True Blood actress Anna Paquin: 'There is no convenient time to be pregnant in the acting profession'
After seven years of True Blood drama, and twin toddlers to care for, Anna Paquin decided it was high time she enjoyed a hiatus. She talks to Susan Griffin about 'mummy guilt' and not being pigeonholed
Having experienced life within the walls of Pixar Animation Studios, Anna Paquin admits she daydreams about having the skill set that would mean she could work there full-time.
"Some talent as far as graphic design or computing or drawing - just something," says the actress, laughing.
"They literally get to design each of their own little spaces and have the budget to do so, and they're fully executed and staged - like there was this World War Two bunker," adds the 33-year-old, who is still recognisable as the little girl with the gap in her teeth who scooped an Oscar in 1994 for her outstanding performance in The Piano.
"Getting to work for a company who not only takes creativity to be meaningful and real, but who are going to go out of their way to put people who are creating their product in an environment they find stimulating, it's just so exciting and inspiring."
She might not be a full-time staffer, but she did at least get to pop in and out of Pixar, home of Toy Story, Up and Inside Out, while voicing a character for their latest project, The Good Dinosaur.
In this visually stunning animation - which imagines a world where an asteroid hasn't hit Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs - a fearful Apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend named Spot, when a misstep leaves him far from home.
"I'm not a huge animation geek but I love Pixar films, and find the emotional stories and character developments every bit as poignant as I do when I'm watching a live action film," says Paquin, clasping a toy version of her character, the friendly T-Rex Ramsey.
"This (The Good Dinosaur) happened to fit in a lovely, little box. I recorded some of it in LA and some in London. Voice-over work and parenting go really well together, as you can schedule it around your children," adds the star, who has three-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, with her husband and former True Blood co-star Stephen Moyer.
She was still shooting their vampire TV series when she met the Pixar team, but didn't start recording until after her final scenes were in the can - which she remembers, because "I had green hair at the time, and I know I definitely didn't have green hair when we were shooting True Blood".
"I was on my sort of extended-vacation-stroke-delayed-maternity leave, where I got to dye my hair whatever colour I wanted - because I'm actually 12 years old," adds Paquin with a laugh (today her hair is almost black).
After seven years on True Blood, which ended in 2014, she admits she was ready for a break: "It was just the sheer physical exhaustion, and obviously in the last couple of years, we had the twins."
Once they'd wrapped, she says she wasn't looking for work - unless "something really, really interesting" came up.
"I have small children and they're only going to be small once. In an ideal world, I probably wouldn't have gone back to work when they were three months old, but there's no convenient time as a woman to take time out of your career, and certainly not a convenient time as an actress to be pregnant," continues the Canada-born star.
"Things were a little rougher than we had anticipated, and I just really want to be with my kids. I mean, they came to work every single day, but by the time we were finishing the series, they were getting to the point where they were actually becoming people who are aware of the passage of time and when you're there and when you're not there. And I want to raise my own kids."
She catches herself, adding quickly: "I mean, I have help, of course I have, and there's lots of it, but there are two of them. I have nannies, but you need two sets of hands for two kids.
"Of course, a lot of women, including my mother, managed children and more of them on their own and hats off, but if it was financially possible for my mother to have had more help, I'm pretty sure she would've appreciated it. There's no medal for being the most exhausted mother in the playground and I feel no need to pretend that I don't have lots of really good help."
Known for its healthy dose of blood and sex, Paquin confesses she's dreading the day her children come across the steamy scenes she and Moyer shared on screen, as telepathic southern belle Sookie Stackhouse and vampire Bill Compton in True Blood.
"I know, at some point, my kids are going to type something into a Google search engine and come up with something which will probably scar them enough not to do it again."
As well as The Good Dinosaur, she also spent five days on the set of Roots, a TV adaptation of Alex Haley's novel about slavery - "which again, was an extraordinary piece of material and period of history, and I really wanted to be a part of that".
"I'm easing back into it. Kids are starting pre-school and not home all day, so it's not mummy guilt," she adds.
Moyer and Paquin recently returned to Los Angeles, following a six-month stint in Wales, where he was filming TV series, The Bastard Executioner.
"It was an amazing opportunity for my husband, so I was like, 'okay, we're going to Wales', so we're trying to move as a large and unruly circus to keep the whole family together."
She "loved" being in Wales. "We were in a little tiny village, there was absolutely everything you'd want so far as convenience, but you're in a beautiful environment and can go around castles with your children whenever you feel like it, and go tour medieval ruins and things.
"I'm from New Zealand (she was born in Canada but the family moved when she was four) and we just don't have history that goes back that far, so that is kind of exotic to me."
She has no regrets starting out in the industry so young, but acknowledges that she's succeeded where many fail.
"My career was supposed to have ended when I was a kid. No one ever transitions into being a teenage actor, no one ever transitions out of being a teenager actor - well, I'm still here," Paquin remarks.
"I was never the cute, adorable kid or hot teen. I've never really been in a category, which sometimes has been a bit weird, and sometimes, that's been an amazing gift."
The Good Dinosaur is released in cinemas today