We're half-way through the final season of HBO's “True Blood,” so this is as good a time as any for a celebratory Comic-Con send-off.
Saturday's (July 26) Ballroom 20 panel is being moderated by the same guy who has moderated nearly all of the previous “True Blood” panels, so… I guess we know what to expect!
Anyway, it's one vampire to another, as I just wrapped my live-blog for “The Vampire Diaries.”
5:04 p.m. We begin with a clip reel of “True Blood” stars saying “Good-bye.” And now they're going to do it in person.
5:06 p.m. Our panel: Nathan Parsons, The Lovely Deborah Ann Woll, Nelsan Ellis, Carrie Preston, Chris “Comic-Con Virgin” Bauer, Anna Camp, Brian Buckner, Kristin Bauer Van Straten, Rutina Wesley, Sam Trammell, Stephen Moyer and Anna Paquin. The loudest reaction, by a wide margin, was for Kristin Bauer van Straten, if you're curious.
5:07 p.m. What do they remember about doing the pilot? “Can anybody remember seven years ago?” Moyer ponders. “I just remember that 'The Suite Life of Zack and Cody' was shooting next door and we had all of these naked bloody people walking around,” Trammell says. Moyer actually does, indeed, remember the Merlotte's set and being impressed with the detailing on the set. Wesley remembers being terrified, because it was almost her first job out of school. Lafayette was supposed to die at some point. Ellis remembers wondering why his shirts had to be so tough. Moyer remembers a moment in the pilot when Nelsan was cooking and started humping the grill. Nelsan said something to an extra named “Big John” and Big John has been in every episode since.
5:09 p.m. What's with all the flashbacks this season? Brian says that they turned Bill into a Vampire God and he wasn't so nice, so as Bill has been trying to find his way back to himself, they wanted to do flashbacks to help bring the character back. “We've always done flashback. There's just some purpose to them,” Buckner says. Who came up with Pam and Eric running a video store? “It needs to be the worst punishment imaginable,” Buckner says, crediting with writer Craig Chester with thinking that punishment up. “The '80s was another level. It was really fun to go back there and have even more hair,” Bauer van Straten says. She liked that Eric's throne was found by Ginger in an alley. She praises Alexander Skarsgard for his slo-mo '80s walk. Bauer van Straten gets choked up talking about her last day on the Fangtasia set. There are three paintings in Fantasia and she now wants to take Vampire Bush (there are also Vampire Clinton and Vampire Gregg Fienberg.
5:15 p.m. What were there last days like? Wesley calls it “weird.” She remembers a long hug with her TV mother. “It was beautiful and sad and also… it's like it's on to new things.” Buckner promises that we haven't seen the last of Rutina, yet. “My last day, I wrapped at 4 a.m. off in the woods somewhere,” Woll remembers. She's blonde now, presumably for “Daredevil”? She says that they wrapped 17 people at once, so that they could all go together. Preston admits to being the first cry, “mourning, but celebrating too.” “We started crying at the table read for that episode,” Preston says. “I'm still waiting for that cry,” Bauer admits. Moyer also wrapped with a 5 a.m. shoot, saying that we're as much a part of this as they are. He references the continuity with the crew as well. “Seven years is like doing a doctorate in vampirism and it's all with the same people and that is just extraordinary to have,” Moyer says. In his last moment, he was struck by saying “Bye” to the crew, because he knew he'd see the actors again here. “This is the last time that we'll be together in this guise and I'm mourning the end of that,” Moyer says. Paquin, whose hair is practically black at this moment, had her last day as the production was turning over. There was no power in her trailer when she was done. Parsons enjoys the one year that he worked on the show. It turns out that Deborah and Nathan went to school together. “Nathan and I went to school together too,” Ellis leers.
5:22 p.m. When did they decide that James was going to be bisexual? “We were flying by the seat of our pants,” Buckner says. They knew they needed to add more love complications. “We hit on that one pretty early on in our preproduction this year. I think it's messy and awesome. It's not done changing. It's not done evolving,” Buckner says. And we'll just ignore that the show lost an actor over the decision, not that anybody misses him.
5:23 p.m. Camp thought we'd seen the last of Sarah Newlin. “I think I get what I deserve,” Camp teases. Buckner says that he had to explain Sarah's punishment to Camp's boyfriend.
5:24 p.m. The moderator thought last week's Republican Convention scene was a “Terminator 2” homage. It was not.
5:24 p.m. “She'll weigh in on anything,” Bauer van Straten says of Sarah Palin's annoyance with last week's episode. “It's sweet, many many years later that I've made her angry,” animal rights activist Bauer van Straten says, recalling Palin as the wolf-killer-lady.
5:25 p.m. I don't remember what's happening with Sam at all this season. Trammell says that family is what Sam's storyline is about. Oh. If you say so.
5:26 p.m. Andy has evolved and Chris Bauer hoped he would be asking about it. Bauer enjoys looking back at the character's growth. “Basically, he's become as lovable as I am in real life, but wasn't in the beginning. I don't do that on my own. It comes from the writers,” Bauer says. He calls this a great job, referencing “watching babies being born on a pool table.”
5:28 p.m. Is Arlene getting a hot new vampire man in her life? “Maybe,” she teases. “I feel like this season, I finally arrived on 'True Blood,' because I got a vampire exploding in my crotch. So that happened,” Preston says. It turns out that you remove vampire blood with shaving cream. And she teases that Arlene and Keith will get up to something that Preston has never done before on camera.
5:29 p.m. Is there hope for Bill and Sookie? “They're in each other's spheres for sure,” Buckner says. “This show started out and worked because of the chemistry they shared. They got married for us!” Buckner says. “I certainly felt coming into it that we had to go back to Bill and Sookie. How we come back to them, I'm not telling you,” Buckner teases. And have Moyer and Paquin liked getting back together? Paquin notes that in seasons where they've spent less time on-screen together, they rarely see each other at all, so she likes seeing her husband. “Getting to do any stuff is fantastic and I have missed working with her,” Moyer says. He calls getting to work with Paquin and Deborah Ann Woll “an embarrassment of riches.”
5:32 p.m. How does Buckner tell the actors when they're dying. “I think waiting at this point would be barbaric,” Buckner says. “It's hard to take the news, but we've had a show with this cast of many and we do a lot of teasing that there's gonna be consequence and I think if a band of marauding, hungry vampires comes to town, something's got to happen,” he says. “I think it hurts,” Buckner admits. “There's loss for all of us. It's bittersweet,” Buckner says. How did Wesley react? “I wasn't prepared,” she says. “I was OK with it, because I got a kickass fight and I was really excited about that fight,” Wesley says. Buckner reminds us that Tara's story isn't quite over.
5:34 p.m. Paquin says it took a month for them to shoot pieces of the recent party. They had trouble with continuity. Preston liked playing Drunk Arlene.
5:35 p.m. Who was wildest at the wrap party? Producer Gregg Fienberg, people agree. He was “full of love.” Bauer van Straten gets emotional again talking about all of the last scenes different cast members had. She expected Alex to be solid and unemotional, but even he cracked. She had to have several “lasts” and on her “last last,” the crew orchestrated an “incredibly sweet send-off.” This crowd loves her. And now she's crying again.
5:38 p.m. If they could play a different character, who would they want to be? Moyer tells us that sometimes actors can't make table reads and Trammell reads for Alex, because Alex often isn't at table reads. So now Trammell does a very fine impression of Vampire Eric. Trammell very shy about this. Paquin says she'd want to be Russell and also Denis O'Hare. Bauer figures Andy wants to be Jason Stackhouse. Nelsan would want to be Pam. “There is some crossover between our characters — Our eyelashes?” Bauer van Straten says. Woll says she wants to be Sarah Newlin, but maybe only because Anna Camp is so great. “And I would be you,” Camp tells her. Wesley would be Pam. “I'd probably pick Pam, too,” Bauer van Straten says. Preston wouldn't mind being Sam or Lafayette. Nathan also says Lafayette.
5:45 p.m. Anna Camp would do a “True Blood” musical. The moderator asks her to do a Sarah Newlin gospel song. She demurs. “I'd need a lot of lessons in a couple of things, singing and dancing first of all,” Bauer Van Straten. Preston envisions Arlene like a Reba McEntire character which, of course she would be. Rutina would love to do a musical. Moyer cringes and explains that this was Nathan Barr's idea and that he laid down a couple tracks. Charlaine Harris and Alan Ball signed off on the idea. “I love Bill, but I'm really excited about moving on and maybe singing something else,” Moyer says.
5:46 p.m. The Toad of Shame is a thing on set. Somebody found a flattened toad and it was laminated. The Toad of Shame is awarded for lateness, phones going off and other offenses. She wants to award a Toad to anybody whose phone goes off. Who got the Toad the most? Bauer van Straten got the Toad twice in her last week, because she was bidding on some plates on eBay. Deborah requested the Toad, because she knocked over a prop beer bottle. They tried telling her it was OK. “I'm like, 'I'm not made of glass. Give me the f***ing Toad,'” she says. “I'll take the Toad for that,” she adds.
5:50 p.m. Do they have favorite Comic-Con moments? “This is my favorite moment,” says Comic-Con Virgin Carrie Preston. Paquin remembers packing a room before the show ever aired. Moyer remembers running into Deborah Ann Woll dressed as Hit-Girl. “She walks the floor in costume because she loves this stuff,” Moyer says. “I don't have time this year. I was going to come as Crow from 'Mystery Science Theater,'” says Woll, who admits that she plays D&D and that she's a big MSTK fan. Bauer van Straten is impressed that Woll owns a glue gun. They also mock her for making a wall of shelves for her comic book collection. T
5:52 p.m. What's coming up for the rest of the season? “It's not done changing. It's not gonna slow down any, There's a big more of a focus on romance,” Buckner teases. “It's really emotional and satisfying,” Buckner says. They wanted to land the characters in places where the audience would be satisfied.
5:53 p.m. The first audience question, finally. Has anything from the fans made its way into their characters? “The fans were giving me scarves. I took them and wore them on the show. I gave them to the costume designer and she incorporated them into my costumes,” Ellis says. Bauer van Straten says that she wore a fan-made necklace.
5:54 p.m. Have they taken anything from the set as a personal token? “I've got my brown hair in case I ever need it,” Camp says. Buckner took Sookie's porch swing. Moyer took two dead deer feet from Merlotte's. “I strongly suspect they're gonna end up in our house,” says a disgusted Paquin. “HBO should probably sue me, because I've been stealing from them for seven years,” Ellis says. He's been forgetting to bring back a lot of Lafayette's wardrobe. All of the vampires took their fangs. Rutina also took some human clothes, including a pair of Tara's jean shorts. Trammell took a couple boxes of matches and his boots. What Trammell really wants is the big wooden menu from Merlotte's, but Warner Brothers took it.
5:57 p.m. Did any of them have any particularly emotional scenes? Nathan remembers a scene with Nelsan on his very first day. Woll remembers a scene from last season after Jessica killed the fairy girls. It's a scene with Jessica high on fairy blood asking Jason if he ever loved her. She gives a shout-out to the absent Ryan Kwanten. Nelsan praises his scenes with Deborah and Nathan this season. Preston mentions the scene from last season with Terry's death. Applause for Todd Lowe. Bauer has been married to his real wife for 20 years, but he says that his real proposal was pathetic. “It made Woody Allen look like Sylvester Stallone,” he says of his real proposal. So he asked his wife to watch his proposal to Holly on the show and pretend that was her. Camp hasn't had many moving or emotional scenes, but she felt pushed by Sarah's final scene. Bauer van Straten remembers the scene where Eric releases Pam and this makes her cry again. Wesley was moved by being shot in the head at the end of the fourth season. Trammell was most moved by a scene we haven't seen yet with Carrie Preston. Moyer also likes a future scene, but he remembers the flashback with Bill returning to his human home and learning that his son died of smallpox. Paquin also remembers Rutina/Tara having her head blown off. Paquin says that one of the great things about loving your co-workers is that when they kill off their characters, it's easy to get emotional about it.
6:07 p.m. Which season was their favorite? Nathan's favorite is this one. Deborah liked four or six, which she calls the hardest season for Jessica. This is Nelsan's favorite season. Preston has a fondness for the first season, but calls six her favorite as an actor. Bauer likes this season. Camp calls it a tie between this season and last season, when she got to kill a woman with a high heel. Bauer van Straten enjoyed the rotting face, but likes this season. Wesley's favorite was the fifth season. Trammell can't tell the seasons apart, but he also has a fondness for the first season. “Season One just holds so many memories for us and me getting to meet this one obviously,” Moyer says, nodding to his wife, but he also liked the season with Denis O'Hare. Paquin also salutes the first season, with its uncertainty and discovery.
6:11 p.m. Who would Paquin pick for Sookie to end up with? “Pam has the best clothes and maybe we could share?” Paquin says. She notes that Charlaine ended Sookie with Sam, which makes sense to her. “I understand why she made that decision,” she claims. That this makes people in the crowd unhappy. “See? That's why I keep my damn mouth shut,” Paquin says.
6:13 p.m. Last question is about mourning. The questioner wants more, or wanted more for Alcide. Buckner isn't sure how to answer. He says this season is about Bill and Sookie. “I don't think Sookie's done being sad about what happened to Alcide,” Buckner insists. “People mourn in different ways in different circumstances,” Paquin says, adding that Sookie doesn't have the luxury to mourn at the second. Sookie has to put on a brave face to move on. Buckner promises that Sookie's sadness is in the performance in Episode 4. “If not, I'm really sorry,” Paquin apologizes.
6:16 p.m. We're closing with a sneak preview for the rest of the season. It features lots of sick vampires. And Rutger Hauer! And more '80s Eric. And Ghost Tara! And Hoyt and Jessica! And Arlene getting sexy-time! And the Yakuza! It's a pretty good teaser. I assume HBO will be putting it online in a bit.
That's all, folks…