As the True Blood panel began at Comic-Con International in San Diego, moderator Kate Hahn asked the audience "Are you thirsty?" The full house responded with a rousing yes.
Fans were then treated to a sneak peek of the latter half of the season by executive producer Brian Buckner and stars Anna Paquin (Sookie Stackhouse), Robert Kazinsky (Macklyn Warlow), Ryan Kwanten (Jason Stackhouse), Michael McMillian (Steve Newlin), Rutina Wesley (Tara Thornton), Kristin Bauer van Straten (Pam), Deborah Ann Woll (Jessica Hamby), Anna Camp (Sarah Newlin), Nelsan Ellis (Lafayette Reynolds), Tara Buck (Ginger), Joe Manganiello (Alcide Herveaux) and Sam Trammell (Sam Merlotte).
Following a trailer revealing the status quo at Vamp Camp, Hahn had a question for Paquin provided by absent True Blood executive producer Gregg Fienberg. "Now that your husband is playing God on the show, how is he at home?" she asked, referring to star Stephen Moyer (Bill Compton).
"He gets quite a lot of worship,” Paquin quipped.
This season saw Buckner taking over as showrunner from creator Alan Ball and the outgoing Matt Hudis. "It's like being in a car crash," he said. "We had to shift on the fly, and I never knew how hard he [Ball] worked. And the job doesn't stop, it just keeps going, and I've never had more respect for Alan."
Hahn asked if the cast treats him differently.
"We wash his car now," Kwanten said.
The actor said his character Jason will try in the remaining episodes of the season to discover who killed his parents. "He gets real crazy, real soon. He likes to think he's Rambo, and he fails," he said with a laugh.
As for Trammell's Sam Merlotte making a quick transition in girlfriends this season, the actor joked, "It's that my girlfriends keep getting killed." He also noted the pace of story is swift this season, saying, "It's like every day is a year of our lives."
Sam's escape from the werewolves as means the character will see a lot of sketchy hotels. "I can't say how it all ends up, but it's a lot of running around without shirts on," he laughed. "There's a lot of cardio on the show."
The season has also seen Rutina Wesley's Tara continue her acclimation as a vampire. "My character is becoming more of a protector," she explained. Asked if Tara and Jessica form a stronger alliance, she responded with an enigmatic "We'll see." As for how her new state will chafe against her mother's Christianity, the actress said, "She gets a kick out of it because she's tired of her mother and her mother's disease." Enjoying the power and blood, Tara is getting comfortable with being a vampire.
When asked whether Lafayette should get out of the psychic business, Nelsan Ellis said, "I think so." Recently, Lafayette channeled Sookie's father, and Hahn asked if it was difficult to approach another actor's performance. "It wasn't," he answered. "I studied the episodes and picked up a few of his mannerisms, and that's it." Asked how he gets in the mindset to improvise and be other people, Nelsan said he listens to Rihanna.
"Jessica is going to have to pay dearly before she can forgive herself," Woll said of her character. Being in the Vamp Camp may be some sort of penance, but the actress thinks that, "Right now, she sort of hates herself." This falls in line with the vision of everyone dying that she received from Bill. "I think she thinks she deserves to die, but she doesn't want her friends to die." In trying to save her friends from that fate, Woll suggested Jessica might find some sort of redemption.
Asked if Pam's story will end well, Kristin Bauer van Straten replied, "Pam is scrappy, and the great thing about these writers is that they find so many layers of conflict and putting us against each other and fighting for our lives with the person who's most dear."
Hahn wanted to know if Alcide must find another job. Laughing, Joe Manganiello answered, "He has a problem with his present job ... it's pretty thankless except for the three-ways." Recalling shooting that threesome in the season premiere, the actor said, "It was 18 degrees that night and I was naked out in the cold." Members of the audience let him know they appreciated his sacrifices.
Turning to Anna Camp, the moderator asked why Sarah Newlin likes organizations so much. "She likes to keep people contained and to be in power," the actress replied. "And we're going to see a lot more of that."
Michael McMillian suggested Sarah's next camp would be "Tramp Camp."
According to Kwanten, Jason and Sarah will cross paths again. Buckner added, "They have unfinished business."
"There's two or three stories that culminate toward the end," Kwanten said.
Considering the places Steve Newlin has gone, Hahn asked McMillian if the character has any pride. "I think he may have too much pride and it blinds him in decision making," the actor said. "You have to remember that Eric staked Steve at the end of last season. He has a vendetta." At the moment, however, he’s terrified inside Vamp Camp and reeling from the latest round in his co-dependent relationship with Sarah.
Hahn asked Camp if Sarah still had feelings for Steve. "Of course!" she replied. "[He's] my first husband." The two began pantomiming a tearful reunion.
Continuing the theme of Steve's love life, McMillian was asked whether Steve still carries a torch for Jason. "Oh, yeah," he replied seductively, to which the crowd laughed and Kazinsky mimed a facepalm. McMillian continued, "That flame is never going to burn out."
Kazinsky has had his own close encounter with Kwanten when his character and Jason shared a grooming scene. "I thought it was a hazing," the actor recalled. "No one told me this was going to be happening and it was fully in the show." Considering the shoot, Kazinsky had positive things to say about his co-star. "Ryan made me feel like a lady," he said. "He couldn't have been more gentle. Not too much tongue. I fulfilled the dream of many ladies in this audience."
As for Warlow, Kazinsky said, "We started thinking he was evil. He's a fay, he's a vampire and there's this dichotomy and you'll see both sides of him this season. You're going to see some gnarly stuff."
Moving on to Paquin, Hahn asked how the attempt on Sookie's life by her own parents changed the character. "It's a bummer," she replied. "She has a strong heart that's distrustful of everyone at this point." When pressed if there might be a new love in her life -- perhaps Warlow -- the actress teased, "She does like handsome strangers."
Returning to Buckner's new position as showrunner, Kwanten joked that he has "always been cuddly and approachable."
"He's been one of our writers from the very beginning," added Trammell. "So it's really a continuation [from Alan Ball]."
Paquin said he is "a very strong voice for the show."
Going forward, Buckner said many of the current threads will "end awesomely" come the season finale, and that the show will condense the number of stories it tells next season. "You're going to get the idea that the show is returning to its roots," he explained. "It [will] feel like we're coming home." To that, the fans gave him copious applause.
During a brief fan Q&A, Manganiello and Paquin were asked if they liked the direction Sookie and Alcide are taking this season. Manganiello said he’s unhappy that everyone is upset with him, and he has to justify the character's actions to himself.
Paquin said she’s happy Sookie isn’t being anyone's doormat. "She's sick of taking whatever from whoever," she explained. "It's nice to see that's she's finally learning from all the unfortunate and bizarre things around her. It's fun to play and the beauty of television is getting to work with these characters over years."
True Blood airs Sundays on HBO.