Deborah Ann Woll
You’ve seen them before: a unique community of individuals who are passionate about anime, comics, Star Wars, technology or “geek culture” in general. Their intense devotion may often override their social graces, but the power of their devotion should not be underestimated. You can find them standing first in line for a sci-fi movie premier or joyfully gallivanting at your local Renaissance Faire. These men and women are respectively known as Fanboys or Fangirls, aficionados of popular culture if you will. Of course, this is a completely polarized portrayal and by no means a negative one. It takes character and conviction to be that passionate about something, about anything really! And to be honest, there is a Fangirl (or boy) living in all of us.
When it comes to fandom, television has never played a bigger role than it does now. For example, “binge-watching” exists as a real term in the Oxford Dictionary. To “Netflix and Chill” for an entire weekend has become the new normal. And every now and again, a special series comes along that makes a Fangirl out of all of us. Or in this instance, a very special actress who has become a tour de force in the world of sci-fi and fantasy. Deborah Ann Woll is a classic beauty whose most prominent roles on True Blood and Daredevil blur the lines between reality and fantasy. Her depth and incredible range brings complexity to the characters she plays. For those of us who have become fans of her work, Deborah Ann Woll is queen.
Deborah, most of us recognize you from your breakout role as Jessica Hamby on True Blood. Now that the series has ended, how do you look back at your time on the show?
Very fondly, but also a little sadly. I felt really close to the whole team on True Blood and once a project is over, it can be hard to stay in touch. I miss my friends, but also, I miss the characters! I know that sounds strange but I had some really intense experiences with Bill, Jason and Sookie. I miss those relationships even though they were fantasy.
To say that True Blood has a cult following would be quite an understatement. What was it like to have such a huge fan base?
It was so gratifying. And continues to be! I still meet people who want to talk about the series and what they miss about it. And It certainly made Comic-Con an adventure!
Speaking of Comic-Con, it’s a world famous convention that celebrates the contribution of comics and other genres on art and culture. What was it like for you being there? Do you have any stories you can share with us?
It's an insane weekend. Packed to the brim with promotional events. It's a thrill, but I definitely earned my full night’s sleep by the end of it. Ha! Mostly I remember the wonderful, unexpected crossroads between fandoms. The Sailor Moons posing for pictures with Stormtroopers. The Iron Man that asks a question at the Firefly panel. Or when the actress who played Jessica on True Blood, dressed up as Axe Cop and joined the Rifftrax panel! That might have been the best day of life! And without True Blood and all the awesome fans, I probably wouldn't have gotten to do it. I am so grateful.
If we asked Jessica Hamby to give one piece of advice to other vampires, what would she say?
Not to feel ashamed of what you are. I always felt one of the most wonderful stories Jess got to tell was that of a young girl who thought she was wrong inside, that she was a monster. And by the end she had learned that was a lie, a lie her parents told her, a lie her government told her. It's such a universal story and something we all need reminding of from time to time.
For those who don’t know, you have extensive training as an actor. Was there a defining moment that pushed you into pursuing this craft?
I've wanted to be an actor since before I can remember. But when I was 17 and working on my monologues for college auditions, I had my first experience of what I now work for in every performance I give. It’s that moment when you are no longer driving the performance, where it feels like real life. That happened for me for the first time during a Madea monologue. Yes, I was 20 years too young for the role but my imagination kicked in and I've been hooked ever since. It's not possession or anything so weird as that, but just the unbelievable truth that something you know to be fake can make you feel something real. It's addictive.
From what you describe, fantasy and reality can coexist! If you weren’t acting, what do you imagine yourself doing?
That's tough. Probably writing Dungeon and Dragons adventures!
You are currently on another hit series, Marvel’s Daredevil, which streams on Netflix. What do you “Netflix and Chill” to these days?
I just plowed through Raising Hope. But I also like that some older series are available. The Dick Van Dyke Show is a personal favorite, along with Cheers. I can watch and re-watch those endlessly.
Coming from a more traditional space with True Blood on HBO, what do you find different about doing a show on Netflix?
I get asked this question a lot. HBO wasn't that traditional in the sense that it was cable, not network. And Netflix isn't that different from cable. So really the two are very comparable. I feel like the emphasis is always on creativity and storytelling, which is a great luxury to have in a series.
This is the first time your character Karen Page has been brought to life in a meaningful way. How do you relate to Karen and how are you different?
The aspect of Karen that I can access easily is her lightness. Her desire for the people around her to feel safe and loved and supported. That's a quality I have a lot of respect for and try very hard to embody in my own life. It takes more work for me to access her anger. I think I am a bit afraid of my angry feelings and don't usually air them. I'm very impressed that Karen stands up for herself and doesn't worry if she will be judged for how she feels. I'd like to have that courage in my own life.
Unlike most love interests in superhero genres, Karen Page is no damsel in distress. What are your thoughts on playing such a strong, inquisitive character?
Thank you for saying that. I also think Karen is a very strong character and I'm glad you do too. It's easy to look at women in these stories and think they are weaker because they don't beat people up or have snappy comebacks. Karen is tough and resilient without ever raising her voice or an angry fist. She's strong because she believes deeply in the power of the individual and fights for that. Because she won't ever let an injustice go unrecognized. Because whatever terrible thing happened in her past, it made her tenacious and curious and sympathetic and vulnerable. Every day she fights the darkness inside her willing it to remind her to always try and do good.
Going into season 2, what have you learned about her over the course of the show that you didn’t know before?
In Season 2 we play up more of the romance, which was a new side of Karen. I like that around Matt she can't keep her cool. She's a young girl again. She's nervous and feels out of sync because she wants so badly to be someone he would want. And at the same time she fears she isn’t and never will be. That feels so human to me. Especially since she has him on a pedestal. By the end of the season, I think they'll both be knocked back to reality a bit and it'll be interesting to see how they interact now that one of their secrets is out in the open.
As you’ve just hinted at (SPOILER ALERT), Karen has been the only character who didn’t know Matt Murdock is Daredevil. How do you think the dynamic will change now that Karen is no longer in the dark?
Well, now it's up to Karen to come clean about her own demons. This is hard to do when she’s almost certain it'll mean he’ll never want to see her again and quite possibly turn her in for it. I have no idea what our writers have planned but Matt revealing his alter ego certainly will explain a lot of his behavior towards Karen, however, it might not excuse it.
Aside from kicking ass on Marvel’s Daredevil, you also kick ass at bringing awareness to Choroideremia. Can you tell us more about this?
Choroideremia is a degenerative disease that causes blindness. It's not very well known and therefore doesn't receive the research or funding that it needs. My boyfriend and his family suffer from this disease and so it is through him that I became involved. He fundraises tirelessly and it’s tremendously inspiring. Check out his CrowdRise fundraising campaigns or the Choroideremia Research Foundation to learn more.
And finally, what does being a hero mean to you?
Being a hero is not turning the other way when you see suffering. You're a hero if you stand up for a kid being bullied at school. You're a hero if you pick up litter on the beach. And you're a hero if you give someone a kind ear and an open heart. It might sound simplistic or cheesy but I honestly believe it.
And that is why Fanboys and Fangirls alike, worship Deborah Ann Woll.