Relationship crises are nothing new to telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), but she faces a new one of epic proportions as “True Blood” comes roaring back for its sixth season on HBO on Sunday, June 16.
As fans will remember, Season 5 reached its climax as Sookie’s brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten
), led a daring raid on the New Orleans headquarters of the Vampire Authority, where control had been seized by the Sanguinistas, a rogue vampire faction that opposed mainstreaming with humans and worshipped a primal deity known as Lilith, the mother of all vampires.
As carnage reigned throughout the complex, Sookie and charismatic vampire Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard) confronted her old lover Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), who in a fit of religious mania downed a large flask of Lilith’s sacramental blood, then dissolved into the gruesome puddle of gore that generally signals that a vampire has gone to his “true death.”
Not so fast, though. As Sookie and Eric kept watching, stunned, the bloody pool suddenly began to coalesce anew, and a terrifying entity that appeared to be the angry Lilith now reincarnated in Bill’s form arose from the goo and gave chase.
“Oh, yeah, all hell is breaking loose when we come back,” says actress Rutina Wesley
, whose character, recently turned “baby vamp” Tara Thornton, is an active participant in the chaotic action of the first episode. “We all meet up and just get the hell out of Dodge, because ‘Billith’ is no joke this season. Seriously. We don’t know what to do, because before we can figure out what the next step is, we have to really understand what Bill is — in fact, whether Bill Compton still is even in this thing anymore. You’ll find that out eventually, whether Bill is just completely lost inside.”
While Tara may be in fairly dire straits this season – yes, again – Wesley herself is tickled pink to be playing a character who got a fascinating reboot last season when her best friend, Sookie, made the desperate decision to have Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) turn Tara into a vampire after she was critically injured by a shotgun blast while trying to save Sookie’s life. Given that Tara hated vampires more than anything else in the world, that decision infused this character with a fresh internal tension that changed her whole direction and gave Wesley some delightful new options to play with. At least, once she recovered from her shock.
“When Alan [Ball, the series creator] first told me, I just freaked out,” the actress recalls, laughing. “While we were setting up to do another take, he just pulled me into a corner and said, ‘Hey, we’re really excited about something, and I hope you will be, too. Tara’s going to be turned.’ And I was like, ‘What? That doesn’t mean that I’m dying, does it?’ Because normally when a character gets turned, they’ve got one more death and then that’s it; they’re gone.
“So Tara was critically injured in the Season 4 finale, and all during the hiatus I kept worrying that they would decide not to bring me back, because people sometimes change their minds over the break. I trusted Alan and I had faith in the writers, but privately, I was so afraid that I wasn’t going to be working the next season.”
Once Wesley realized that Tara was, indeed, coming back as a main player, she began to get excited by the possibilities, especially given that Tara’s maker was going to be Pam, a huge fan favorite who gets to wear outrageously sexy costumes and indulge in some pretty over-the-top behavior, even by vampire standards.
“I asked, ‘Ooh, do I get to dress like her? Do I get to be sexy?’ Kristin is just awesome, and as long as I got to dress like Pam, I was OK with it,” Wesley says, “As an actor, something like this is the meat, the thing that keeps you inspired and challenged to do something new. I decided that, as a vampire, Tara would walk in a slightly different way, kind of like a panther, and her voice was going to be lower. There was a whole physical transformation that I tried to work in, but it’s still Tara.”
If there’s even a slight downside to playing a vampire instead of a human, she adds, it’s that the undead shoot almost all their scenes at night.
“Oh, my God, so many long night shoots!” the actress gasps, then laughs. “Sometimes I kind of miss being human. In some of the early episodes this season, we were shooting on a beach near the ocean, and we shot, like, all night, and it was very cold, and it sucked. But don’t get me wrong; I love my job. And there is an advantage, really, because when you’re playing a human character, you can be doing a scene at any time of the day or night, but when you’re a vampire, when the sun comes up, you have to stop shooting!”