April 02, 2013 1:14pm PT by Rebecca Ford
'True Blood': Jurnee Smollett-Bell Did a Basement-Based Audition to Nab Her Role (Video)
Jurnee Smollett-Bell, who played sweetheart Jess Merriweather on two seasons of NBC’s beloved series Friday Night Lights, will once again be stepping into an already-established show when she joins True Blood for its sixth season.
Much of what will happen during season six of the HBO vampire drama has been kept under wraps, but Smollett-Bell, 26, does tell The Hollywood Reporter that she will play a new character named Nicole, who she says is a “young activist” in town to “help with the cause.”
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"There’s a lot of animals, there’s some biting, there’s some blood,” she adds.
It turns out that Smollett-Bell, who can be seen starring in Tyler Perry’s film Temptation now in theaters, sent in a rather unusual tape for her audition for the role.
While visiting THR’s video lounge, she reveals that she had been in Detroit visiting relatives for Christmas when she got a call that the producers of True Blood were interested in her for a role.
So with the help of her husband, musician Josiah Bell, she taped her audition in the basement of her in-laws’ home.
With the show's dark and sometimes-creepy feel, we can't imagine a more appropriate setting to shoot an audition. But Smollett-Bell says it wasn't as appropriate as it seems.
“You can hear the running water, the water heater coming on, my nephew’s upstairs, he’s a baby so he was crying, you can hear the chairs being dragged,” she says with a laugh. “So not professional.”
The tape was enough to get her the part as a series regular. Smollett-Bell will make her first appearance in the second episode of season six.
The HBO drama is infamous for its sexy scenes and has never been afraid to show plenty of nudity, but Smollett-Bell says that didn't affect her decision to join the show.
"One thing they do well is it’s not gratuitous and it’s not exploitive. It’s not just for the sake of it," she says. "I think through the arc of my character, you’ll see what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate, but it’s all coming back to the plot of my character."
True Blood returns for season six on Sunday, June 16, at 9 p.m. on HBO.
Email: Rebecca.Ford@thr.com; Twitter: @Beccamford