Rutina Wesley has proved you can leave Las Vegas, but somehow you still get sucked back in. At least, that’s the case for this True Blood star and Las Vegas native. The actress plays Tara Thornton on the HBO hit vampire series but will return to her hometown tonight to host Yelloween at Lavo with her co-star Sam Trammell. I caught up with the talented Wesley (who by the way hasn’t aged a day since we attended the Las Vegas Academy of International Studies, Performing and Visual Arts together) for a chat about the show and some high school nostalgia.
You’re going to be back in Vegas for Halloween at Lavo. How often do you get to come home?
I come back once or twice a year to see my family, but it’s not as much as I would like because I tend to be a little busy.
Have you ever hosted a nightclub event?
No, this is my first time. I’m actually really excited and really scared, because I’m like, “What is it going to be?” But it’s exciting to be amongst people who are from my hometown. I think and I’m hoping there’ll be a lot of love and support so I’m really excited about it.
It’s Halloween, have you planned a costume?
I think I’m going to go as a pirate, oddly enough.
You’ve definitely come a long way since high school, but people in Vegas that watch the show may not know you’re from here. What’s important for them to know about your Sin City beginnings?
I was born and raised in Las Vegas and then I left there to go to the University of Evansville where I majored in theatre. Then I went on to Julliard, which was a dream school of mine to go to ever since at the Academy the first show I did there was Fame.
I spent those four years in New York. I did a Broadway show, luckily enough, with Julianne Moore and Bill Nighy called The Vertical Hour. And then I did a couple of other plays in New York and finally got How She Move, which was my first dance film. Dance is in my background. I also majored in dance [in addition to theatre] at the Academy and both of my parents are dancers. Then after all of that, True Blood came into my life. So, I had to make the move from New York to LA. We’re getting ready to start back up work on our third season in December.
What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened on set for you?
I think when we had to film the orgy scene. That was really weird and kinda crazy. Having to wear black contacts at the same time just made it even more weird—and it was freezing cold.
Do you have anything else in the works right now besides True Blood?
I have a guest character coming up on The Cleveland Show.
What do you want people to know most about True Blood if they haven’t checked it out yet?
If you haven’t been watching True Blood, you’re definitely missing out. There’s something for everyone—not for the kids, not for the kids [laughing]—but something for people who like all different types of things. It’s not just a vampire show. It’s reality meets fantasy, so that means anything could happen. I think it’s such a good show. I hope people continue to watch and I hope people who don’t watch will start watching.
The role of yours that sticks out most in my mind from the LVA days was when we were in Sweet Charity and you played the title role. But that’s a far cry from dealing with vampires. Did anything from your days at LVA prepare you for your current role on True Blood?
I can’t think of any shows really that prepared me for this. I think just being at a performing arts high school where kind of anything did happen like we did, that we were allowed to do whatever [laughing]: dress up crazy, act crazy, I think that just gave me the freedom to play in all the characters that I get to play. Going through the Academy has allowed me to explore my freedom in the way where I can just play around with different choices and not be afraid to jump off the cliff or think out of the box. That’s what I would say I got from going there.
Since you are a Vegas native, is there anything you absolutely must do when you come to town?
I must see my family. That’s always the number one thing on my list. You know what? I usually love to go bowling when I’m in Vegas. There’s something about Vegas and bowling, do you know what I mean? You know what I mean. Bowling is just the thing to do. I don’t know if it’s because when we grew up, we just didn’t go to the Strip as much because that got boring after a while, so it was like, “What else can you do?” There was bowling and then there’s karaoke. So those are the two things that I always go off and do with my friends.