Current showrunner and True Blood series adapter Alan Ball came on stage in Ballroom 20 to introduce a new trailer for the ongoing fifth season. The panel for the popular HBO show inspired by the Charlaine Harris novels also featured cast members Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Alexander Skarsgard, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Deborah Ann Woll, Sam Trammell, Joe Manganiello and Kristin Bauer van Straten. The lively and hilarious panel not only teased events in the next season, but also touched on the new relationships that will be forged and acted as a memorial to Ball’s work on the series before he departs as showrunner at the end of the season. Hit the jump for my panel recap and click here for our continuing Comic-Con coverage.
The new trailer for season five of True Blood was essentially a quick succession of cut scenes which was impossible to track and jot everything down. Some of the highlights included Tara (Wesley) as a leather-clad stripper, the return of Russell Edgington (Denis O’Hare), continued appearances from Christopher Meloni’s character, the ongoing drama between Terry Bellefleur (Todd Lowe) and Arlene (Carrie Preston), along with a barebacked Manganiello in a sex scene. More on that in a bit.
Ball then stepped aside for the moderator before the cast took the stage and participated in a Q&A. Manganiello ‘s appearance elicited the greatest applause (possibly buoyed by his recent appearance in Magic Mike), followed by the reaction to Skarsgard’s arrival. After the audience settled down a bit, the cast launched into the Q&A, which follows below:
Does True Blood have beef with The Vampire Diaries?
Moyer: We don’t talk about them.
The current season is playing with new combos of the character. Was that a conscious decision?
Ball: Absolutely, we have such an amazing cast that we’re always looking for ways that are organic but we love bringing new combinations of characters together.
For Rutina and Deborah, has it been fun to work together?
Wesley: Definitely, I enjoy working with Deborah Ann, I think she’s brilliant. It’s been a joy this season.
Woll: Girls will be girls.
Skarsgard: We’ve been struggling with it this season, Alan and the writers have, because it’s been four years of us fighting over Sookie. Now we finally have a common enemy.
Moyer: We can’t do this apart, we have to do it together. I don’t know about you, but I felt like, from working together, there’s something between them from the past.
Skarsgard: Ooo, is that a flashback? I think Eric is surprised. He has to work with this guy out of a necessity. But then he’s like, “I like this kid.”
What was it like being in a trunk together?
Moyer: We couldn’t do it without laughing.
Ball: No matter how many takes, we couldn’t get through it without laughing.
Who’s the best cuddler?
Bauer van Straten: I think it’s hard to say, they’re both good cuddlers.
Moyer: He’s got very long arms.
Bauer van Straten: That starts with the writing, with that brilliant line and then we go to a wardrobe fitting. There’s a rack of Wal-mart sweatsuits and we started with the yellow one and we said, “I don’t think we have to go any farther.”
Do you have a favorite Pam outfit? Is that in your top five?
Bauer van Straten: It kind of is.
Trammell: What about the red sequin jumpsuit?
Bauer van Straten: He’s so distracted by this red sequin jumpsuit.
Trammell: That was my favorite.
Rutina, I feel like Tara has raided Pam’s closet because Tara has discovered boobs. Based on the trailer, it looks like there’s even less clothing to come. Is it fair to say Tara is exploring her leathery side?
Wesley: Yeah, I have a feeling that Pam came up to her and just said, “No.” My mother called me up the other day and was like, “That bustier is working honey!”
So it looks like Tara is stripping, Joe Manganiello, did you give her any advice? [loud applause]
*Joe starts stripping and scares Kwanten away
Manganiello: I don’t think they make my fireman’s suit in Rutina’s size. But werewolf stripping, I like that idea.
Meloni: Alan, would you body roll for me?
*Ball stands on the chair and does it, awkwardly.
Paquin: I love my job.
*Manganiello comes over and drops some dollar bills on Ball’s lap.
Speaking of Claude, Sookie’s fairy relative, in the books he owns a strip club. Will he be stripping in this new season?
Ball: It’s not a strip club per se, it’s more of a burlesque club. I don’t know that we’ll see Claude stripping, but we may see other fairies.
Can you talk about whether or not any of Sam’s relationships will work out?
Trammell: There was a question of whether Emma was a shapeshift or a wolf. I saw her shift into a wolf, and her grandmother is a wolf, so that’s going to get very interesting. She’s a lovely lady, though.
Paquin: She ate her son!
Deborah and Ryan, are you good at Rock Band or did you have to practice?
Woll: I practiced a lot for that actually. The singing was the only thing we had to do live.
Kwanten: Which thankfully didn’t have to be good.
Woll: I love working with Ryan and I look forward to it.
Kwanten: I have nothing but great things to say about Deb.
What brought about the decision to make Steve Newlin gay?
Ball: Just from the way he looked at Ryan in the previous season, it wasn’t a stretch.
Chris, how is this different from SVU?
Meloni: It’s much more difficult trying to figure out what is a sex crime on this show. I never even heard of a were-panther, so as soon as you accept that in your line of vision, everything opens up for you. It’s been great.
I think one of the best things is when you stake that 10-year-old boy. How was that?
Meloni: It was great. Who hasn’t had that feeling right? But it was very technical, lots of camera angles and stuff. The kid didn’t actually explode.
Bauer van Straten: Then you weren’t doing it right.
Meloni: Now you tell me.
Sookie has gotten progressively more kick-ass. Are there some like hairy throwdowns this season?
Paquin: Yeah, I can’t tell you that. But she always gets into trouble.
Paquin: Worse things can happen when you drink Peach Schnapps. He’s not the worst person to realize that you accidentally…you know.
Are we going to see flashbacks to the Stackhouse parents?
Ball: Yes. We’re going to learn a little bit more about Michelle and Corbin Stackhouse and what happened to them and the effect that that had on Sookie and Jason.
Who came up with the Moulin Rouge kind of Fairy Club?
Ball: Honestly, we had fairies in white skipping through a field and that was a bit silly. Then we had a fairy tree and that didn’t feel like our show. Then we decided that refugee fairies who like to have a good time and are very sensual and sort of played off the strip club in Charlaine (Harris) books. We wanted to be more adult, more sensual, more soft, less Disney.
Are we going to get some crazy sex scenes?
Manganiello: Yes. I sexually eviscerate another cast member in one of the episodes coming up.
Ball: There are definitely some very hot sex scenes and some wacky, what the fuck scenes. Between those two, I think all tastes will be satisfied.
Stephen, you directed an episode recently, how was that?
Moyer: It was amazing. I got to see Joe naked. It was fantastic, all these guys were wonderful to work with. I love them all and I wanted them to be pleased with what I did, so it was terrifying from that angle.
How did Stephen do?
Paquin: All kidding aside, he was amazing.
Paquin: I have no desire to direct that show, it sounds terrifying. It’s so big and there’s so much that goes into it. I felt widowed for a month because all of his time was spent working on it.
Skarsgard: I was blown away by Stephen, since he was a principal character on the show and went through the entire process of directing and editing as well.
Moyer: There was a scene in episode 8 that was to be shot in a particular way and I went to all the vampires and put forward an idea of how to shoot it. It was about letting everybody have fun and do something I haven’t done before. Then, watching that trailer, it’s unusual and wonderful watching the bits that I did.
Can you tease any bits coming up?
Moyer: I absolutely adore Sam and he had one of the most difficult jobs in the episode I directed. To do what he did in that episode and to get what we needed to get was very tough stuff.
Trammell: It was a blast. Our show is so huge, and for Stephen to do pre-production, shoot our episode, act in it, do post and act in the next episode, was just amazing. You make me feel comfortable.
Would you do it again?
Moyer: I’d love to do it again. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I begged Alan and he said no.
Ball: Yes, but Stephen also did something very smart, he asked if he could shadow a director for some episodes, he did that twice actually. Also, I started to hear back from everybody in the crew, whenever there was a problem, a lot of times Stephen would have a solution.
Skarsgard: That’s why we work so well together, because I often create problems and then he solves them.
Skarsgard: There’s a book, I gotta read that. I haven’t read the book, I haven’t seen a script…
Moyer: He’s just lived the life.
Skarsgard: All I’ve heard is that he’s got a chamber in his basement.
Bauer van Straten: You’ve got some experience with that.
Skarsgard: My sweet daughter and I (Pam), we have a saw room where we have sex with people and torture them.
Bauer van Straten: Uh-huh.
How fun has that been for you to explore Pam and Eric’s backstory?
Bauer van Straen: We waited a while for it. It was so fun to read it. I pictured it in my mind and then we had wardrobe fittings for 1905, with the small waists. It was so worth it.
Skarsgard: You looked amazing.
Bauer van Straten: Thank you. Daddy knows how to talk to his daughter.
Skarsgard: I’ve pretty much been absent from Fangtasia for two seasons, so it was nice to have those scenes together. Even the scene when I released her.
Bauer van Straten: I cried during the table read and threatened not to do it. We’re very lucky. As an actor, I look at first what I can borrow from what I really feel. The release scene was easy because it was with Alex.
Wesley: It’s awesome. I totally have gotten to recreate Tara but keep the essence of Tara. She has this incredible strength that she isn’t sure of yet, and she’s a little off. Having Pam as a maker lets her see a different side of Pam. If you had asked me four years ago where Tara would be, I would never have thought she would’ve turned.
Ball: We had the story of a young vampire with Jessica, but we thought what if you took somebody who really, really hated vampires and for very good reason, and turned them. That’s got to be much different and much harder. It seemed like it would open up storytelling-wise for Tara.
Have there been moments during the seasons where you get grossed out?
Trammell: Season one at the very end of the season, when Stephen got burned, it was really disturbing. I remember you wanted to have lunch or something and I didn’t want to have lunch with you.
Moyer: Anna wouldn’t look at me either. It was in stages, but it was all one piece, which takes two-and-a-half hours to get it off. Genuinely horrific, people scraping at your face as if they’re trying to get wallpaper off.
Paquin: It really looks disgusting.
Bauer van Straten: I probably shouldn’t tell you but I still have pieces of Pam in my office, I saved them.
Ball: Three new romances are going to happen this season. There’s also a lot of other people having sex, but that doesn’t count as romances.
Will we see a fairy war?
Ball: At least one, possibly two, possibly three more seasons of the show going forward. I’m not involved, but I would say there’s definitely a chance of that.
This was definitely the liveliest panel of the day with Manganiello starting to strip, Wesley and Ball doing body rolls and Kwanten doing a walking handstand across the front of the stage. Be sure to tune into the ongoing fifth season of True Blood every Sunday at 9pm on HBO. Click here for all of our ongoing Comic-Con coverage.