It’s not often in the entertainment business that the author of a book singles out an actor to play a character, and years later she actually ends up on-screen in the role. But that’s exactly what happened to actor Christina Cox (Better Than Chocolate), star of Lifetime’s new series Blood Ties, based upon the novels of Tanya Huff. Years before Blood Ties would grace the small screen, Huff thought Cox would make a perfect Vicki Nelson, a bisexual ex-homicide detective-turned-supernatural sleuth.
When Cox heard, she was rendered speechless. "It’s unbelievably flattering," she said. "There’s really no cool or casual remark you can say to that. That’s just such a huge compliment because when people are envisioning the actors they want to play characters they’ve written, you’ll hear Michelle Pfeiffer, Cate Blanchett, you know, and for someone to pull me out of a hat and say they’d like me to play that character, and five or 10 years later I end up doing it — that’s pretty amazing."
The creators of the series are taking great care to ensure that the other aspects of the show live up to Huff’s original vision, and that means keeping the original story lines (along with all their complications) intact. In the beginning of the series, Vicki leaves the police force due to her deteriorating eyesight and starts up a second career as a private eye.
She soon becomes embroiled in a case involving a vampire killing and finds herself teaming up with Henry Fitzroy, a 450-year-old vampire — but it gets even more interesting after that. "All these supernatural cases … start coming her way because she ends up becoming sort of like the GPS demon-homing device," Cox explained.
Though there’s plenty of action on the show, the focus is on the deeper issues of Vicki’s relationships and her past. "The fighting aspect of it comes up because, well, demons are awfully cantankerous and problematic," Cox said. But like Buffy or Alias, the emotional life of the character is much more important than the fisticuffs.
"I think first and foremost, for me, the focus is: What does this woman want?" Cox said. "She’s going in different directions trying to figure out who she is and what she wants out of love and life, and [the question is] how much is she carrying a degree of damage from past experiences?"
Vicki does have quite a past to deal with, as her romantic history is focused on her relationship with two exes: one man and one woman. Adding to the confusion is her attraction to Henry and all the implications of getting involved with a creature of the night.
Cox likens Vicki’s romantic dilemma (of whether or not to get involved with a vampire) to the decision of whether to date someone who has a drug problem or an illness. "Would you want to take that on?" she asked. "Because you are taking on more than a person; you’re taking on all of the baggage, so to speak, and the complications that come with it."
Blood Ties is not Cox’s first foray into playing a queer or questioning character. She played lesbian icon Kim in Better Than Chocolate (1999), an experience she describes as being overwhelmingly positive. "When you go and do a film like that, you want to have some impact on people’s lives, hopefully in a positive way," Cox said.
"It seemed from everything I received, in terms of letters, that it had a really positive effect for a lot of young women who had previously felt that they couldn’t come out because they didn’t think they could have a ‘normal’ life or a ‘normal’ relationship." Cox still receives letters from fans of the film, despite the fact that it’s been out for eight years.
"I still get letters from people saying, ‘Thank you, this gave me the courage to come out because I finally believe that I’m not going to be dysfunctional or fringe or any of these things just because I’m a woman who loves women,’" Cox said.