“My entrance was standing naked in the middle of the road with a pig—how do you say no to that?” Michelle Forbes says, laughing about her deliciously evil turn last season as the psycho-and-loving-it creature Maryann on the HBO vampire series True Blood. It’s just one of a truly wild gallery of characters she’s played—think also of bad girl Ensign Ro on Star Trek: The Next Generation; boozy Dr. Cox on Homicide: Life on the Street; power-mad Admiral Cain on Battlestar Galactica; and the tormented ex-wife of Gabriel Byrne on In Treatment.
It’s all perfectly in tune with Forbes’s career motto: “Variety, variety, variety. I’ve never wanted to get stuck doing one thing. I wanted a career that had a certain integrity.”
A native of Austin, Texas, who keeps in shape by running in the Hollywood Hills with her three terrier mixes, Forbes has what she deems an “odd” relationship with fashion. “There’s a special feeling when you find an amazing dress. You can get seduced by it,” she says. “But if I don’t have an event, I always reach for comfort. I’m just a girl on the go in my sneakers.” She gets recognized only “when I’m on TV,” she says. “When I’m off, I can lay low.” This periodic anonymity is important for someone who suffered terribly from shyness as a child. “It was bad,” she says. “I had a shrink when I was 10, and he suggested my mother enroll me in acting classes to pull me out of myself. I really think that acting saved my life. Between ‘action’ and ‘cut’ there’s this sacred place where anything can happen—and it’s got nothing to do with me. That is ultimate freedom.”
Forbes, who is single, has gotten a lot of scripts since True Blood that would require her to play “a bitch, basically,” she says. “Where any woman who has a job has to be difficult and fighting with her co-workers.” She laughs again, lamenting the industry’s lack of imagination about women. “I’d find it offensive if it wasn’t so boring?!”
Look for Forbes in the May 2010 issue of More, on newsstands April 27, wearing the best of summer’s sheer and breezy fashions.
Originally published in the May 2010 issue of More.