Unlike some actresses who must work their way up to lead billing, Rutina Wesley started out on top. A native of Las Vegas, Wesley graduated from the University of Evansville, and then landed a coveted spot in the acting program at Juilliard. From there, Sam Mendes (American Beauty) immediately discovered her and tapped her to star opposite Hollywood luminary Julianne Moore in The Vertical Hour on the Great White Way. Wesley kicked off her tenure in film with a lead portrayal of Raya, an ambitious inner-city teen who enters a step-dancing competition to try to raise money for her tuition in director Ian Iqbal Rashid's inspirational drama How She Move (2008), a smash critical and box office success, and one of the best-received films at Sundance 2007. The following year, Wesley signed on to play the aggressive, short-tempered bartender Tara Thornton on the Alan Ball-created HBO vampire drama series True Blood. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi