'True Blood' 's Rutina Wesley Recalls Early 'Fame,' On 'When I Was 17'

Before she fought vampires, the actress got her start at a performing-arts high school.

Rutina Wesley is probably best known for her recent work on "True Blood," where she plays Tara Thornton, the spirited, sass-tacular sidekick of Sookie Stackhouse. But before that, she impressed on the Broadway stage and starred in the 2007 film "How She Move," both of which showed off her first passion: dance.

Wesley grew up in Las Vegas, the daughter of a tap-dancing father and a showgirl mother, and as a teen, she attended the prestigious Las Vegas Academy, a performing-arts school, where prospective students must audition to be accepted. Naturally, she danced to get her spot.

Once she got into the Academy, she faced a whole new series of challenges, as she reveals on the next episode of MTV's "When I Was 17."

"The first show I did in high school was 'Fame,' " Wesley recalled. "What I love about 'Fame' is it's sort of like I was living 'Fame.' I was going to a performing-arts high school, [and] I knew the hard work it took to be there. The auditions were brutal for that show, I remember I had to dance, sing and act, and it was really tough."

Of course, she landed a role in the play, and it was then that she got her first taste of actual fame. From there on out, she knew she was born to be a performer.

"The theater at my school was awesome," she laughed. "It was a 1,400-seat auditorium, so, being in that auditorium at 17, and having, like 1,400 people cheer for you was, like, one of the most amazing feelings that I've ever felt, energy-wise. It just felt right."

To hear more about Wesley's story — and find out what Outkast's Big Boi and actor Joey Lawrence were like when they were 17, tune in to the next episode of "When I Was 17," airing Saturday at 11 a.m. on MTV.