Find out more about how you can help at standup2cancer.org, and by following her on Twitter at @KristinaAnapau