Next month, Kristin Bauer van Straten, better known as True Blood‘s Pam, will leave for Kenya, where she’ll spend four weeks filming a documentary about the effort to stop elephant ivory and rhino horn poaching — a cause dear to her South African husband’s family. His grandfather was a professor of physiology who helped treat, relocate, and save wildlife. Just as the experts need help to keep elephants and rhinos from going extinct, Bauer van Straten needs help to fund her film project.
With 19 days left on her Kickstarter campaign, she’s reached roughly two-thirds of her $30,000 goal. She expects the documentary, Out for Africa, to cost triple that. As incentives for pledges, she’s recruited her True Blood castmates to sign items ranging from the common (magazine covers and comic books) to the rare (Joe Manganiello’s modesty sock, which secured a donation of at least $1,000, and Anna Paquin’s signed “super snatch patch,” which has yet to go up for grabs). Forthcoming items include a signed Sookie bra, an Authority necklace, and the Walmart sweatshirt Bauer van Straten wore to EW’s Women Who Kick Ass Comic-Con panel. Members of the cast and crew are also offering their time, whether it be a 30-minute phone call or a dinner. We caught up with Bauer van Straten last week.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How long have you been thinking about doing this?
KRISTIN BAUER VAN STRATEN: I’ve been thinking about it for the last year and reading, but in the last couple of months, producers of The Cove, Forks Over Knives, and Dogtown and Z-Boys all met with me and said, “I’ll help you. You can do this.” So they’re offering advice. And then this amazing cinematographer said, “I’ll shoot it.” And then a producer on True Blood, when I went to her to get approval to put up the signed items, she said, “I’m working with someone who’s working on the same thing, a producer who did the documentary One Lucky Elephant.” She knows everybody in Kenya, and she sat down with me and was like, “Here’s the name of the girl who will do permits for you. Here’s the name of the person who’ll do visas. Here’s a sound person and a DP for you in this country. I can access you to the heavy, heavy hitters working on this every day.” I’m like, the universe wants me to go. The documentary world is a passionate world of people wanting to do something for their soul. Hopefully my soul will be very enriched, because my bank account is suffering.
What’s the most surprising way your True Blood fame has helped you?
There’s this woman, Cynthia Moss, who I just revere. She’s one of the world’s leading scientists on elephants, and she’s been living and studying the elephants of Amboseli National Park for 40 years. We’re going to Amboseli, and my husband’s family lived and grew up in Amboseli working on elephant conservation, so this is very important to me. I wrote to her, and she wrote back that she’s a huge True Blood fan — “I love Pam!.” Because they don’t have True Blood in Kenya, this incredible, intelligent scientist is there bootlegging it.
You have to take her DVDs.
Right? HBO gives me copies as the episodes air, and I thought, maybe I should make copies. But then I go, “Oh, I’ll get in trouble.” But in my defense, I’m saving a species. Can’t I bootleg season 5 to stop the extinction of elephants? Isn’t that good in the HBO court of law?
What scares you most about the trip?
I think I’ve gotten over the fear of yellow fever and typhoid. [Laughs] I’m still working on the fear of snakes. I was told to make sure to tuck in your mosquito nets and check your bed because the snakes like to go where it’s warm at night. It was given to me as a helpful hint. I’m like, [Whimpers] Okay. I’m used to rats, spiders. Even tarantulas and scorpions, I’m good.
Are you going to be filming behind-the-scenes? Because I would like to see that.
We are. I just actually realized that the documentary has begun. Me, in my house, trying to figure out Kickstarter, up way too late when I’ve got to be on the set way too early — I should have been filming that. I did a late-night confession on my iPhone the other night in tears.
Why were you crying?
It gets scary. There are moments when it’s so overwhelming. There’s this delay with emails. Africa’s awake when we’re not, so I’m getting really tired, and also the budget that I had has doubled. So each decision is, “Well, we really should get that camera that can do slow motion,” “Well, we really should visit that other location, and that’s another bush plane,” “Well, we really should extend it by two days.” All of this is dollars. I just brought on a producer, but it has to be done, and I’m good at rolling up my sleeves. And then there’s the feeling that you might be missing something. Right now, there’s a problem with the human-animal conflict around Amboseli. Because of overpopulation, humans are right up against the border, so the Maasai have surrounded the park and are killing anything that comes over in retaliation for a water buffalo killing one of their kids recently. Human life was lost, and now they’re retaliating and killing a lot of elephants. So Big Life Africa is probably in a bush plane right now buzzing the boundaries, trying to keep the elephants away from wandering into human areas. It’s sad because life is being lost on both sides. So it’s bizarre to think I’m putting on my makeup and heels and going to EW in New York City, and [Big Life’s Director of Operations] Richard Bonham, one of the people I’m emailing with and hoping and praying to meet, is buzzing the boundaries of Amboseli. I’m living this crazy dual reality. My husband keeps looking at me, and when I’m not responding, he goes, “You in Kenya?”