'True Blood' star Tara Buck talks Ginger's past -- and future
Spoiler alert! If you haven’t seen this week’s episode of True Blood, “Death is Not the End,” stop reading now (or at least check out our full recap first). We spoke with actress Tara Buck, who’s billed as a regular for the first time this season, about fan favorite Ginger’s backstory, which, along with Fangtasia’s origin story, was revealed in a series of glorious flashbacks.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We found out that in 1996, college student Ginger came into the video store the Magister had forced Pam and Eric to run 10 years earlier looking for vampire movies, and she was so smitten with Eric, that she immediately asked to work there. Had the writers told you anything about Ginger’s history over the years, or was this the first time you got a piece of it, too?
TARA BUCK: I never sat down with the writers and spoke to them about it. But when I got that script, I was like, “This is amazing. You read my mind.” It was much more elaborate, fantastic, and funny than I had imagined, but it was this instinct connection, like, “This is right. That’s absolutely Ginger’s backstory.” I always thought of Ginger as a vampire groupie. I felt like she had this relationship with Pam and Eric—but specifically Eric, like he was Mick Jagger or Michael Jackson. He’s this God-like being in her life. [Laughs] Although she comes from a small town in the South and probably grew up with nothing, this is her version of getting to go on a world tour with the biggest rock star that anybody has ever encountered. And she will take whatever that brings, meaning, whatever abuse—though she doesn’t see it as abuse. She’s just thrilled to be there for the ride and that she somehow is chosen to accompany them. She was just smart enough that she was like, “I know there’s a whole world out there, and I want to taste it. I don’t know how I’m going to,” and then on her little research mission, she finds Pam and Eric, and it’s done. It’s like the fork in the road, and she goes left, and that’s forever for her. [Laughs] Her destiny.
Take me through filming that moment when Ginger first sees Eric and gasps. What was your first reaction when you saw Alexander Skarsgard in that get-up?
My god. I was like, “You’re Jason Priestley.” [Laughs] I mean, truly. The hair up. When we all got to the video store for the first time [in full costume], we were all just too geeked out. We kept laughing at each other. We were really giddy, like little kids. In fact, Gregg Fienberg, who directed this episode, kept saying, “You guys, seriously. Okay, it’s time to work.” We’re like, “Yeah, but his shirt is unbuttoned to here. It’s hilarious.” I honestly had a hard time with Alex not laughing through that whole scene. We kept kinda looking at each other and smirking. There’s that moment where I ask Pam and Eric for a job application. Both of us couldn’t really even say the line to each other, because we thought it was so funny.
I assume the gasping was scripted.
It was written in the script that Ginger is going on and on about these videos, and then she turns, and in walks Eric, and suddenly the air gets sucked out of the room. To me, that was the most vivid, perfect way to imagine it. This is Ginger’s whole True Blood experience in this moment. [Laughs] At first Gregg wanted it to be pretty subtle. And then we laughed, and we’re like, “You know what, let’s try not subtle, but it’s all internal. It’s still Ginger in 1996, so it’s not like a screaming over-the-top Ginger. It’s still a smart girl whose knees go weak and she can hardly stand up.” And then Gregg and I were like, “Wouldn’t it be funny if there was a take where she almost screams, but doesn’t?” She would scream, but it would be inappropriate—that’s not her reaction to things—and yet, he brings that out in her. So then we tried that, where I go to scream and somehow the vocal chords pinch up and don’t let the volume come out. [Laughs] I always feel like everybody sort of dismisses it or they don’t hear it, but in fact, the impression of what the dynamic of a relationship will be occurs in the first moment. That was a fun way to play with it.
Do you know what the inspiration for Ginger’s look was?
There was a lot of Reality Bites. And we tried a few wigs on, so there was actually the option of a blonde wig that was long and straight and nerdy. But we all loved the dark hair, so it was like every choice she made after that scene was for Eric, this idea of what she thought Eric wanted. You look at the vampire genre, and there’s this archetype of the woman who’s screaming, and who needs to be protected and taken care of, or she’s the innocent victim who’s this blonde bombshell-y type. I think Ginger was like, “I have to be that for Eric.” So in her way, she tried to create that.
That leads us to the 2006 flashback, when we learn Ginger actually had the idea to turn the video store into Fangtasia and told Pam all about it—then Pam glamoured her so she could tell Eric she’d thought of it herself.
That [look] is Ginger doing her version of what she believes is Goth. Again, it’s like Ginger is trying to be the ultimate employee. [Laughs] She wants to help them, and she wants to be important, and she wants to be an asset to the company, so she comes up with all these ideas. So many times, the questions fans ask is, “Why on earth do they keep Ginger around? Ginger is a liability to Fangtasia. She’s always messing up. Why is she there?” So to me, I was like, “Oh this is why.” They owe her, in a way.
That monologue you have when Ginger explains to Pam that sex sells, and “Eric Northman is nothing if he is not pure f–king sex on a throne,” had to be fun to shoot.
I love Kristin [Bauer van Straten]. She’s a dear human being, and a great friend, and an amazing actress to work with. So we just had a great time and were laughing, exploring, and doing all kinds of different things. But my favorite part of that scene was when we first started, Gregg comes in and says, “You know, Tara, I think we’re going to expand this monologue. I think you should say this and this…” I was like, “Okay, great.” So in between our rehearsal and when we start shooting, Daniel [Kenneth, the episode’s writer] goes and actually writes that whole other scene and brings the pages back, and is like, “Okay, here you go, Tara.” It’s like, “Ohmygod, okay.” I went over it with him, and then I just went off on this diatribe of all kinds of different things. By the end of the day, I didn’t even know what I was saying anymore. Most of it was what Daniel wrote, but there is some ad-libbing along the way as well, just embellishing Ginger’s ideas of what they can do to create this amazing Fangtasia.
Was the description of patrons growing “hornier and hornier” looking at untouchable Eric on his throne scripted?
That was scripted, and that to me was such a great line because that’s Ginger’s whole story. She’s talking about herself. It’s like a peek into what she’s been going through on a daily basis and what will happen for the rest of her life: She doesn’t want to cross Pam. She doesn’t want to be out-of-bounds. She’s totally intimidated by Eric. But in her own private world, all she can think about is him, making him happy, and trying to touch him. [Laughs]
That begs the question, if Eric has never taken advantage of Ginger wanting to be with him so badly, why not?
I think some of that question will be answered through the series this year.
Excellent. Are you in the next episode?
I am. What I love is that for the past six seasons, everybody has seen Ginger as this sort of frantic, kooky, strange character whose nerves are thread-bare. And everybody sort of assumes it’s simply because she’s been glamoured. True, she has been glamoured—her mind has taken a toll with all of that—and she works around vampires, so she’s seen a billion traumatic things. But in addition to that, I think for years this dynamic has been occurring where she is pining after Eric and desperate to make that dream come true.
Is there hope that we will see it happen by the end of the series?
[Laughs] I mean, Ginger hopes. But she’s been hoping for her whole life.
We last saw her in Vamp Camp, when Eric saved her from the blood donor room before he killed Steve Newlin and left town.
Let’s not forget, he is her knight in shining armor.
I can’t wait for their reunion. Though she’s gonna be so sad when she sees he’s Hep-V positive.
Honestly, beyond devastated. Which is what is great. They really set the stage, on so many levels, it’s like this orchestra happening: you have Pam and Eric’s whole relationship, Sookie and Eric’s whole relationship, and then Ginger who just idolizes him and thinks the world of him. I can’t imagine how tragic it is to know that someone is dying, but if you know it’s coming, what must it be like to try to capture every single moment before that person is gone. And the desperation that goes along with that…
Ginger is a character that’s been around since Season 1, but sporadically. What was the expectation when you first signed on?
I never really knew until this season that I would be around for a little while. When I first got hired on the show, I knew that I was gonna be in one episode. Then that scene, because of the way it was shot, got split into two episodes. I would get a call every once in a while, and it’d be like, “Oh, they want Ginger back.” And always, the first thing I would do is leaf though the script to see if I died. And when it wasn’t my death scene, I was like, “Cool. I get to go work on the scene.” So I never knew. It’s the gift that keeps giving.
Filming has wrapped on the series. What did you take of Ginger’s?
Ginger’s house was filled with vampire paraphernalia from the ashtrays, to her pillows, to every single thing that the prop people put in that house. So I’ve gotten a few things from that. There’s a wonderful picture that Ginger had framed in her living room above her mantle that is Elvira sticking a bouquet of roses in her cleavage. I was like, “I would love that.” So we’ll see. I’m still hoping.
I’m asking everyone I speak with this season about the True Blood musical that’s in very early discussions. Would you have any interest in reprising your role, if asked?
Well, I love theater, so on one hand, my first response is, “Absolutely, I would love it.” But I am not musical at all. Though that might work in Ginger’s favor: Ginger could scream. I think Ginger would do a lot of accent screaming—screaming reactions to other people’s songs, of course all on key.
Sookie, Bill, Eric, Lafayette, Sam and the other residents Bon Temps deal with vampires, werewolves, fairies, and shape-shifters—not to mention romance and drama