'True Blood': Rutina Wesley wraps Season 7, loves Tara's final arc

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"True Blood" gave Tara Thornton the true death in the Season 7 premiere, but audiences learned soon after that her character still has a presence on the show. In episode 2, Tara appeared in the V-induced hallucinations of her mother Lettie Mae, and it seems safe to assume that those appearances will continue through "True Blood's" final season.

Though viewers might have been surprised by that turn for Tara, actress Rutina Wesley welcomed the challenge. She speaks with Zap2it about learning Tara would die again, what it was like filming the final episodes of the series and whether Tara will get a resolution by the end.

Zap2it: You just wrapped Season 7 finally. What was the experience of ending the show like for you?
Rutina Wesley: It was amazing. It's bittersweet; it's sad but happy; it's so many emotions filming the last, final episodes. I can say just for myself, I just tried to treasure every moment as if it was the last moment. The crew was so special, the cast was so special, HBO is so special; it's just an experience like I have never had. 

Also, it was kind of my first big experience right out of school. It's a huge thing for me, "True Blood." When I was filming my final days, I just remember looking in my trailer, like, "OK, this is my trailer." Taking my final walks to craft [services]; just looking around and trying to talk to people that I don't know when I will see again. This group of people together again? That's never going to happen again. I just tried to treasure every moment.

Did you get to take something from set, like a souvenir of Tara?
I'm hoping to keep a set of my fangs, and my jean shorts that I wore like all first season.

Wow, they still have them?
Yeah, they do, and I want to put them in a travel box and stick them in my woman cave. [ laughs]

And come back to the 10 year reunion wearing them.
Oh man, I can't even fit them anymore. Are you kidding me? [ laughs]

It was a pretty big shock when Tara was given the true death right at the beginning of Season 7. What was your response to that twist?
When I found out, I was like, "Oh, OK, well somebody had to go." It's "True Blood." It wouldn't be "True Blood" if somebody didn't die. [ laughs] I mean, I didn't know I would die before the credits, but I knew I was going to go. I've always been very happy with my journey on the show, and the writing and everything that they've given me, so I don't have any regrets or anything. 

I wasn't bitter. I was just like, "OK, well that's great, that's how we're going to start off the season: With a bang." I actually loved the way I went out, because you got to see Tara go out fighting. Tara's at her best when she's fighting, I feel like. It was nice to see that. I liked having her death off screen, because it was nice to see her as a fighter, and that's the last image we have of Tara.

Did showrunner Brian Buckner or someone take you out to let you know that Tara would be dying in the premiere episode before you got the script?
No I didn't. I just found out through my representatives, and that was that. It wasn't like they didn't reach out or anything; I was fine with it. I didn't need to have a meeting or dinner. I was like, "OK cool. Let's keep it going. That's 'True Blood.' I'm dying? Fine. Bring it on." I was absolutely fine with it.

Since this is her second death, did you feel a bit more ready for it?
I think that kind of showed in how people reacted to it, because it was the second time Tara was dying. Lafayette said it best when he's like, "I'm kind of relieved." He's like, "I don't feel anything. I grieved her the first time." The most emotional part I can say was the table read, because that was my last thing. I'm gone. I'm dead. I remember people were clapping and showing a lot of love, and I just remember I was crying, and Kristin [Bauer van Straten] was crying and Adina [Porter] was crying. 

It was just beautiful. We do that for every character when someone gets killed; we send them off with an applause and love in the room, and it's just really great. But having that, that was my emotional moment of, "I'm really dead." When I finally got to see the episode, it was like, "Oh ... and she's gone, and the credits." But it was really cool. I was happy with the scene and how everything went.

Was it difficult coming back from that table read and having to keep Tara "alive" shooting Lettie Mae's visions?
No, I was happy to be doing it. [ laughs] I was like, "Yay!" It was cool because it was a whole other side. It was almost like I got to go back to being human, and I liked that actually. I liked that a lot. And I loved my wardrobe and the white dress; it was just very angelic. I thought that was cool to see Tara in that way.

Is Tara's story this season going to end up being a path of redemption for Lettie Mae?
I'm not sure, actually. I think that is the big question is: Will Tara be able to forgive her mother for a lifetime of bad parenting? That is the big question. You're just going to have to watch and see where that goes. It is a very interesting journey. They're going to be working out their issues, and hopefully they will come to some sort of [reconciliation].

Hopefully you get to come down off the cross. That doesn't seem like the most comfortable shoot.
It was crazy. I'm actually afraid of snakes, so I was like, "Oh my gosh, I don't know if I can actually do this." I couldn't believe how well I was able to act with Sammy -- the snake's name was Sammy. Sammy the Snake. He was awesome, and me and him got really close and really friendly. There was one particular take where I remember he was all up in my face. I just had to keep going. I remember being scared because I could feel his tongue. Like, he's licking my face, and all up in my face. But I had to keep going, and it was kind of cool, because I think they actually used that shot.

At the end of this season, will we get a resolution for Tara with the other main characters on the show beyond Lettie Mae?
I'm hoping so. It's the final season. I think you're going to see a closure hopefully for everyone. Not everyone's going to be happy, because it's "True Blood," but I can say that I'm hoping that there will be closure for every character in some sort of way. Something. So yes, I think Tara may have a sense of closure for her; an end to her journey, hopefully.

What was your favorite change or evolution for Tara over the seasons?
My favorite change, which was another new challenge, was when I was turned into a vampire. It was just a whole other thing for me. I got to figure this out: How is Tara as a vampire, because she hates them? I really enjoyed being turned. The scene with the Stackhouse kitchen where I got to hop over the refrigerator and throw chairs and lamps, it's my favorite scene of all time.

Up next you have San Diego Comic-Con. What will it be like for you attending the last "True Blood" panel there?
It's one of those where I'm going to try to enjoy it, every last moment of it. Comic-Con is so much fun. It's so great to go, because we meet some of our die-hard fans. They're the reasons we've been on television for seven years, the people who come to the panels and wait for hours and hours and hours in line to see us. It's just amazing. I always have a great experience when I'm there. I'm just going to try to take it all in and treasure it, especially the last moments I'll have with the cast at Comic-Con.

"True Blood" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.
Photo/Video credit: HBO