Racine native Kristin Bauer keeps herself busy. In addition to playing Pam, the vampire club owner on HBO's hit show, "True Blood," Bauer is also an artist, an animal rights activist and a new bride who got married on her family's farm.
Bauer has 53 credited television and film projects -- everything from "Seinfeld" to "Desperate Housewives" to "Boston Legal" and now, "True Blood," which she says is her favorite project yet.
With "True Blood" approaching its season-two finale, we caught up with Bauer by phone to discuss "man hands," her new-found recognition, her memories of Mayfair Mall and more. Enjoy this latest Milwaukee Talks.
OnMilwaukee.com: What's it like working on a show that some critics are calling one of the best on TV?
Kristin Bauer: It's incredible, surreal and unexpected.
OMC: What part of it is unexpected? Because I've watched every episode of "True Blood" and knew it was a pretty unique show from day one.
KB: I don't know if it's me having been in the business a bit and have gotten my hopes up so many times, because there's so much about filming that I can't control. I've done some amazing things that people didn't really see, and some crappy things that everybody saw. I somehow have to focus on just saying the words and then forget about it. I assumed it would be amazing because of (executive producer) Alan Ball, and I love vampires, and the cast is so incredible. I was working on another show, and halfway through the hair and makeup, someone said, "We just have to tell you we love 'True Blood,' and you're incredible as Pam!" They were giving me attention that seems different than the other hit shows that I've been on like "Seinfeld." There's a real mysterious component to this level of interest.
OMC: The season is just about over, so I'm assuming you've been done filming for a while. Do you feel like every episode is just getting better?
KB: Yeah, I do. I feel the excitement, even though I know what is going to happen. I still can't wait for Sunday.
OMC: Do you watch the show?
KB: Yeah, they screen them at lunchtime on the set. I'm as excited as anybody.
OMC: What else are you working on?
KB: I'm doing "Private Practice" this week. It's totally different; I'm playing a human.
OMC: You're only 35, but your biography says you acted in 53 different roles. That seems like a lot. What are some of your favorites?
KB: I really am partial to comedy, which is one thing I love about "True Blood." I think Pam is hysterical. A lot of the TV stuff I do that is dramatic is harder work. It's great as an actor to show people that you can do that, but maybe I've just gotten lazy, but I really like playing fun roles. "Seinfeld" was fun, and "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion" was fun. "Desperate Housewives" and "Boston Legal" were fun. "True Blood" is the most fun of any job I've ever had.
OMC: Even better than the "man hands" episode of "Seinfeld?"
KB: That was pretty hysterical, because a sitcom set is a blast. That cast was so happy and so easy-going. They worked like three or four hours a day. "True Blood" is 17 hours a day. It's really cinematic, so the filming moves much more slowly.
OMC: Do people still ask you about the "man hands?" Do they all want to see your hands?
KB: Yes, they do. I get asked that all the time.
OMC: I'm assuming those weren't actually your hands.
KB: No, thank God. Can you imagine?
OMC: Speaking of special effects, how do the fangs work on "True Blood?"
KB: It's a magical CGI trick. We just say the line again with fangs, and somewhere these guys just make that happen.
KB: I hope so. You never know what Alan Ball is going to do. I've heard from fans of the book that her role gets larger.
OMC: It must be great, but is it weird that you're getting so much notoriety for a supporting character on a show? You actually have Pam fan clubs out there. Does that happen on other shows?
KB: No, it doesn't, and I'm extremely happy and flattered, and I also feel pretty lucky. It's partially because how well she's written. The nice surprise to this season has been all the mail I'm getting.
OMC: You grew up in Racine but left a while ago. Do you ever get back to Wisconsin?
KB: I do. I was just back here for two weeks because I got married in Racine on my family's farm. We went to Hayward to an incredible lodge for our honeymoon. It was an incredible resort.
OMC: I heard you had a "green" wedding.
KB: I did. We used wildflowers from the farm. It was like a picnic wedding.
OMC: I know you feel strongly about saving animals, too. Does that come from your farm background?
KB: It does. I spent so much time on acres of land, riding horses. I'm aware of nature; it's the only thing that really revives me.
OMC: Do you think that grounds you more than some other actors?
KB: I can't imagine that it doesn't. In Wisconsin, it's so much more simple. L.A. is extremely stressful. This business is a rollercoaster ride. The highs are really high, and the lows are really low.
OMC: Did you spend a lot of time in Milwaukee growing up?
KB: We did, a bit. We went once a year to Mayfair, because my aunt would let us pick out a new teddy bear for Christmas. That was such a huge deal. Because of our simple Racine background, we still sort of make fun of my mom for the fact that going to Milwaukee was like going to the moon. Now, my brother and his kids who live in Racine go to Milwaukee all the time and enjoy that wonderful city.
OMC: I guarantee you that there is more to Milwaukee than Mayfair Mall.
OMC: You're an artist, too, right?
KB: That's a big sanity saver for me.
OMC: When do you have the time, in between all of your work, to create art?
KB: It's so hard to find the time. I try to make the time, and some weeks I don't know what I make it of. Right now, I'm having a show in L.A. I have four weeks and two paintings. The time will be carved out of sleeping, but this week it's been two hours here and two hours there. But it's almost meditative.
OMC: Any other big projects coming up?
KB: I don't have anything coming up, but I've heard "True Blood" will go back to work in the fall.
OMC: Would you be OK with only working on "True Blood?"
KB: I would actually love to just do "True Blood," and the rest of the year paint. And I'd like to paint for a few months of the year in South Africa.
OMC: That's right, your husband is South African. Have you had a chance to get there yet?
KB: No, and I'm dying to go, but we need a month when we're both not working, which isn't going to happen this year. And we'd both love to have a house in Wisconsin. It would be really nice to be here half of the year.
Andy is the founder and co-owner of OnMilwaukee.com. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.