BY SHERRI NEWHOUSE
Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer are “going together.” When I first used that phrase in the third grade to explain my relationship status to my mom, she asked, “going where?” In the case of Anna and Stephen, the answer is: going to set your television on fire! These newly out-in-the-open lovebirds are the stars of the swampy vampire-licious HBO hit TRUE BLOOD. They kept their affair hidden from fans and People magazine during the first season because they didn’t want to distract from the show.
Well, now that the heated cat is out of the bag (just in time for the second season), it’s like we’ve been let in on a long-held secret that our heroine is not sure she should have told us. Except for the fact that she’s having too much fun relishing in the news. During each fresh episode of naked and fangy season two lovin’, I wonder whether Anna is tossing us an undercurrent of a look that says, “now you know how naughty I’ve been! And I’m gonna keep doing it! Doing him, that is.” (In my imagination her thought is deployed in her Bon Temps, Louisiana drawl, because she’s that good at staying in character.)
Before I go any further in my speculations, I want to remind myself, and you, that Anna is a true professional. She is a seasoned actor who won an Oscar at age eleven for her supporting role in The Piano and has pursued a rich and varied career ever since. Without question she knows how to make Sookie’s sex scenes with Bill Sookie’s nookie and not Anna’s freebie on the job with her boyfriend Stephen. Right? But I cannot help myself from entertaining a budding question: has Anna ever slipped and panted, “Oh, Stephen” instead of “Oh, Bill” in the middle of a take? And Stephen, can he really keep his women straight? This is precisely what True Blood’s makers want us to ask and stay awake at night over. To what extent are Stephen and Anna using material from their own lives and romance to fuel the flame of their convincing performance? And to what extent are they sharing with the audience intimate moments anchored in their nascent discovery of each other as two actors and people, intimate moments dressed up in vampire and Southern Gothic dialects.
Hollywood has a long tradition of exploring and exploiting the tense and fuzzy line between fact and fiction, fantasy and regular life. The press and PR coverage of off-screen relationships that seem as glamorous and exciting, if not more so, than the latest celluloid adventures between starlets and their leading men renew a constant promise to the folks back home: what happens under the big lights could happen in real life to you and me.
Anna’s additional promise to us, blood and sex thirsty True Blood viewers, is that her relationship with Stephen is not a distraction or detriment to her portrayal of Sookie. This is why she and her beau waited for the first season to end before coming clean.
And yet, there are those of us who remain unconvinced, even peeved by the distraction. We think that Anna and Stephen are committing an indiscretion: they are cheating on viewers by falling in love – and nourishing the relationship – on the job. How can people concentrate on the arc of Sookie and Bill’s relationship when plagued by reports and photographs of Anna and Stephen’s everyday couple activities? For example, the snaps of them cradling a macaroni penguin at Sea World that made the rounds on the celebrity blogs in late July... http://www.thehollywoodgossip.com/2009/07/anna-paquin-stephen-moyer-visit-seaworld/
The fact that Anna and Stephen can conduct their relationship in daylight, as the Sea World photo proves, while Sookie and Bill get action exclusively at night, may make some viewers feel a little better. Boundaries are supposed to do that.
I also think that some of us viewers like to be cheated on. We want co-stars to seduce each other on camera, especially when least expected or accepted. We want the duplicity of co-stars cheating on their characters by falling in love with each others’ “real” personas. Take Mr. and Mrs. Smith, for example – how many of us are counting the days for the sequel, just so we can watch Brad and Angie play the feuding couple on screen as a celebration and reprise of how their own fiery love affair started once upon a time.
Ultimately, we can learn something from Anna and Stephen. Perhaps the best thing to do to spice up one’s love life is to cheat together. No, I don’t mean random flings, open relationships, or swinging. I mean: cheat together the way Anna and Stephen cheat on Sookie and Bill. Embrace another wavelength, another accent and arsenal of gestures for your foxy times. Role play. Wear plastic fangs. Sleep in a coffin. Run naked through the forest late at night. Consummate that fantasy life your neighbors suspect is just an act. You owe it to yourself and your nookie buddy. And you would make Sookie proud. Anna too.
*** Sherri Newhouse lives in Colorado Springs with her dachshund and loves True Blood.