True Blood Panel

This yearís Comic-Con International True Blood panel featured almost every major actor from the show, as well as series Executive Producer Alan Ball and it was moderated by Tim Stack of Entertainment Weekly. The cast members on the panel were Anna Paquin (Sookie), Stephen Moyer (Bill), Alexander Skarsgard (Eric), Ryan Kwanten (Jason), Sam Trammell (Sam), Rutina Wesley (Tara), Deborah Ann Woll (Jessica), Kristin Bauer van Straten (Pam), Joe Manganiello (Alcide) and, new to this season of True Blood, Law & Order: SVUís Chris Meloni who plays Roman Zimojic, a member of the Vampire Authority.

The panel started off with a series of clips from Season Five and was started off with a few questions by Stack. The first was directed toward Ball and it was about the fact that this season seemed to put some different pairings of characters together. Some of these combinations include Jessica and Jason, Pam and Tara and even, in a way, Eric and Bill. While that last pair has had plenty of screen-time together, it was typically with Sookie in the middle and generally on opposite sides of an argument. This season has the pair working together a lot and, as Stack put it, showing a kind of bro-mance relationship. Ball said that they were absolutely trying to put together new combinations of characters and let them interact in new ways.

Stack asked Wesley about her new role and how she likes working closely with both Woll and Van Straten. She said that she was having a lot of fun taking her character in a new direction and playing against some actors that she hasnít had all that much screen time with in the past.

Stack wanted to talk more about Moyer and Skarsgardís "season of bro-mance" and asked if it felt strange having their characters that have always been at odds now being forced to rely on each other. Skarsgard explained that they were struggling with that the whole season. They have had four years of fighting and it took their characters having a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid moment to get their characters to truly work together.

Moyer commented that the characters realized that they are going to have to work together if they are going to survive, and he feels like there is something in their past that we havenít seen yet that will help them work together. Skarsgard thinks that there is a point in this season where Eric looks at Bill and thinks "man, this young vampire has something."

When referencing the scene where Bill and Eric are stuck in a car trunk together, Stark asked which was the better cuddler, to which Paquin interjected that they are both pretty good and Moyer pointed out that Skarsgard has long arms that are very good for cuddling.

Stark followed this up with questions about Pamís wardrobe, especially the "Walmart sweat suits." Kristin Bauer van Straten explained that they went to Walmart and picked out a few suits to try on, but they didnít need to go past the first one they looked at. While most of her outfits are tailored slightly to make Pam look better, this time the wardrobe department went the opposite direction and made the outfit a little too short and not quite fit right. They went so far as to dye the suit a little off to make it even less appealing.

Stark asked Van Straten what her favorite outfit was and she confessed that the sweat suit was actually up there. She explained that, in general, her favorite was the one that she was in at the moment because Pam keeps topping herself. Trammell spoke up and reminded the audience of a red dress she wore in one of the few scenes the pair of them had together. Trammell admitted that it was hard for him to focus on his lines in that scene.

Stark then goes on to talk about Taraís new wardrobe and the fact that it looks like the new vampire has raided Pamís closet. Wesley said that her mom called her up after one of the episodes to comment quite enthusiastically about a bustier she was wearing.

This lead into a question about Taraís stripping and Stark asked Manganiello, who stars in Magic Mike, if he gave her any training. To which he stands up, starts to take off his jacket and does a body roll. This prompts Tara to do the same, and Meloni asks Ball if he can. While the last isnít all that impressive, it does cause Paquin to comment "I love my job" and Manganiello starts throwing dollar bills at Ball.

This seems to lead straight into Starkís next question about the faerie night club and he asks if the faerie Claude will ever be stripping. Ball explains that, while the club is inspired by the strip club from the books, this location is more of a burlesque nightclub and was the result of the writers trying to get the right feel for the fairies in their show. He explained that the first appearance of them in a Disney-like environment wasnít right, and then later with them all around the tree was better, but still not True Blood, but he feels they finally have the right vibe with the nightclub, and to answer Starkís question, he doesnít think we will see Claude himself stripping.

At one point, Stark asked Kwanten and Woll about their Rock Band duet and Kwanten explained that they had taken some time to learn the song, but did it separately. What he didnít know was that there were actually two songs called "Cherry Bomb" and he had learned the lyrics of the one by John Cougar Mellencamp in 1987 and not the Runaways in 1976. Woll explained that the singing was the only part of that they had to do live, and since it didnít have to be good, or more precisely, shouldnít have been good, they shouldnít have even practiced as much as they did.

Stark then directed a question towards Meloni about the differences between working on True Blood and SVU. He said one thing was trying to figure out what constituted a sex crime was a lot harder, but he said the fact that there are a lot more characters and it is a wider spectrum of characters is different. After all, he said he had never even heard of a werepanther, and as soon as you accept that, then everything is game.

Stark commented on Meloniís character staking the vampire-boy. Meloni said that one condition he had for doing the job was that he would get to stake someone, and he was afraid that his whole role in the show would be to walk around and give grandiose monologues. So when he learned of that scene, he was really excited. He said that the night it aired, he and his wife were watching the show and she made a comment to the effect of "Itís so obvious, itís not going to be the kid," to which Meloni just grinned.

Stark then asked Ball if we would lean more about the Stackhouse parents, and he did confirm that they would be showing up again and more information about their deaths and how that shaped both Sookie and Jason, very specifically Jason would show up.

One interesting fact about this season is that Moyer has directed one of the episodes, Episode 10 actually. All of the actors said that they truly enjoyed him as a director and he did a lot to make them feel comfortable. Moyer explained that he had been wanting to try his hand at it for a long time and every time he asked Ball for the opportunity, he was turned down. Over the years, he not only became an unofficial resource to help his fellow actors, but he was also allowed to shadow one of the directors from time to time in order to get a good feel for exactly what is involved.

Ball finally gave in this season and gave Moyer an episode to direct. The other actors expressed how impressed they were by his ability to not only work on pre-production while filming an episode, but also direct while acting in the same episode he was directing and then do post-production while filming another one. To this, Paquin said she felt a bit like a widow during these weeks since she hardly got any time with her husband.

Stark eventually opened the floor to questions, and while there werenít a lot, they were fairly good. One fan asked if we would see a character named Quinn, a weretiger, from the book in the show. Ball explained that there aren't currently any plans to introduce him, but since he was handing the reigns of the show to other crew members after this season, he didnít really know. A similar question about the bookís faerie war was asked and Ball once again said that he wouldnít know, but given that the show has two or three more seasons, it is possible.

When one fan asked for some of the male stars to flex their muscles, they all said they wouldnít feel comfortable doing so with Manganiello in the room and at this point, Stark requested that Kwanten do a handstand for the audience. After some glancing around and looking for a proper area, the Australian actor proceeded to do a handstand and walk the length of the stage.

The panel started wrapping up when an audience member asked the panelists what their favorite moments in the show were, and while some of them have been in past episodes, a lot expressed high points being in the coming episodes, and a lot of them in the season finale. Moyer closed off the panel by expressing his feelings towards Ball and the fact that they will miss him as the show moves on. To this, the audience gave the showís creator a standing ovation.