As if vamp soap True Blood needed any more spice, Texan Ashley Jones is heating up the new series as Merlotte’s new waitress Daphne. Stick that in your gumbo.
You can forgive a waitress anything as long as she’s hot. Hair in your soup? Don’t stress about it, honey. Spilling red wine all down your shirt? It’ll come out in the wash. Adding 25% service charge onto the bill without asking? Hell, you can take the whole wallet as long as you don’t tell the manager I was staring at your chest when you brought the entrée.
Which is clearly behind the thinking of the producers of vampire phenomenon TV show True Blood who for series two (currently airing on FX and due on Channel 4 later this year) have cast 33-year-old Texan Ashley Jones as the newest employee at Merlotte’s – the Bon Temps’ diner which seems to be at the epicentre of supernatural fanged antics. Jones plays Daphne Landry who, despite being the world’s worst waitress, charms bar owner Sam Merlotte and in true back-of-a-pulpy-detective-novel ‘isn’t all she seems’.
“When I was a teenager my parents made me take a part-time job at the local Black Eyed Pea which was a home-cooked food, family restaurant. I really wasn’t very good at all and didn’t last too long,” says Jones.. “Honestly, some of the plate dropping you see in the show wasn’t planned, I had real trouble balancing them.”
True Blood’s never shied away from nudity. As FHM’s mum said after being lent the first series, “it’s a bit blue...” And, in series two, bare flesh reaches levels that would make the fall of Rome look like a particularly dour party political conference, as bacchanalia descends on the swamp town with depraved ‘blood/cake/dirt smearing’ orgies regularly on the menu.
“When we got down to the final auditions I thought I wouldn’t get the part as the other two girls I was up against said they were okay with the nudity and I wasn’t comfortable in getting everything out,” she says. “But luckily they went with me, it just meant I had sign off on the nakedness. I was fine with being shot from the back and showing a bit of butt, but I got to see each shot and could veto anything I didn’t like. I can tell you, having sex on the pool table might look fun, but it really isn’t – I had a big prosthetic scar on my back which kept sticking to the baize, so we kept having to stop, clean it up and then re-shoot it. I’ve also had to film scenes like this on top of a desk and on the kitchen floor, and it’s very awkward and becomes very technical.”
If you think you are a hard worker (although the time you ‘burnt the midnight oil’ at the office, but only spent the time snooping around your co-workers’ desks doesn’t count) you have nothing on Jones who, while filming True Blood, was also pulling shifts on trashy daytime soap The Bold And The Beautiful where for 690 episodes she’s played Dr Bridget Forrester.
“We were working vampire hours on True Blood and then daylight hours on The Bold And The Beautiful, so there were times I would drive from one set, have an hour’s break and then start work again,” says Jones. “It’s amazing what the human body can tolerate and you just have to get on with it. I think it helped that I’m still young, single and don’t have kids, as any semblance of a private life went out the window.”
The TV show, while not that big here in the UK, is an institution in the US and is exported to 70 countries worldwide (it’s even translated into Arabic and Japanese). Which means when Jones visits certain countries – Holland and Germany in particular – she’s mobbed constantly and has to hire bodyguards to keep the besotted soap fans at bay.
“I think the show works because it’s just such pure fantasy and entertainment. Some of the storylines are pretty ridiculous, but that’s what people like. My character has been married twice and both of her husbands have cheated on her with her own mother,” she laughs.
“I get a lot of fanmail and I do go through them all from time to time, but then I realise there are some very strange people out there and perhaps I should be wearing gloves to open some of the letters. One guy keeps writing to me and he’s convinced my breasts are sending messages to him through the TV. I’m not quite sure what they’re actually saying to him. It’s pretty freaky."
While Jones’s TV career is currently on an upward arc, she’s also been cast as a re-occurring character on FlashForward and filmed episodes of CSI and The Mentalist, like the good ol’ sensible Southern girl that she is (Jones owns a vintage pair of cowboy boots from 1945 and can cook a mean chicken gumbo). She’s also started her own business selling luxury pillowcases.
“They’re called Beauty Silkz and when you wake up you look younger and healthier as they contain 18 amino acids that nourish your hair and skin while you sleep,” she pitches, like a true saleswoman. “But of course that’s not all the ingredients for a good night’s sleep – I would recommend a good meal and then good sex which, I should point out, I haven’t had in a while. They always say that people with a healthy sex life live longer so I clearly need to remedy the situation soon.”
True Blood is currently on FX, Fridays at 10pm
PHOTOGRAPHY: TREVOR O'SHANA, STYLING: JESSICA MARGOLIS, WORDS: RICHARD GALPIN