Today’s cynics see the entertainment industry as an elaborate piece of scripted fiction. Celebrities are controlled by their publicists, told what to say, what to wear, whom to date. Meet the glorious antidote: 28-year-old actor, painter, film director, model and all-around ambassador of lust Paz de la Huerta. Raised in Manhattan (her mother an American, her father a Spanish duke), Paz is best known for her role as Steve Buscemi’s vampish girlfriend on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. Herewith, a few words with the dreamy starlet.

Q: You are more of a performance artist than a conventional model. True?

A: Whenever I step onto a set, whether it’s a photo shoot or a film shoot, I always speak to the photographer or director beforehand. We work on creating a character and story together. I feel that when people hire me they know it’s going to be a collaboration and that they hire me for what I give on all sorts of levels, from my movement to the emotion I bring to the project, the passion, all of it.

Q: You have an extraordinary rapport with some of the great photographers—Mario Sorrenti, who took these photographs, Ellen von Unwerth and others. I can see you inspire them.

A: I’ve been taking photographs with Ellen since I was 16 and with Mario since I was 14. I did my first nude shoot with Mario when I was 17. He made me feel beautiful, and I really feel it was on that shoot that I overcame my fear of being naked. Mario is such an artist. He has taken photographs of me in which my body looks like a sculpture.

Q: How do you characterize your approach to acting?

A: I used to be so Method in my approach that my own life would start to mirror the life of my character. This wasn’t always the healthiest approach. At times I would get so lost in my character that I wouldn’t know where I ended and the character began. There were no boundaries; we were definitely one. I’m at a point now in my craft where I can go into the zone and live the character and then, through meditation, get back to my life and whatever is going on. I love doing films because I can live the life of the character for two or three months and then say good-bye.

Q: Film directors admire you for your naturalism and comfort with nudity. You performed in Jim Jarmusch’s film The Limits of Control almost entirely in the nude.

A: Jarmusch wrote that role for me. I was completely naked throughout the film—except for a pair of glasses and, in one scene, a see-through raincoat. It was also a way for me to conquer my fears about my body and learn to love my body. Although she was completely naked physically, she was very mysterious as a character. I loved working with Jim Jarmusch and was flattered that he wrote the part for me.

Q: Why did you choose to pose for Playboy?

A: The lineage. Cindy Crawford and Marilyn Monroe have appeared in Playboy. I celebrate nudity every day. It’s our first wardrobe. And Mario is such an amazing photographer; he brings so much mystery and sensuality to his photographs. We did the photos with no makeup, and we both wanted them to have a very natural feeling. It was more about bringing out a part of myself that has not really been shown to the public, a more honest portrayal of where I am now in my life.