'True Blood's Kristin Bauer van Straten on Pam and Eric: Nothing 'More Devastating' (Q&A)

Kristin Bauer van Straten True Blood Episodic - H 2014
John P. Johnson/HBO

Kristin Bauer van Straten True Blood Episodic - H 2014

On a recent episode of True Blood, Pam's (Kristin Bauer van Straten) hunt for Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) came to a painful conclusion: She found her maker in the Rhone Valley, dying of Hep-V.

"It's devastating for Pam. There's nothing that could be more devastating, finding him dying," van Straten tells The Hollywood Reporter. Eric has resigned himself to death, but in Sunday's episode, Pam reveals information to him that puts them back on the warpath: that Sarah Newlin (Anna Camp) is alive. She is in hiding, viewers learn, under the name Noomi (a pun on "new me"?) in an ashram.

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"It's quite a triumph for [Pam] to delay his dying," van Straten tells THR. "She has to actually think fairly quickly on her feet, and through her panic and through her grief, to try to come up with a way to motivate him."

The episode also reveals why Eric went to the Rhone Valley to die, and why his choice of location shocked Pam. Flashbacks to 1986 show them spending time in a French vineyard, where Eric has fallen in love with the vintner's daughter, Sylvie (Gabriella Wright). When Eric rejects the Authority's regulations, yakuza hired by the Yakimono Corporation force him to choose between killing Pam — whom he spares — and killing Sylvie.

"He has to choose his child; he has no choice," van Straten tells THR. "We see the depth of Pam's love for Eric."

The actress chats with THR about the tragic flashbacks, her favorite "Pam-ism" and what remains for her character in the HBO series' final season.

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That choice of Eric's is a defining moment in his and Pam's relationship. What does it mean for her?

She couldn't really understand this undying love for a human, but she supports him in every way. It is complex because Pam sees that they should have left — she takes the Authority seriously where Eric didn't, and that's why they end up in this jam. Pam was right. She said, "Hey, take a lick if you want, but my god, we have to leave. Let's move! Let's travel!" You get that male ego in there. For Pam, it's hard to see. As much as she doesn't understand his love for this girl, she hates to see him have to make that choice. She feels his pain, she feels only his pain — she doesn't like to put him a bad position.

Now he's dying, but you're both looking for Sarah Newlin. Where does this season take Pam?

Pam goes through quite a journey emotionally because of the circumstances of Eric's health, and we all know that Eric is central to Pam's emotional life. Outside of him, we just saw the beginning of her caring for Tara, and then that was it. It's a big year for Pam, managing and hoping to stay with Eric for as long as possible.

How does she handle it?

I feel like she is kicking and screaming. It's impossible for her to think of losing him. Pam just is in denial and fighting for every moment with him and feeling closer to him. Some of us have been through losing someone, especially with cancer, where you know the person is dying, which I've been through, and there's a real relinquishing and a sweetness and a closeness that happens actually more and more knowing that that person's time is limited. My dad died of cancer and my best friend of AIDS. I've been through it a couple of times, and I also knew — not that this is as big a thing — but I knew that my time with Alex Skarsgard was limited. We were really enjoying all the time we had together, and I could borrow from that — how much we treasured every scene more than we did in the past, because we knew it was a finite quantity.

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This episode also showed a surprisingly sad reaction from Pam to Tara's death. How would you characterize that relationship?

I tried to kill her for a year. I was a pretty brutal mother, pretty tough love. Then we were lovers for a second, and then I abandoned her — I'm not the most nurturing mother. But it's a connection that hurts when it's severed, and Pam does feel it, and she does care about Tara. It was just that the way in which she was forced to make Tara, only to get Eric back — she didn't choose to be a mother. She never did completely give Tara her due as a mother. Tara's had bad luck in the mother department all around.

How did you like Pam's '80s costuming?

There's a lot of hair, a lot of shoulder pads and [costume designer] Audrey Fisher found the costume I wore in the Rhone Valley. It's a vintage Norma Kamali that is so amazing that we rented. The hair designers and the makeup designers went with that costume and we just went wild. I would have loved to have seen Pam in every decade — her '50s, her '60s.

You often score the best line of the episode. What's your favorite Pam-ism?

I actually should make a list. There's so many, these writers are so unbelievable, and I'm sure that I'm forgetting the really great ones! I did, the ones that pop to mind often is, "I'm so over Sookie and her precious fairy vagina and her unbelievably stupid name." I just liked how Pam was delivering it while sobbing. It just seemed so truthful from Pam's perspective.

As the vampire with whom she plays Russian Roulette suggests, is her snark a defense mechanism?

I'm sure that it is. She has an extremely unsympathetic exterior — it's very thick, and I think it goes almost to her middle, and then there's just this gooey interior called Eric. She definitely tells it like it is. She speaks the truth. Everything she says is straight from the heart, but she delivers it in the most blunt way. She doesn't hide anything for anybody, she doesn't help anybody out. I think especially in the Russian Roulette scene, she's willing to die for the chance to possibly find Eric, so she's definitely very raw in that moment.

Email: Austin.Siegemund-Broka@THR.com

Twitter: @asiegemundbroka