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Jackie B. Good Interviews Tanya Wright

Posted on the 09 August 2012 by Tbfansource @tbfansource

Jackie B. Good Interviews Tanya WrightTrue Blood fans know Tanya Wright as Deputy Kenya Jones the often sarcastic, lone female on the Bon Temps police force.  Kenya can usually be found rolling her eyes at Jason (Ryan Kwanten) or downright ignoring her boss Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer).  Jackie B. Good sat down recently with the actress to talk about the struggles she has faced, her role on True Blood, and ‘Butterfly Rising’ the novel and movie that she worked on for 15 years.

After describing herself as independent, focused and determined, Wright spoke to Jackie about ‘Butterfly Rising’, the script and novel that took 15 years to come to fruition for her.  She reveals that it initially started out as a script that she wrote called ‘A Turn to Grace’, which was a semi-finalist in the Nicholl Screenwriting Competition.  At the time a lot of people read her screenplay as a part of the competition but it centered around black people in Harlem in the 1920′s and at that point there were no companies willing to take the project on.  As time went on Wright began acting but she never stopped with her passion for writing good stories:

Writing was actually my first love.  Acting just came, I just got an acting job another one and another one but I’ve always been a writer.  When I went to Hollywood people told me I had to pick one.  I had to be an actor or a writer.  There was no way I would be able to do both.  But I saw lots of people that I liked and admired and Emma Thompson did it with Sense and Sensibility, Billy Bob Thorton did it with Sling Blade.  Now it’s common place but the idea that those two things needed to be separated was a prevalent idea and it’s like asking which one of your children do you want to kill off: the actor or the writer.

Over time she had created a variety of scripts, pilots and tv shows and waited for the time when the two halves of her would come together.  It would be a personally tragedy that would ultimately help that happen and Wright reveals that her brother’s death played a huge role in getting ‘Butterfly Rising’ completed.  She had recently bought a house and used to spend a lot of time watching a large tree in her front yard where butterflies would gather.  The butterflies reminded her about a story she had read in the Bible and from that Rose and Liza were created.  She wasn’t able to fully eliminate the voice of Grace, the title character from ‘A Turn to Grace’ so she incorporated some elements from the original screenplay, modernized it and made the characters multicultural.

From there she wrote the screenplay and shot the movie, wrote the book and then edited the movie.  Not the usual progression for these types of projects – usually the book comes first, and Wright explains that for her it was the only way to go:

It’s the natural growth because it’s the world that I am; I’m an actor.  So the story came out first in terms of dialogue and then in terms of picture. Visual, that’s the world I am in.  I wasn’t an author.  I wasn’t in the book world; I was in the movie world so it was actually very natural for me for it to come out as a movie first.

Wright was born and bred in the Bronx, a very different world than Bon Temps or the setting of ‘Butterfly Rising’ and Jackie asked if she had any advice for writers who want to create world’s that are so different from their own reality.  She replied that she really felt like being outside your comfort zone was the best place to be creative and that artists have to take creativity from everything around them.  In order to achieve your fullest potential you have to be open and flexible.

Jackie notes that the South and magical world’s seem to be consistent themes in Wright’s work and she says that she’s not even sure herself why that happens:

I’m very attracted to other worlds and even True Blood is a fantastic world that is very complicated and different from anything that I can even imagine. Whatever role I’m playing as an actor, somehow informs my life in some way. It’s never random or an accident.

She goes on to say that True Blood is a very complex show and that beyond the vampires and the sex, she thinks the show is really about fundamental things like belonging, love and humanity, and that she feels extremely fortunate to work on it.

Moving into the personal realm, Wright reveals that her mother had her when she was 15 years old and that times were not easy when she was a child.  Her creativity helped her thrive in that world and she tells a story about a contest that was held when she was in 2nd grade:

When I was a child we didn’t have any money for a Christmas tree at all and there was this drawing contest in 2ndgrade and the contest was to draw the greatest Christmas tree and I apparently drew this exquisite Christmas tree and I got this award for it and everyone was like “This tree is so gorgeous!” [When] they told my mother about it and she was like, “Oh my God.  We didn’t even have a Christmas tree here.”  But it was like if I could have a tree this is what it would be.  It would be magnificent. Yes, so my imagination [has always] served me in my life.

Tanya certainly keeps busy between acting, writing, producing, etc. and when asked how she would prioritize those roles, she says that she would have to put herself at 51% actor and 49% writer.  The rest just comes along with the first two.

Moving to True Blood, Wright says the most challenging part of the job is the hours as most of the shooting is done at night and she is more of a morning person.  The greatest part of the job for her is that everything is so amplified and over the top so you get almost the same feeling as working in theater, which is not common among television shows.

The interview is packed full of so much information and definitely worth a read.  To check it out in its entirety click hereTrue Blood Fan Source would like to thank Audrey at B. Good Productions for sending us this interview.

Source: B. Good Productions – “Trans-Media & True Blood – Interview with Tanya Wright”

Image Credit: Nathaniel Johnston Photography

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