Crystal Norris, the new girl on HBO’s “True Blood,” has a secret.
Fans of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series probably already know the skeletons lurking in Jason Stackhouse’s new girlfriend’s closet, but Lindsay Pulsipher isn’t about to spill any spoiler-y beans.
Pulsipher was one of several fresh faces joining the “True Blood” this season as beloved characters from Harris’ universe, but Crystal’s importance in both the ongoing plot and in Jason Stackhouse’s life has only become apparent in recent episodes. Of the show’s regular castmembers, Pulsipher has only shared scenes with Ryan Kwanten, though she hints that’s going to change soon.
Previously best known from frequent TV guest spots, or if you happened to watch the A&E drama “The Beast,” Pulsipher caught up with HitFix to talk about her career-changing work on “True Blood.”
Click through for the full interview, but don’t worry… Spoilers are minimal.
HitFix: Your earliest appearances this season were pretty fleeting. How long did it take for people to start being able to identify you as The New Girl From “True Blood”?
Lindsay Pulsipher: You know, it was pretty much instantly. I was a Target the day after my kinda debut on “True Blood” and I got recognized right away. I was very surprised. It caught me off-guard.
HitFix: What have the reactions been like?
LP: They’ve all been really, really positive. “True Blood” fans are very friendly, so everybody’s been very friendly and positive.
HitFix: Though they’re also sticklers and you weren’t exactly the version of Crystal that was on the page, where she’s short and dark-haired.
LP: Nobody has pointed that out to me! I guess that’s pretty much the opposite of how I look.
HitFix: That means you’re doing something right if nobody has wanted to complain…
LP: Yeah… Alan Ball, he doesn’t always necessarily stick to the descriptions in the books and I think I might be one who is quite a bit different. Maybe not as different as Tara. I guess Tara’s pretty different.
HitFix: Did the other cast members give you any warnings or advice on how things would change for you in this “True Blood” bubble?
LP: You know, they did. Ryan [Kwanten] in particular. I remember we were talking about it and he said, “Are you ready for the fan reaction?” And I was very blase and non-chalant about it. I was like, “Oh, I don’t think people are even going to know who I am or recognize me.” And he was like, “Oh, you’re so wrong. Get ready for ‘True Blood’ fandom.”
HitFix: Did he have a particularly extreme story of a fan reaction?
LP: Ryan has a story that he told me and it’s in one of the little interviews that HBO put up on the website and it’s just a funny story about women wanting to have a little piece of Jason Stackhouse, if you will. Yeah, that’s about the craziest one that I’ve heard.
HitFix: When you went after this part, were you attracted purely by the way Crystal read in the script, or were you already a “True Blood” fan?
LP: I was a fan of the show, but I hadn’t read the books, so I had no idea who Crystal Norris was. After I had booked the part and I telling friends about it, they all knew who Crystal was and everybody was really really excited when they found out that was who I’d be playing, because in the books she’s quite the character.
HitFix: Did you then go and find out everything you could? Or did you prefer to find out details as they appeared in the scripts?
LP: When we were shooting, I just let the writers tell me. I made a conscious decision to see it through the writers’ eyes. So I made a conscious decision not to read the books until after we were done shooting for the season. Since then, I’ve started reading them. I’m just on Book Four now, where Crystal is getting introduced.
HitFix: Since you were trying to come in fresh, what was your initial read on Crystal? If you didn’t know her “big secret,” what did you think of her?
LP: She was very mysterious. In the description, the character breakdown for the audition, she was very mysterious and there wasn’t actually a lot given to me. Once I got further along and once I had booked the part, Alan Ball was really great about giving me a few notes about her history and where she came from. I was very fortunate, because the writers on the show are so great in their ability to create characters. She was very well-written and I tried to add some layers to what they had already written and I just feel like they are so great about making distinct character choices.
HitFix: Given how supernaturally rich and often extreme the “True Blood” universe is, how important is it for you to find a way to ground a character in something relatable and human?
LP: It was absolutely very very important. I really wanted to make Crystal somebody who was relatable, or at least had some sort of quality that people could empathize with. I didn’t want her to be somebody you could disregard as this nutty girl from the woods. And I hope that as it goes on, people can see that.
HitFix: So what was that quality? Other than being not just the nutty girl from the woods?
LP: I guess that’s up to the viewers. I’ve done my job and whatever people relate to through Crystal, it’s up to them.
HitFix: Last Sunday’s episode sort of presented Crystal as an escapee from a cult of some sort, at least if we ignore her hypothetical secret. Was that something where you researched people with that sort of background?
LP: It was in the script, the whole drug compound and being isolated out in the woods. That was really fascinating to me, so I played with that, with her mentality of being in kind of a locked box for her whole life and then breaking free from that and how liberating and exciting, but also really scary, that would be for her, to be going through all of these new things and also discovering this life that she hasn’t really every been exposed to.
I think that playing characters far away from who I am as a person is a lot more fun and a lot more exciting and you can play with it a lot more because it’s not you and it’s so far from you, so that’s very liberating as far as that goes.
HitFix: So far in the episodes we’ve seen, you’ve only really been working with Ryan. How was he to work with?
LP: He’s an amazing actor. He knows his character so well. He was just so fun. He had a great hold on his character and that was exciting to watch and be a part of.
HitFix: You get to help ground Jason’s character, giving him more to play than wacky comedy, which is nice.
LP: Definitely. It was fun and I think that it was a good distraction from his fumbling, childlike Jason-isms. It was great to work with him in that light. He definitely shows that he’s an amazing actor and he’s very versatile and I think it was a nice distraction from the story to have him growing up a little bit and coming out of his childhood, if you will.
HitFix: And it also looked in the last episode, with Sam’s involvement, like your plotline is beginning to dovetail with a few other characters. Does that mean that we’ll see you with some other regulars?
LP: Yeah. There are a couple other characters I come in contact with and she causes a little stir amongst some of the other characters, for sure.
HitFix: So what can you tease about what’s coming for Crystal in the last third of the season?
LP: Well, she’s definitely not a very subtle person. She definitely involves some of the other characters and I don’t think know that they’re necessarily happy about it.
HitFix: You say she’s not subtle? How big did you get to go as an actress?
LP: I got to go pretty big. I was lucky, because I had a wide range of emotions that I got to work with. She’s this girl that’s kind of struggling to find herself and to break free from her past and a long with this come all of these new realizations and discoveries of how life works. She’s just trying to cope and it was fun for me to stay true to all of those different layers and emotions that she’s going through.
HitFix: Is it exciting or possibly a little bit scary for you as an actor to be given the latitude to go that big?
LP: Oh my God! No, it’s so much fun! For me, it’s my dream. It’s just so much more exciting to have no limits and to be able to take your character as far as you want or need to get where you want to go. I think that this show definitely is over-the-top and it’s very exciting. It was fun and a great way to just exercise my chops.
HitFix: Fans of the books know that we’re going to get a big twist about Crystal and, um, her nature. Is that coming later this season?
LP: Well, we find some things out about Crystal that we don’t know right now. Yeah.
HitFix: And assuming that Crystal carries through on her arc from the books, she’s presumably going to stick around. Do you know yet if you’re going to be back in Season Four?
LP: I guess we’ll just have to wait to find out. There are definitely some things that happen at the end of this season that I don’t want to give away. You’ll have to watch and find out.
HitFix: If you were to be coming back, what are you doing now in the hiatus between seasons?
LP: I just shot some TV stuff and I’m doing a film in the fall. I have a film coming out called “The Oregonian” that’s going to be doing the festival circuit later this year. So I’ll be promoting that. And just playing with my dog here in LA.
HitFix: Have you gotten a sense of what the “True Blood” visibility has for you in terms of acting opportunities?
LP: I have really great representation out here, so I feel like I’ve always been well taken care of, but I think that “True Blood” is such a huge show and so many people watch it that casting people and everybody, they’re really excited and want to talk all about it when I go in for meetings. That’s always fun and a plus when you have something in common to talk about.
“True Blood” airs on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. on HBO. But you already knew that.