So you think you can dance? Try stomping it out with actress Rutina Wesley. Owning the screen as leading lady in this year's critically acclaimed street-stepping film, How She Move, Wesley left competitors served with her combustible routines. But the slender starlet is quick to note that her lifelong passion isn't her sole meal ticket. "I definitely don't want to [get pigeonholed] as the dance-movie girl,â€ says the Tinseltown newbie. "I get bored.â€
Switching lanes like a tardy soccer mom, the Las Vegas native has used the role as a major, uh, stepping stone, bagging her latest gig on HBO's ultra-explicit vampire series, True Blood. Armed with a potty mouth and thick bayou accent, Wesley plays the hotheaded Tara, resisting her small town's newly integrated, undead citizens. But before you think about sinking your own teeth into the dark-chocolate delight, peep the wedding ring and promptly lay off like Lehman Brothers. Yes, reality bites.
Your first KING shoot couldn't have been scarier than the bloodsuckers on True Blood. What attracted you to the show?
It was definitely [director] Alan Ball [creator of HBO's Six Feet Under]. You see his name and it perks your ears up. It wasn't a hard transition, because the character that I play on True Blood is very close to me in real life. When I read that script, I knew that character fit me. I understand her.
Were you comfortable signing on for such a graphic series?
I did go into it a little nervous, but everyone is very open, because it's not about me taking my clothes off; it's about the story we're trying to tell. I'm one of those actresses who believe there's no need to be taking your clothes off unless it's absolutely necessary. As a culture, we've stopped using our imagination. It's like we've got to see everything.
Tell us about it. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this is not.
[The show's] been tasteful. It is very sexual, and the times when it's nasty, it needs to be because that's a plot point. My favorite thing about the show is that anything can happen at any moment.
Even a sexy scene starring yourself?
[Laughs] I plead the Fifth! I don't know. The readers will have to keep watching.
Fair enough. But some viewers are more focused on the seemingly stereotypical black characters. How is your part unlike Omarosa?
I'm trying to make sure I always play a human being with a range of emotions, not this screaming robot. It's funnyâ€”there are people who think I'm hilarious on the show and people who are offended, both black and white. They're like, "I don't talk like that. She's ghetto.â€ I love hearing the differences, because there are people exactly like Taraâ€”don't lie and tell me there aren't.
You should meet some of our ex-girlfriends.
It's good that [Tara] offends you. She's very offensive and very angry. If you watch for a minute, you'll see why she's so angry, and maybe you'll realize that's her mouth. That's her.
Your onscreen cousin, LaFayette, is a drug dealer. Coincidence?
It's a shame people get stuck on things. Everyone is quick to say it's offensive. It's not like a bunch of white people sat around and were like, "We're going to make the black character cuss all the time, because that's all black people do.â€ That's not what it's about. Alan has done a great job of creating real-life characters that aren't these stock ones we've seen in the past.--John Kennedy
For more, check out KING's Year-End Issue, on newsstands now.