Werewolves, fairies, and vampires –oh, my! True Blood is back. In this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, we look at how HBO’s sexy supernatural drama is going to bold new places with brand-new baddies.
Last season, Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) not only made the startling discovery that she was a fairy but also found out that her intense love affair with bloodsucking Bill (Stephen Moyer) was based on a lie, which led her to break things off with the vampire. Now, for season 4 (premiering June 26 at 9 p.m.), Sookie will explore the downside of her telepathy while taking on fairy nation, a fresh pack of werewolves, and a nasty coven of witches. If that’s not enough, she also must fight a wickedly strong temptation to do the nasty with fellow neck-biter Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) while navigating her lingering feelings for Bill and that warm-blooded werewolf Alcide (Joe Manganiello).
“I think it is hard to be Sookie because of her obvious attraction to all three men,” says Moyer, Paquin’s real-life husband of almost a year. “There’s yearning and longing, lust and protection from those three relationships. And it’s very difficult for her to choose, and she doesn’t want to choose, either.”
“Well, obviously that’s really rough,” mocks Paquin, who’s less inclined to feel sorry for her alter ego. But she does admit the stakes will keep getting higher for the residents of Bon Temps, La., this year. “I think that you can’t have True Blood and the vampire world we have created without there being a lot of sexiness. But there are a lot of really dark and sometimes quite scary places that the characters also go along the way. The more intense things get, the more intense everything else gets in terms of self-discovery, danger, and sex.”
Sex. No True Blood conversation is complete without mention of it. And there is little doubt that at least some of the drama’s fans—an average of 5 million of them watched first run airings last season, with that number swelling to 13 million when repeats were added—tuned in to see some skin. It’s an aspect of the show that gives creator Alan Ball (who adapted the series from Charlaine Harris’ immensely popular Sookie Stackhouse novels) a great sense of pride. “One of my favorite things I’ve heard is how one of our former assistant directors was visiting her college girlfriends in Texas and one of their husbands came up to say, ‘I just have to thank you for the show because we’re having the best sex we’ve had in years,’ ” Ball recounts, “and I’m like, ‘Good! That’s good!’ ”
This year, it’s into the wacky world of Wiccans. The journey begins when Jesus (Kevin Alejandro) tries to bring out the mystical side of his lover, Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), by taking him to a Shreveport store where they encounter a witch named Marnie (Fiona Shaw of the Harry Potter films). “She suddenly discovers that she has a few more powers than she thought,” explains Shaw, who attended a few Wiccan meetings in Los Angeles to prepare for the role. “Exciting things happen because the vampires get involved. There’s a lot of violence in the whole thing.”
And how. She ends up inviting a whole broom closet of witches to her shop, who threaten the vamps because of their unseen—and unpredictable—levels of power. Eric attempts to cut them off at the pass but ends up getting slapped silly with a spell that wipes out his memory. “He doesn’t know who he is anymore,” explains Skarsgård. “He doesn’t recognize anyone around him. So this very strong, powerful vampire is suddenly very vulnerable. That’s been so much fun to play because it’s obviously a very stripped-down and different Eric. His protected wall, the shield he’s built up around himself over the last thousand years, is just gone and he’s very innocent.”
However, before you read too much into that answer, consider these cloudy comments from Skarsgård. “I think it’s important that the show sometimes is slightly different from the books because it has to be surprising and new,” reasons the Swedish actor. “You want fans of the books who’ve read them a million times to still be surprised when they watch the show. We can’t be like, ‘Oh, well, now this is going to happen, and now this is going to happen, and here’s that.’ It’s important to keep it fresh.”
Death would probably also come as a relief to Bill, who remains bereft that Sookie thinks he’s a liar. “Bill’s trying to do the right thing,” explains Moyer. “If he’s learned anything from the past, it is that he wants to be a decent man, and that ultimately means that he has to do the right thing by everybody. But that sometimes involves making difficult decisions.”
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