‘True Blood’: Rutina Wesley Wasn’t the 1st Actor Cast as Tara

True Blood ranks as one of the best vampire TV shows ever. The hit HBO series’ stellar cast featured dozens of A-listers, including Alexander Skarsgård, Anna Paquin, and Lizzy Caplan. Rutina Wesley’s Tara Thornton became a fan favorite from the first episode. But she wasn’t the only one who landed the part. Before Wesley joined the True Blood cast, another actor portrayed Sookie Stackhouse’s best friend. 

Rutina Wesley played Sookie’s best friend, Tara Thornton, in ‘True Blood’ 

True Blood cast Rutina Wesley
Rutina Wesley at Comic-Con 2014 in San Diego | FilmMagic

Wesley joined the cast of True Blood in 2008 when the HBO series launched its first season. Her character, Tara, is Sookie Stackhouse’s (Anna Paquin) childhood best friend. 

Early in the show, Tara, the smartest person in Bon Temps, acts as a voice of reasoning for Sookie. But as her best friend falls in love with the mysterious vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) and becomes entangled with another powerful vampire, Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgård), Tara finds herself in the middle of supernatural drama. 

Eventually, Tara is turned into a vampire. And in the final season (season 7), another vampire kills her, but Tara finally finds peace in the afterlife thanks to her mom, Lettie Mae (Adina Porter), and cousin Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis). 

Another actor played Tara in ‘True Blood’ before Rutina Wesley

Before True Blood premiered in 2008, the showrunners had cast a different actor to play Tara. Passions star Brook Kerr portrayed the character in the unaired pilot. But when HBO picked up the show, Wesley replaced Kerr. 

No official reason was given for the recast. But when speaking with The New York Times in 2008 after the True Blood premiere, showrunner and creator Alan Ball praised Wesley’s nuanced style. And he suggested she played the part better than others who had tried. 

“Other actresses played it for laughs, like something on the CW,” Ball said. “But Rutina was the first person who showed her vulnerable side.”

Wesley stars in Ava DuVernay’s ‘Queen Sugar’ 

After True Blood ended in 2014, Wesley went on to appear in several popular projects. The Juilliard-trained actor voiced characters for Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, and Generator Rex. And she acted in episodes of The Walking Dead, Hannibal, and Arrow

Today, Wesley stars in Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey’s OWN drama, Queen Sugar. In the series — which is heading into its seventh and final season — Wesley plays activist and journalist Nova Bordelon, who finds herself back on her family’s sugarcane farm in rural Louisiana following her father’s death. Dawn-Lyen Gardner and Kofi Siriboe portray Nova’s younger siblings, Charlotte and Ralph. 

Wesley is also gearing up for a new project for HBO, The Last of Us. The upcoming series is based on a videogame of the same name and will star Wesley, Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey, Gabriel Luna, Anna Torv, Nick Offerman, and Storm Reid. There’s no official release date yet, but the show is reportedly scheduled to premiere in 2023.

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