"Come in here and show them your teeth," actress Anna Paquin yells into another room.
Actor Stephen Moyer walks in, a bit perplexed about why she wants him to open his mouth to a room of strangers. Then she giggles and asks him again to bare his fangs.
And he does.
"See," she says, smiling. "He does have them."
As the star of HBO's vampire drama "True Blood," airing 9 p.m. ET Sundays, Paquin thinks her co-star's pointy real-life canine teeth are cool. They are long and sharp like a vampire's would be. Strangers might find them a bit disconcerting, especially since Moyer plays a vampire on "Blood."
It's part of Paquin's charm to flirt. She can be playful and silly but rarely inappropriate or shameless.
She still loves to talk about acting, with the same vigor of a young artist although she's played the
Despite her world travels, she still comes across as a bit of an innocent.
At 26, she's no longer the little girl audiences discovered in 1993's "The Piano," for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. After a few high-profile period pieces (such as HBO's "Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee") and a big movie franchise (Rogue in the "X-Men" movies), she's grown up. Unlike many actresses who had careers as children, Paquin doesn't feel a need to declare to the world she's an adult.
"I never did kids films," she says. "I was a kid in (serious) films most of my life. It wasn't as if I had to overcome this cute-kid-with-dimples thing."
Paquin has come of age while working. Today, she is engaged by talking of her work. She doesn't do the
Paquin has little pretense for an actress with an Oscar on her mantle. She isn't interested in being the star. She wants to be one of the gang.
As Southern barmaid Sookie Stackhouse on "True Blood," Paquin says she's found an unconventional woman.
Sookie is intrigued by and attracted to the town's first resident vampire, a Civil War veteran named Bill (played by Moyer).
She doesn't fear his sharp teeth. In fact, she loves to look at them. Her flirting with this mystery man causes her neighbors' jaws to drop.
"I love how hopeful she is. I love how, despite whatever happens to her, she's still an optimist and a romantic," she says. "She has hadn't the easiest life, but she's still open to new things. She still sees the bright side."
Paquin uses those attributes when approaching her work. She doesn't want to know what's ahead for Sookie, preferring to stay in the moment.
"What you do as an actor is to explain why people are the way they are," she says. "You spend every waking hour trying to figure out that person or, at least, I do."
Sookie has invaded Paquin's life in more ways than one. She's dyed her hair blond and gotten used to wearing tight T-shirts and jeans. Sookie represents a sexuality that Paquin has never displayed before on screen.
In many ways, Sookie is the type of role that Paquin strives for.
"I would be thrilled if people watched the whole ('True Blood') pilot and couldn't figure out who I was," she says.
"My favorite actors are people you can't recognized when you're walking down the street. ... She's a completely different character than what I am used to playing.
"Very few (producers) are going to cast you sight unseen for a role unlike anything you've done before. If you don't audition, how do you know you're right for the part?
"I'd rather know I'm right for the part than have someone cast me based on how they think they know me."
(Terry Morrow writes for the Knoxville News Sentinel in