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There is not even the ghost of an antipodean accent coming down the phone line from L.A. Fifteen years ago, Anna Paquin was the little New Zealander who won the hearts of millions - and an Oscar - for her role in The Piano.

Today, she's a busy 26-year-old actor about to unveil her first major TV series role, playing a small-town Louisiana waitress with a southern twang and a thing for a vampire in HBO's True Blood. Paquin's transformation from child outsider into Hollywood starlet is now complete.

"It was an amazing thing but not something I understood at the time," Paquin says of the best-supporting actress Oscar that made her, at 11, the second-youngest person to ever win an Academy Award. (The youngest was a 10-year-old Tatum O'Neal for Paper Moon, although Paquin herself was only 9 during the filming of The Piano.)

"It is difficult in such a subjective art form to say someone did the best performance. There are so many performances every year that don't get recognized," she says, explaining that as a child she could hardly be impressed by something she didn't understand. "It gave me the opportunity to have a career. It started all of this. That's all it is: a really amazing stepping stone. I was really young, and I didn't know what I was doing. I am still figuring it out."

That figuring out has mainly taken place in the United States, where Paquin moved when she was 16. She was born in Winnipeg to a Canadian father and a mother from New Zealand, but the family moved to her mother's homeland when she was 4. Paquin identifies her 12 years in New Zealand as formative - it is the land of her childhood - but just can't say how she would identify herself now. Her immediate family is still in New Zealand and her extended one is in Canada while the peripatetic Paquin, whose parents were once careful to make sure she did not become ensnared in Hollywood, moved to L.A. two years ago after eight years based in New York.

"I did one thing a year, pretty much, until I was about 15," she said, correcting the common impression that her career was simply put on hold after The Piano.

"Frankly, that was all my parents would let me do because they were still trying to make sure I had a childhood and an education. ... Taking a child out of school and letting them do adult work is a pretty big choice to make. I really loved it but they were cautious about how that would affect me. And whether or not it was good for our family. ... If there was something kind of special that came along then I was allowed to do it. If not they were, quite smartly, being picky."

After her Oscar win, she played a young version of the title character in Jane Eyre; she also starred in the Canada goose movie Fly Away Home, but she certainly wasn't overexposed, to Hollywood or to movie goers.

"At 14 or 15, as happens, you start to have opinions of your own, about what you like, what you want to do. I happened to already have this little career that was really still just starting, and it was what I loved doing."

Moving into the adult realm, she has acquitted herself well in supporting roles in various independent movies including Finding Forrester and The Whale and the Squid as well as the HBO miniseries Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, but her most prominent role to date has been playing Rogue, a mutant superhero in the X-Men movies, based on stories from Marvel Comics.

Moving into a series directed by Alan Ball of Six Feet Under fame has certainly allowed her to explore a character more complex than a cartoon, but with True Blood she is still operating in a fantastical realm. In a world where the invention of synthetic blood has permitted the social integration of vampires, her character, Sookie Stackhouse, is a telepathic waitress in a small-town bar, her head cluttered with the patrons' unspoken thoughts. When she meets the 173-year-old Bill Compton (played by Stephen Moyer), she is instantly attracted and refreshed: Because he is actually dead, he has no thoughts to mess with her brain.

Paquin does not pretend to be any expert on vampires - she remains unbitten by that craze - but will happily speculate about their attraction.

"There is something sexy and dangerous and scary about this other-worldly creature who has existed for many lifetimes. Careful if you get too close, you might wind up being dinner ... Opening up and letting yourself be with someone is scary, everyone has been through that, but in this case you can literally end up dead."

She declines to reveal whether the series will feature any sex scenes with the undead, but says it's not that hard pretending to love a bloodsucker: "[It's]not all that different from pretending to be in love with any of the characters that my roles have been in love with. It's all a kind of beautiful and elaborate game of make-believe. ... I love it," she says of the profession she chose as a child.

True Blood premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. PT on Movie Central and 9 p.m. ET on The Movie Network.