Fierce! Forbes!

Did I ever tell you you're my True Blood hero, Michelle Forbes?
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TV EYED Did I ever tell you you're my hero, Michelle Forbes? Like, you're the wind beneath my wings, standing out from the sidelines of TV series like Lost, Prison Break, and 24, pulling off the most ingenious little saves by just popping up, feline eyes a-glow, in the strangest, smallest cameo. Her latest appearance: Maryann — the power-hungry priestess/consort/groupie of Dionysus in True Blood, which just started its second shadowy season.

Sure, the pulpy, soapy, Southern goth series overflows — like so much hallucinatory V (a.k.a., the better-than-ecstasy vampire blood) — with acting talent. Start with Anna Paquin as nubile hot-pants psychic Sookie Stackhouse, and Ryan Kwanten as her perpetually puzzled-looking bad-boy bro, Jason, and continue to Stephen Moyer as Sookie's increasingly cadaverous-looking vampire beau, Bill, and Rutina Wesley as the hardcore baby beeyatch with a heart of gold, Tara, and end with the stellar Nelsan Ellis as the trash-talkin' queer V dealer, Lafayette. This season has almost everyone in good-times Bon Temps brooding in their whiskey glasses — prisoners in the literal or metaphorical darkness — and pondering who might have ripped the heart of the town's voodoo exorcist.

But while the other True Blood-ies break down and climb in their bottles in confusion, Forbes shivers me timbers with her vibratory vixenish certainty. She's the natural center of the storm that's brewing in Bon Temps — convincing because the actress specializes in scarily strong women, bordering on the carnivorous and castrating. I was never a huge fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, so I never fell for her Ensign Ro Laren. But we've all noticed that even the briefest appearance by the actress gives the most implausible plot turn a heft and force only the formidable Forbes can deliver. So why hasn't the lady made the break to the big screen? She made a memorable mark on Brad Pitt's serial killer in Kalifornia (1993). Maybe it's because she gets so much work on TV as a kind of Lucy Lawless, sans the throaty Down Under accent. My fave Forbes moments so far:

MARYANN IN TRUE BLOOD

When will her maenad begin to tear apart the Bon Temps citizenry out of sheer bacchanalian exuberance? Her Pan groupie, with mysterious designs on Tara and doggy shape shifter Sam, threatens to steal the sinister thunder from the vampire population.

KATE IN IN TREATMENT

As the straying ex-spouse of Gabriel Bryne's psychotherapist Paul, Forbes applied naturalistic shading and warmth to her character. She understandably got her rage on as Paul swooned for his patient Laura, but you can also understand why the beleaguered shrink later yearned for his ex to take him back.

ADMIRAL HELENA CAIN IN BATTLESTAR GALACTICA

She was the hawk to the more dove-ish Admiral Adama. Too bad the humans didn't have to deal with her ferocious warlady from the planet Sappho beyond season two.

www.hbo.com/trueblood/season2

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