“True Blood” will air its final episode on Aug. 24, bring to a close the story of Sookie, Bill, Eric, Jessica and the rest of the Bon Temps gang after seven seasons.
In the series’ penultimate episode, Jessica Hamby was reunited with her true love Hoyt Fortenberry, seemingly resolving her romantic story after relationships with Jason Stackhouse and James. Zap2it spoke with Deborah Ann Woll about whether or not Jessica and Hoyt are soulmates, who the most important man in Jessica’s life is and the difficulties she is having adjusting to her role as Karen on Marvel and Netflix’s “Daredevil” series.
Zap2it: Were you surprised that it ended up being Jessica and Hoyt who were soulmates — or as close to soulmates as can exist on “True Blood”?
Deborah Ann Woll: Yeah, I was surprised. I had sort of been going down another track in terms of my thoughts about the character and where we were headed, and so it took me a bit by surprise too. But I also had a little bit of earlier notice. The showrunner [Brian Buckner] had spoken to me about his thoughts about doing that, but I didn’t know how it would happen. In true “True Blood” fashion, it happened very quickly. I was definitely surprised. I don’t know if I would say “soulmates.” I think Jessica’s had a lot of contenders. That was what was fun about it, that kind of kept us guessing, is that there were a lot people she could have been with.
At what point in production did you know this was the direction Jessica was heading in?
I knew generally the direction they wanted to take before we started shooting — generally that he was coming back and there was romance involved. What I didn’t know was sort of what form that would take; whether it was going to be a love triangle or whether that was end game or what.
It was a bit of a red herring too that Jason and Jessica had another hookup before the end. Was that important fan service to get in there before she ended up with Hoyt?
I think it’s important to show how much Jessica and Jason mean to one another. The scene in the car in episode 8 between Jessica and Jason is one of my favorites. I think that in another world, in another story, that could have worked. I think that they are really good for each other and I think that they love each other and I think they’re good friends. Just because of the story and the way that things went down, she ended up with Hoyt, but I think that it was important to show we all have a huge capacity for love, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with feeling love for many, many people. I think she loves Bill, I think she loves Andy and Adilyn, I think she loves Sookie, and I think she loves Jason, and I think she loves Hoyt. The way things happened and at this point in her life, Hoyt is the person that she wanted to be with.
Do you think Jessica, Jason and Hoyt have matured enough in the past few seasons that they can all be friends now that Jessica and Hoyt are back together?
I think that Jessica and Jason mean enough to each other that they will be friends for a long time. I think that that’s something that always underlaid that relationship. Part of what I really loved about it is that they were always so respectful of one another — for the most part, other than a few disagreements. I love that Jessica never rolled her eyes at Jason when he said silly things, and he never judged her for her impulses. I think that’s a really great friendship, and I think that they will be able to make it.
Jessica really has evolved so much as a character since Season 1. What have been some elements that you’ve enjoyed most about that journey?
Jessica’s is a coming-of-age story, and in any good coming-of-age story, the person has to learn how to be independent, how to take care of themselves. I think from where she’s started, which was living with very domineering parents who didn’t really want her to be an individual, she had to go through all the growing pains that come with that in terms of trying out every extreme of yourself, pushing to see where your strengths are and where your vulnerabilities are.
By the end, and I think it’s illustrated best in her relationship with Bill, she needed a strong father figure and she had that in Bill over the last six, seven years. Now that he’s leaving — and there’s more growing to do, certainly, in the last episode, and we’ll see how that relationship pans out — but she asked to be released in [episode] 9, and I think there’s something in that that says, “I am a grown woman. I’m capable of taking care of myself. I need you to recognize that, and recognize my independence.”
If Bill does end up dying the true death, how will she be able to move on from that?
Bill is the most person in Jessica’s story. We can talk about the boyfriends as much as we want, but as far as I’m concerned, the story started with Bill and it will always end with Bill. At least this story of “True Blood” for Jessica will end with her relationship with Bill, and for me that’s the through-line for her, especially considering the troubles that she has with her real father. I think this was the story about the two of them growing together and learning from each other. The releasing thing is interesting, because there’s a lot of different reasons why she could do it. She could do it to hurt him, which was part of it. She could do it to assert her independence, which I think was part of it.
But I also think it’s a little bit of fear. He chose to go through something that’s going to be very painful for everyone around him, including himself. I don’t know that Jessica wants to have to experience that. I think that’s a very human and universal feeling. When someone you care about and love so deeply is going to be in pain, I think we get scared and we want to push it away. In that moment, she was so hurt and just thinking, “I can’t sit and watch him turn black and blue and bleed and die. I just can’t do it, and I need to be divorced from that.” Without giving too much away, that’s something that Jessica’s going to have to confront in the finale in terms of how she’s going to either choose or not to reconcile with Bill based on what he choses to do with his time.
Do you think — as Deborah, not as Jessica — that Bill made the right decision, as of episode 9? He has room to change his mind yet.
He has room to change his mind. I would point out to people that we spent a lot of time this season looking at Bill’s human life. There’s a reason for that. I think there’s a strong reason for why we’ve seen how much he loved his human family, how much he missed of them. If you think back to Lorena, she basically made him give them up. He lost so much when he became a vampire, and I think that’s why we’ve seen him struggle so much with being one. I think Jessica is a part of his salvation in that a little bit. I think he loves her very dearly, and it was his chance to have a family in the way that he misses them, but I can understand Bill not really wanting to continue this — just for his own personal reasons, beyond the idea that maybe he’s causing Sookie or Jessica or people pain. There’s maybe more peace for him in death than there is in continuing to be a vampire, perhaps.
Over the years, there’s always been talk of whether Sookie would become a vampire. Do you think that would be a satisfying conclusion if she was turned so she and Bill can be together, or would that sort of miss the point?
I would probably lean more toward missing the point. First of all, Sookie’s already special. She’s a faerie, which makes her special, but she’s also special because she’s a strong, amazing character. I’m really proud, actually, to be on a show that’s lead by a woman. I think that’s super cool and kind of rare. Sookie doesn’t have to “end up” with Bill in order to have a finale, you know? I think she’s special all on her own, and she doesn’t have to be a vampire to evolve.
Do you think there are happy endings for some or all of these characters?
Happiness is variable. Life is life, and it has happy moments and it has challenging moments. Even if the show leaves some of our characters in a happy moment, we know that there will be challenges ahead. And if it leaves some characters in a challenging moment, we know that there will be happiness ahead. I would hope that no matter how the show ends, the fans keep these characters lives going in their minds and in their imaginations. I lived with Jessica for six, almost seven years. I have hopes and dreams for her that are as strong as my hopes and dreams are for myself. I absolutely have ideas of what happens to her after the last minute of the last episode.
Can you share one that’s not super spoilery?
I absolutely cannot think of a way to do it without spoiling. [laughs] I do imagine her becoming a maker one day. Or it could be human children, perhaps. I see Jessica as being extremely compassionate and a care-giver. I would hope one someday that she would have someone to teach all the lessons to that she’s learned.
After filming the final episode, how did you respond?
We were all a little sad. This is a family of actors and crew but also a family of characters. Specifically on the actor point of view, I’ll miss the characters. I’ll never see Bill Compton again. Obviously we’ll hang out every once in a while and we’ll keep in touch, but I won’t ever see Bill, and a piece of that is really saddening to me. As the scripts started to wind down and we started to see, “Oh, this is the last scene for these characters together” or “This is the last time I’ll do my fang-out” — things that are really only going to happen on this show — and we watched them count down to done, that was hard.
You’ve now spent seven years with Jessica on “True Blood.” Now that you’re moving forward onto projects like “Daredevil,” has playing Jessica changed what you’re looking for in future roles in terms of something you’d like to try again or maybe do that’s different?
Huh. Well, I’m already starting to notice huge differences between the two characters [in “True Blood” and “Daredevil”]. That’s already kind of exciting to play. I can feel myself go, “Oh, if this was Jessica she would do this,” but wanting to kind of steer differently than that. It’s always going to be me in some way. I think, as an actor, that’s part of it. You have to bring some of yourself to it, and that’s why you have to revisit roles over and over again, so you can see different people bring themselves to the part. So it’s always going to feel a little bit similar because it will always be a piece of me, but I can choose to respond differently or play things closer to the chest. It’s been a really interest experience, actually, stepping outside of Jessica. It feels sort of weird. Jessica was like an old pair of jeans. I knew every rip, every stretched out spot. It just fit me just right after so many years. Karen, it’s going to take a little bit of time, but I’m starting to figure out how to I fit into those clothes.
You know what’s funny, after a few years of working on one character, it was so easy to feel for [Jessica]. By Season 3, I could cry for Jessica at the drop of a hat. I cared about her as much as I care about myself, so it was just very easy to go there. Starting up with the new character [Karen] now, I remember being like, “Why is this so hard? I thought I was really good at this. I thought I had this whole emotional accessibility thing licked because it had been so easy for the last four or five years.”
And then I was like, “Oh, right. I’ve only known Karen for like four weeks as opposed to seven years.” I have to do this work all over again, and maybe in two years I’ll be at the point where I can cry at the drop of a hat for Karen. [laughs] But it just takes a little bit of extra effort to get there, and making things even more real or higher stakes for yourself, whatever you’ve got to do to get yourself there. It’s a reminder of how special it was to do that one show for seven years.
“True Blood’s” final episode, “Thank You,” airs Sunday, Aug. 24 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.