Fans are steeling themselves for the start of the final season of HBO's vampire hit True Blood, which begins in just a few weeks. But what's it like for the actors to prepare to say goodbye? BFTV checked in with Tara Buck, who plays the quirky and definitely not quiet Ginger, to ask about what the True Blood experience has meant to her.
Ginger has been a recurring part of True Blood since its beginnings, but Tara never anticipated that she'd be with the series today. "I did not know, absolutely did not know, really up until this last year that I'd be sticking around," said the actress, who was promoted to the main cast for season seven.
"I came on originally to do like two episodes, and then I thought that was it. After I filmed the first time, then I actually started reading the books, [and] I found out Ginger was a real character in the books, but then she dies in book three. When they brought me back, I thought 'Cool, I get to survive until maybe season three or something.'"
Instead, she's hung around for more than six seasons, and like most characters on the show, Ginger has been put through the wringer. Naturally, there's not much we can say about what's ahead without spoilers, but Tara did give us some pretty tantalizing hints. "Ginger is immersed in a vampire world and has been for a long time. It's taken a toll on poor Ginger," she teased. "But I would say do not underestimate Ginger's determination. I feel like Ginger wants what she wants and by God, she is going to get it this season. Or at least she's going to try!"
Although we don't know her character's fate yet and likely won't for a while, what we do know is that True Blood has been a memorable experience for Tara. She told us that she's grown as an actress in "so many ways. It's hard for me to boil it down to a couple of things.
"My confidence as an actor has completely changed, and part of that is when you are surrounded by people - the quality of the actors, the writers, the producers - [when] you're surrounded by that influence all the time, it's incredibly empowering. [I have] that safety net of people who I really trust, encouraging me to go farther and deeper into the character."
What moments would she put on the Ginger highlight reel? "I love in season two when I shoot Lafayette. I had a great time in that scene. Nelsan [Ellis] is wonderful to work with," she said. "I think a Ginger highlight is when the witches are coming, and I have to keep Pam in her coffin at all costs, and I throw myself on her coffin.
"There's some stuff this year that it's going to be fantastic," she added. "I think the people that watch the show and know my character would say my character is kooky, and she's even more wild this season."
True Blood has become one of HBO's most popular original series, and part of that is because of the rich world that has been created with so many vibrant supporting players like Ginger. It's a credit to Tara as an actress that she's built a decidedly different character that people are going to remember well after the show comes to an end.
Of course, you can't discuss the impact of the series without mentioning the many devoted True Blood fans. "The fans are really passionate," Tara enthused. "They know every detail about the show. They know every detail about all the characters...I guess what's amazing about it is that you know that people care, and they're watching and they let you know. They let you know when they like you - and they let you know when they hate you!"
For those fans who are not ready to say goodbye to Ginger, there are other outlets for your withdrawal. The very talented Tara has been on plenty of other TV shows - she has a guest appearance in the new season of A&E's Longmire that airs tomorrow - and Ginger is not the only quirky role that she's ever played.
"I did two episodes of Nip/Tuck; I loved it. It was such a wild show, and I play a character who is crazy," she said. "I was, I think, cutting my own face and then went to the doctors to have them fix me. It's pretty deliciously weird."
Tara isn't necessarily looking for something more normal after True Blood, either. She likes getting to take on these more unique personas. "Actors find different things that they respond to," she told us. "When you're kind of out of social bounds anyway, there are no rules that you have to adhere to and there's a lot more freedom. I hope I never stop playing those characters."
"As far as characters - and this goes for Ginger as well - I always feel like as an actress, you go to bat for your character. You are their voice," she reflected. "And there's something so fulfilling about picking up an underdog. I think I am drawn to underdogs, and you go to bat for them in a way. And you fight their battles as earnestly as you can."
Tara's episode of Longmire, "Of Children and Travelers," airs tomorrow, Monday, June 9 on A&E. The seventh and final season of True Blood begins Sunday, June 22 on HBO; until then, and for more on Tara, be sure you're following her on Twitter (@iamtarabuck).