“True Blood” creator Alan Ball received a warm send-off in his final Comic-Con International appearance as the showrunner of the HBO vampire series, with fans and many members of the show’s cast rising to applaud the man who brought Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels to graphic life for five seasons and is now stepping down from his top post.
Aside from that emotional moment, though, the tenor of the panel was high-spirited and even silly with many, many references to romance, nudity, sex and stripping, the latter courtesy of Joe Manganiello’s recent cinematic turn as a male dancer named Big Dick Richie in Steven Soderbergh’s film “Magic Mike.”
The panel kicked off with a preview of the latter half of Season 5 that revealed Manganiello’s Alcide will step up to become pack master and Russell Edgington will create all kinds of trouble (not much of a surprise there). The footage also appeared to suggest that Sookie might be turning in some of her fairy powers (given that Bill sure seems to be glamoring her). And was that a glimpse of a ghostly Godric we saw?
In addition to Manganiello and Ball, the panel included Ryan Kwanten, Deborah Ann Woll, Sam Trammell, Rutina Wesley, Christopher Meloni, Alexander Skarsgard, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Stephen Moyer and Anna Paquin. Ball promised that fans can expect to see three new romances develop before the season’s conclusion, and that the story line will further explore the fate of Sookie and Jason’s parents.
Wesley described how much she’s enjoying Tara’s new vampiric identity, recreating the character while still maintaining her essence. “Her life has been saved whether she wants to admit it or not,” she said.
New cast member Meloni made a point to compare his role as the Guardian of the Authority to his previously famed turn as Detective Elliot Stabler on the long-running NBC crime drama “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”: “Trying to figure out what’s a sex crime on this show is very difficult. It’s an interesting world to inhabit as an actor… I’d never even heard of a werepanther.”
Things became even more interesting when an audience member request resulted in first Manganiello, then Wesley, then Ball, demonstrating their best stripper moves, prompting Paquin to exclaim, “I love my job!” It wasn’t the only odd moment, though: Kwanten, at another point, did a walking handstand across the stage after the conversation turned to the actor who was in the best physical shape.
But really, much of the panel revolved around sex, with Ball describing the show’s “soft-core porno” fairies, Manganiello promising that Alcide will “sexually eviscerate another cast member” and Skarsgard fielding a question about whether he might take the role of billionaire Christian Grey in the upcoming “50 Shades of Grey” movie. For the record, the Swedish actor has not been cast in the S&M-themed film based on E.L. James’ best-selling novels.
“I gotta read that book,” he said.
— Gina McIntyre
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