Many people have the dream to go to Hollywood and become a big star. What most don’t realize is that it takes a lot of work and dedication to make it in Tinsel town. You have to have confidence and believe in yourself. One person who doesn’t have a problem with any of that is actress Jamie Gray Hyder. Her breakout role was playing Danielle on the hit HBO series True Blood. Originally scheduled for two episodes, the producers of the series enjoyed her work so much; she ended up being on the show for its fifth and sixth seasons.
Currently she is one of the stars of the USA Network series Graceland. She plays Luciano Solano, the sister to Carlito, who runs the profitable and dangerous Solano cartel. Although her character is trying to live a normal life, she keeps getting pulled back into the family business.
Jamie’s talents don’t stop there. She’s a classically trained singer, has appeared in numerous music videos and lent her voice talents to the video game Killzone: Shadow Fall as Echo. She was kind enough to sit down with us to talk about Graceland, what working on True Blood meant to her career and what she would say to up and coming actors.
Pop Culture Principle – Can you tell us what the series Graceland is about?
Jamie Gray Hyder – Graceland follows the story of six federal agents who live in a house dubbed Graceland. They all do undercover work using resources from their various agencies.
Pop Culture Principle – You play Lucia Solano. Can you tell us about your character?
Jamie Gray Hyder – This season, one of the big bads is the Solano cartel family and that is who the Graceland team is looking to bring down. I play the daughter in that family and much like the Michael Corleone situation, my character is going to graduate school and trying to live a normal life, but she’s constantly dragged into the business and the affairs of her family and the cartel.
Pop Culture Principle – Erik Valdez plays your brother Carlito on Graceland. What is it like working with Eric?
Jamie Gray Hyder – Eric and I have become super close. I feel so fortunate to have him as my brother on the show. We are in fact like brother and sister in real life at this point. We spend our time off together when we are shooting in Florida. He and I have our meals together, go to the beach and hang out with the other actors on the show. Eric is one of my favorite people and I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to work with him.
Pop Culture Principle – The character Lucia has some layers to her. What is it like for you as an actor to sink your teeth in that type of role?
Jamie Gray Hyder – That is my favorite part when you get to play a character that is a complex human, it really calls on so much of your experience and training as an actor. When you get these roles that are dynamic, it allows you to really show your range. It’s really exciting to experience so many things as Lucia throughout the season because you never know what side of her is going to come out in each instance.
Pop Culture Principle – How much are you like Lucia and how are you not like Lucia?
Jamie Gray Hyder – I would say that we are alike in that we are very independent people and we both have a tendency to be fixers. We are constantly in the position of trying to help other people. The things that we are not alike in are more situational because I identify with her on an emotional and intellectual level in many ways. I really understand the struggle between wanting to do what’s right for yourself and trying to do right by other people that you care about and I think that we can all relate to that.
Pop Culture Principle – What can fans look forward to with Lucia as the season progresses?
Jamie Gray Hyder – People can look forward to Lucia’s relationship with Johnny to continue developing and the conflicts between her and her family continue to develop. You have a positive aspect of her life improving and you have a negative aspect of her life getting worse. It leaves you wondering the whole time when is this going to fall apart. We are shooting finale right now and I think the fans have a lot to look forward to in the last few episodes of the season.
Pop Culture Principle – Your first big role was playing Danielle on True Blood. Where you nervous or did you have any reservations joining the popular series?
Jamie Gray Hyder – Absolutely. You have nervous excitement about being the new kid in school, especially considering that I came in on the fifth season. Everyone had already been working together for so long and it was an enormous task. I walked into the room for my first table read with sweaty palms and was immediately greeted by the members of the cast and crew. They were so warm and welcoming and it was such a positive experience. When we started shooting, I was talking to Alan Ball and thanking him for the opportunity to be on the show. He said that his first few experiences in show business where so awful that if he ever had the opportunity to have his own show, he would make sure it was a positive experience for everyone involved.
Pop Culture Principle – Did the writers of the show give you much background on your character Danielle?
Jamie Gray Hyder – I was initially cast to shoot 2 episodes and ended up getting eleven episodes over two seasons. One of the fun and difficult parts about my character is that they were kind of making her up as they went along because she wasn’t intended to be there for so long. I am very grateful that they decided to keep her around, but that did mean that I was learning about her as everybody else was learning about her. I had to create more of my own backstory for that character and create more context for her life than I was given. It was fun in its own way, but then now having a character like Lucia who is extremely complicated and complex with a very rich backstory. Working with that has its own benefits as well.
Pop Culture Principle – You mentioned you were originally scheduled for two episodes of True Blood, but ended up doing eleven episodes. Did the show’s confidence in you build your confidence as well?
Jamie Gray Hyder – Yes, it sort of let me know that it wasn’t a fluke. I was so grateful every time I got a call to be brought back in because I didn’t know. I was told episode by episode whether or not I was needed. Not only does it help to restore your faith in your own ability and talent as an actor, but it restores your faith in yourself as someone who is easy to be around and easy to work with. In your next job, it definitely gives you a little more confidence when making choices and things in a new place.
Pop Culture Principle – Playing a wolf on the show, did you do any sort of research to learn the mannerisms of the animal?
Jamie Gray Hyder – I think that when you play a role that is kind of supernatural or based in fiction or fantasy, it can be difficult. There is so much information on the lore of the werewolf and on wolves in general. When you play a role like that, at least for me, you determine at each moment what percent human you are and what percent animal you are. There are certain scenes where you saw more of her human side and you saw her as a person. Then there were other scenes where absolutely the animalistic instincts kick in and override the human instincts and that is where understanding the creature and the animal that your character is really comes into play.
Pop Culture Principle – What do you miss most about playing Danielle and being on True Blood?
Jamie Gray Hyder – I’ll miss the cast and crew that I got to work with for two seasons. I’ll miss the crazy things that happen on the set like working with real hybrid wolves. Getting to see these amazing creatures in person as an actor who is playing that creature and to actually get to observe them in real life was amazing. There were situations where someone got attacked and all of their intestines are coming out of their body because of the special effects. So, you are standing there talking to the person as they are holding their intestines standing in line at Kraft services; it was just so bizarre! I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work on the show before it ended. Also, to be part of a show with such a great fan following on a network like HBO, you just can’t ask for a better start.
Pop Culture Principle – Any advice for people who are starting out in the business?
Jamie Gray Hyder – Number one, you have to really want it and it can’t be something you are doing on a whim. The second thing I would say is that it takes time. I’ve been in LA for almost six years now and it took almost four years before I booked my first major role on television. At this point in my career, I’ve almost done two thousand auditions in the last six years and maybe have booked thirsty of those jobs. If you are talking real television jobs, you are looking at two or three. You really have to understand how the business works so you don’t take rejection personally.
The other piece of advice that I would give anyone, especially if they are a lot younger and still have time before they move into the professional world of acting is save your money. Even if you are emotionally and mentally strong enough to make it in this business, sometimes it will be the dry spells and the lack of funds that will cause you to have to go and do something else. So, you have to really want it and save your money; it’s really important.
Pop Culture Principle – You were also involved with the game Killzone: Shadowfall. Can you talk to us about that experience?
Jamie Gray Hyder – I auditioned for the character as I would for any other character on film or television. When I booked the role, I immediately went into fight, stunt and weapons training and that training was probably one of my favorite things that I have done in my career so far. Getting to do all the motion capture and doing the voiceover work was amazing. Everything is done separately so you only experience one component at a time and it’s not until the game comes out that you actually get to see all of those pieces get put together.
I’ve also never had to work so hard to watch my own material. I have the game right now and I’m trying to get through it so I can actually see myself and see my work in the game. It’s not all at the beginning, so I have to go through every checkpoint that every other gamer has to go through in order to see my work on the screen.
Pop Culture Principle – Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
Jamie Gray Hyder – Well, I just finished shooting Graceland, so now I am getting back in to the audition circuit. We will see what happens!
We would like to thank Jamie for taking time out of her schedule and talking with us. If you would like to keep up to date on her career, you can use the links below! You can catch Graceland every Wednesday at 10/9c on the USA Network.