Posted by Jarett Wieselman November 21, 2008
To think that just 75 days ago I had no clue what "Fang Bangers" were and I had never heard of Bon Temps -- the vampiest town in America. And while I might have been slightly delayed hopping on the bandwagon, I'm now at the steering wheel since "True Blood" is currently TV's most exciting, involving and unpredictable show.
Gearing up for Sunday's big finale, I had to squeeze in an interview with one more cast member before we bid adieu for a few months while the show goes underground to film season two -- expected summer 2009! This time, I had the pleasure of speaking with Sam Trammell, who plays Sam Merlotte -- owner of the local (only?) watering hole, formerly the unrequited love of Sookie Stackhouse and recently revealed to be a shapeshifter. Have I mentioned how much I love this show?
Pop Wrap: In what is now the traditional first question for the cast of "True Blood," what were your thoughts upon first reading the pilot script?
Sam Trammell: I thought it was amazing and I loved how it bridged so many different genres, but I wondered how Alan Ball would do it. If it was possible to pull this show off because it would either be amazing or not have its potential fully realized. But he made it happen!
PW: At what point did Alan, or someone, come up to you and lay out Sam Merlotte's history so that Sam Trammell could make informed acting choices?
Sam: He showed me the first two scripts and half of the third one when I auditioned for him, but before I auditioned for HBO, Alan brought me in to work with him and explained there would be an episode where we go through Sam's whole backstory and find out he's a shapeshifter. He just didn't tell me when. So I knew it was coming but I also read the books, I've read six or seven of them, just to make sure there wasn't anything super crazy in Sam's future.
PW: Interesting -- so you chose to read them while your co-stars Ryan and Rutina didn't. Why?
Sam: I thought there might be more information in there since Sam isn't really fleshed out early on. There's a lot more in the books about his history, which we're going to dig into next year. There's that whole time period between being abandoned as a child and appearing in Bon Temps that's left to discover.
PW: That scene when Sam was abandoned clued us in so much as to what kind of person he is, which was unexpected since I thought he was the killer!
Sam: A lot of people were under that impression and I think Alan is happy about that. We were hoping that would happen -- not counting on it -- but we definitely wanted to put some red herrings out there with the latex gloves and his mysterious timing of showing up at places.
PW: Maybe then you can explain the significance of Sam rolling around in Dawn's bed after she was murdered?
Sam: My feeling is, Sam had a relationship with Dawn -- they probably dated and he felt close to her. Actually he feels very protective of all the waitresses that work for him, and I think some of his animal instincts came through. That animalistic sense of smell bled into his human form, so I just think he was trying to be closet o her one last time. It was a very private moment -- that was filmed.
PW: Yeah, all the "True Blood" boys seem to have a lot of private moments filmed, which is surprising since most shows would prefer to focus on their naked female cast.
Sam: That's right -- Alan is an equal opportunity stripper. And I think it's great because you're right, in a lot of shows, the women get objectified more than the men, so here we're given an equal chance to take our clothes off. It's sort of the running joke -- "who has to wear the sock today?" Um, but let it be known there's more than one sock.
PW: Ha! That's reassuring
Sam: I think Ryan Kwanten wins hands down though, he's naked in almost every single episode. It's funny -- we shoot next to The Disney Channel's "Suite Life of Zack and Cody" in Los Angeles and we're walking around naked, covered in blood. But I met their dad at an event and he told me those boys are big "True Blood" fans, so that was unexpected.
Keep reading for major spoilers about the real identity of Bon Temps' killer, what lies ahead for Sam in the finale and in season two!
PW: This show seems to have a lot of unexpected fans -- why do you think it appeals to so many different demos?
Sam: Maybe because people need an escape right now. The first thing you see in the pilot episode is that really, really dark road going deep into the woods and it lets you know that you're going into a really different, really fantastical world. A world where anything can happen and I think Alan's created these really complex characters and relationships and playing them out.
PW: He also seems to favor talent over star power.
Sam: Yeah, well, aside from Anna who is super well-known, that's one of the best things about it. If you watch a TV show and don't recognize anyone on it, that helps you disappear into their world.
PW: You were born in New Orleans, does that make it more important for you to nail the southern accent?
Sam: Oh yeah, I put a lot of work into it. It comes to me pretty easily but I worked on it every day. I listened to a lot of different people -- Shelby Foote, the narrator from Ken Burns' "Civil War" documentary and this senator from Alabama. It was important to me to have a believable accent.
PW: As a cast, is there a sense of pride knowing that you're working on this special show?
Sam: Yeah, we are all so appreciative and happy to be on the show. Nobody is jaded or not into doing the work, we were all focused on making these characters authentic. We all feel the same enthusiasm about the show, so there were no rifts.
PW: You work most often with Anna Paquin, what's that like?
Sam: She's hilarious, but likes to get under my skin. She calls herself my annoying little sister, but she's utterly amazing because we'll be messing around and then the cameras will turn on and she's instantly in the moment. It's amazing how much she expresses with her face. I love doing scenes with Anna because acting comes so easily to her. I mean, she works real hard -- especially on the accent -- but she's a natural.
PW: And in last week's episode, Sam and Sookie finally made out!
Sam: He got a kiss, but it was kissus-interruptus. Unfair! That was a really interesting episode, such a fun day for Sam to have that day of sleuthing capped off with a kiss.
PW: And you two discovered, or seemingly so, who the real killer is -- Rene!
Sam: Oh yes, with the fax. That will play out Sunday night, you'll see what the deal is with that, but let's just say it doesn't look good for him. And if he is not a good guy, Arlene would be hugely affected by that, for sure.
PW: Who do you think really has Sam's heart - Sookie or Tara?
Sam: It is really complex. Sam loves Sookie but he hooks up with Tara. It's one of those things where he's a guy -- or a half-guy -- and I think part of that hook-up was rebellion. That, and Tara made a very compelling argument for them sleeping together since she said there would be no consequences.
PW: I think we all know that isn't how this played out.
Sam: Yeah, once he slept with her, his heard did become involved, so I think in an unintended way he's become wrapped up in Tara. Although I do think he's in love with Sookie and Tara was just a diversion from that.
PW: Who do you want him to be with?
Sam: I dunno, I know that the writers didn't originally plan to have Sam and Tara together -- it was going to just be that one time, but they liked us together, so it kept going. You'd think he'd be more loyal to Sookie but once you have sex your heart gets involved -- or at least it did for Sam because I think he really cares for Tara, even more so after sleeping together.
PW: Sunday's finale is bound to have a few big "oh my god" moments -- how many involve your character?
Sam: There are a couple big things that happen with Sam in the finale where it's like, "what?!?!?!" Big cliffhangers that sort of point to the secrets that we'll be delving into next season.
PW: My friends and I have been wondering if one of those secrets is that Sam can take the appearance of vampires since they're less complex than humans (he claimed to be unable to turn into humans because they have too many complex organs).
Sam: That's a good question -- I don't know. I'm not sure, I guess it's possible because he can't turn into a living thing but maybe he could turn into a dead one...
PW: So if that's not the secret, what is?
Sam: He has a whole life that nobody knows about which is pretty radical and interesting. Think about it, he's a shapeshifter and how has he used that, if at all, to survive? There are few things dealing with Sam that are teased and hinted at which are cliffhangers. There's a lot going on with him -- his past if very connected to where the show goes next season.
"True Blood" airs its season finale this Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO!!!!