March 17, 2014 5:03 PM

Deborah Ann Woll’s voice glows when she speaks, as warm and full as her golden red hair. “Hi, it’s so nice to meet you!” Taking a break from her current home (Los Angeles) in her hometown (NYC), she’s filming an independent film called “The Automatic Hate”. Woll says she’s excited to play a character that “complicates things.” It’s something she’s become quite good at, certainly if Jessica Hamby – the untamed, provoking teenage vampire she plays on “True Blood” – is anything to go by. Since joining the HBO series in 2008, in a matter of episodes Woll went from making small cameos on “ER”, “CSI”, and “My Name Is Earl”, to gracing magazine covers with her bright (sometimes fanged) smile. She’s since landed in movies across myriad genres, including psychological horror (“Mother’s Day”) and indie comedy-drama (“Ruby Sparks”), even action roles alongside Bruce Willis (“Catch .44”). Deborah Ann Woll tells TWELV about the documentary they’ve created to help fight for a cure (“Running Blind”), in addition to delving into her thoughts on muses, Shakespeare, and exactly how it feels to vomit gallons of fake blood.

How does it feel being back in New York?

L.A. has its merits but I feel invigorated when I come back East. I remember who I am. I’m very proud of being a New Yorker. New York kept me out of trouble because I was never bored; there was always something to do. 

How did New York challenge you growing up?

The community I grew up in was highly competitive. They really encouraged high achievement, which is a wonderful thing, on the one hand. But on the other, I think it’s made me a little bit of a harsh critic of myself. I have a little trouble celebrating successes because I always expect myself to do even more. I would say that for me, being from New York and being from that environment, maybe I’m not really good at giving myself a break.

Do you ever feel being in character becomes second nature, to the point that you become one and the same?

At least from “action” to “cut,” or from curtain up to curtain down. You do start to feel like you share qualities with the character.

I also read that you were very shy growing up. Was performance difficult for you?

I think Judy Dench called acting the “shy person’s revenge." [laughs] I wasn’t able to come out of my shell in my real life; I had trouble connecting to other people my age, and I felt very self-conscious. So actually being able to translate that into a character was easier. Expressing myself with the permission of it being fiction allowed me to experience things and go places that I couldn’t as a person. Since I am shy and I’m very risk averse. I don’t take a lot of risks in my life. But in an acting part, I can kill people! [laughs] There's a rebelliousness and wildness to it that’s also safe.

Being immortal, Jessica is forever 17. What was Deborah Ann into at 17?

I was a theater nerd, I just immersed myself. I did plays at school, plays in the summer breaks, acting programs. My big dream back then was to do Broadway, or the West End or the Globe. Those are still my dreams. I’ve had this wonderful success and such a great experience with “True Blood”, and hopefully that will help me open up doors to those initial dreams.

You mentioned you're a harsh critic of yourself. How do you deal with outside criticism?

I avoid it! [laughs] I actually don’t watch myself, and I don’t read reviews or message boards. The fact is, once I’ve shot a scene and we’re done, criticism from someone else doesn’t help me, because it’s over. So I decided to just ignore that side of it. People are totally allowed to have their own opinions but it doesn’t really serve me in having a happy life. I try to surround myself with people that I trust and people that I can rely on to keep pushing me to do my best, and let that be my guide.

The theme for this issue is MUSE. Who's your muse, or who do you aspire towards?

I’m inspired by artists who keep striving and who always think that it can be better, or more meaningful, or that there’s always something deeper to say. There are definitely four or five close friends in my life who I think are brilliant; they bring me a lot of inspiration. 

What are some of your bigger goals? 

When I was growing up, I was in love with the classics. I read the entire Shakespeare canon by the time I was 12. I loved it! Everyone else thought it was boring or dry. To me, it’s about sex and violence and all the great, fun stuff. I think if I have a legacy that I want to leave, it would be trying to introduce that material to a modern audience in a way so they could see it the way I do. 

What do you enjoy about the creative process in TV/film, as opposed to theater?

I love how collaborative it is. When you’re doing theater, it really is just you, the other actors, and the director. And then at the end, the other tech people come in and add this layer on top. But when you’re shooting, everybody is working simultaneously: the director, DP, camera operators, sound operators, actors. Everybody’s right there, in the moment, trying to figure out what’s going to be the best way. With “True Blood” we have just the best crew. That’s what I’m going to miss the most, whenever “True Blood” is over. I don’t know how apparent it is to the public, but it’s such a beast to shoot. These episodes take three weeks to shoot. So many days, and so many long hours, and night shoots, and it’s freezing cold. It’s incredible what they’re able to do under these extreme circumstances.

On top of that, you have to endure things like fake blood...

The very first episode of this season, I vomit up gallons and gallons of fake blood on the ground and then I have to lie down in it. It was below freezing that day, and I was in a tiny t-shirt with a prosthetic on my chest, lying in a puddle of blood and shivering. I was able to look up at our camera operator and said, “Please, don’t fuck this up!” [laughs] And he was like, “I got you.” And I knew he did. It was 5:00 in the morning, we were all miserable but I just knew that he had my back and I will always have his. It’s like trauma bonding!

Your boyfriend of 6 years, E. J. Scott, is fearlessly battling the degenerative disease, choroideremia, as are members of his family. Can you tell us about “Running Blind”?

My boyfriend has been working very hard over the last 10 years to raise money and raise awareness about choroideremia. E. J. himself, singlehandedly, is responsible for raising about a half million dollars over the last 5 years. It’s a huge accomplishment, I’m so proud of him and amazed by him every day. He did this fundraising campaign where he ran 12 marathons in one year, one a month. He filmed it and now we have a short documentary that we’re taking around the country to film festivals. You can check it out at

By: Danna Takako

Photography: Takahiro Ogawa

Styling: Hissa Igarashi 


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