In “True Blood”‘s world of vampires and werewolves, one of the last things you’d expect to find is a ballerina. But one of the breakout stars of the fifth season of the HBO show (out on DVD and Blue-Ray today) is 500-year-old faerie Maurella, played by former ballet dancer Kristina Anapau. The actress grew up in Hawaii, then trained at The Joffrey Ballet and American Ballet Theatre schools. She combined her ballet background and her acting career while playing Galina in Black Swan, but has found her greatest success in the role of Maurella, which she will reprise in season six starting June 16. Anapau gave Pointe an exclusive interview about how her ballet background has shaped her career.
You’re one of many actresses who came out of the ballet world. Do you feel there’s something about it that prepares performers for an acting career?
It gives you an incredible work ethic. The acting world can be very disheartening at times and success often has to do more with the tenacity to keep going than with talent. Ballet ingrains a sort of graceful determination and elegant independence in you, which works very well in the film industry. Ballerinas are tough.
What made you choose to become an actress?
I never wanted to be an actress and for a long time was very focused on classical ballet and academics. I graduated from high school rather early and was intent on having my PhD by age 21. And even though I was performing on stage all the time in ballet, I couldn’t imagine anything more terrifying than having to speak up there! When I unexpectedly got cast in the leading role of a movie that Universal was shooting in Hawaii at age 16, however, it completely threw my plans for a loop. After realizing how challenging the craft of acting really was, I began to fall in love with it and shifted my focus.
Do you ever still dance at all?
I do, though not nearly as regularly as I used to. But the nice thing about that is when I do get to class, it feels like such a privilege rather than a daily ritual. Ballet is much more freeing and expansive now than it was when I was training seriously.
What was it like returning to the ballet world in Black Swan?
Intense! It was wonderful to be back in class every day and to have the opportunity to be so disciplined and focused again. I felt like that aspect of my life had come full circle and any regrets I had about not choosing the path of a professional dancer were completely healed. It was incredibly fulfilling.
As Maurella on “True Blood,” you move with such an elegant, delicate quality—so balletic! Do you think your background in dance helps you portray a faerie?
Absolutely! Faeries and ballet go hand in hand. It’s so fun to incorporate elements from my dance background into the scenes. The leg during the birth scene in the season finale was my favorite. During the blocking, I asked creator Alan Ball if he thought I should use a bit of my balletic flexibility to make the scene even funnier and more odd. I showed him how high I could go with it, and he exclaimed “Oh my god, yes!” I read in an interview of his recently that Maurella’s birth scene was one of his favorite scenes of all time on the show. To say that was an incredible honor is an understatement.