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10 Casting Decisions That Hurt True Blood (And 15 That Saved It)

HBO’s True Blood provided giddy thrills and guilty pleasures for seven seasons on HBO.

At times a deft social commentary, supercharged romantic drama, or dark horror with more than a smattering of southern gothic, the show was not only full of supernatural surprises, but it also shone a light on the everyday prejudices of the U.S.

Created by Six Feet Under show runner Alan Ball and based on the novels by Charlene Harris, the show introduced unsuspecting audiences to a world where vampires had "come out of casket" and were trying - but not always succeeding - to co-exist with humans.

At the centre of all this was the town of Bon Temps and the relationship that waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) forms with vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer).

However, vampires weren’t the only thing to go bump in the night in Bon Temps, with shapeshifters, werewolves, faeries. and more descending on the town to cause havoc.

Over the course of seven seasons, the show built up a huge cast of characters and got bogged down in convoluted sub-plots. By the end, many fans felt the show had lost sight of what made it great in the first place.

Guest stars would jarringly appear for no reason and plot points would frustratingly go nowhere (particularly if there was a faerie involved). While some cast members managed to keep hold of what made their characters special, others suffered from plotlines that caused audiences to collectively throw their hands up every time the character appeared on screen.

With that said, here are the 10 Casting Decisions That Hurt True Blood (And 15 That Saved It).

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25 Saved: Nelsan Ellis as Lafayette Reynolds

Short order cook and medium Lafayette was one of the most memorable characters on True Blood.

Brilliantly played by Nelsan Ellis, Lafayette was always cooking up a money-making scheme, including selling vampire blood, to make ends meet.

However, deep down, Lafayette was fundamentally a good person.

There was never a dull moment when Lafayette was around, although his capture and subsequent imprisonment in the bowls of Fangtasia by Eric Northman made for some harrowing viewing.

His subsequent relationship with long-term boyfriend Jesus Velesquez (Kevin Alejandro) made for one of the most heart-breaking, and human, relationships on the show.

Sadly, Ellis passed away in 2017.

24 Hurt: Stephen Moyer as Bill Compton

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Bill’s eventual decent into eternal dullness wasn’t British actor Stephen Moyer’s fault, but the show’s failure to sustain an interesting character arc for seven seasons – a fate that also befell shapeshifter Sam and others.

Bill started as a southern vampire gentleman with a crypt full of dark secrets and cheekbones sharper than a very pointy stake.

However, once the fizzle of his and Sookie’s on/off again relationship turned to dust, the show didn’t really know what to do with Bill.

Sure, they turned him into an all-powerful demon covered head to toe in blood but, even then, he still paled in comparison to the show’s more flamboyant characters.

He was a case of all pout, no bite.

23 Saved: Anna Paquin as Sookie Stackhouse

There’s definitely a case for Anna Paquin’s Sookie Stackhouse to be on the hurt side of this list.

After seven long seasons, it became tiresome to watch every supernatural being that wandered into Bon Temps try to protect her or marry her – sometimes it felt like she didn’t have any agency of her own.

Then there was the final episode where she marries some boring dude we’ve never seen before.

However, in True Blood’s first few seasons, Anna Paquin perfectly played Sookie.

The intensity of her relationship with Bill, the struggles with being able the read people’s minds, and the love triangle with Eric were all brought to life by Paquin’s grounded performance – a performance that deservedly won the 2009 Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series.

22 Saved: Denis O’Hare as Russell Eddington

The 3000-year-old Vampire King of Mississippi was a decidedly southern gentlemen, even if he was born 850 years before Christ in the Carpathian Mountains.

However, things come to a sticky end for Eddington when Eric Northman takes his revenge for taking the life of his father several centuries ago.

Sadly for the viewer, Eddington was the show’s last great villain before it descended into a tangled mess of subplots.

O’Hare injected the character with flair as he carried out his crusade against the human race, while sporting a hairdo that would have made Elvis proud.

After True Blood, O’Hare went on to regular parts on The Good Wife and American Horror Story.

21 Hurt: Robert Kazinsky as Macklyn Warlow

For a 5000-year-old fairy-vampire hybrid, Warlow never really lived up to the hype. As one of the most powerful supernatural creatures in True Blood, Warlow was teased as a villain in season 5 before becoming the main antagonist in season 6.

Obsessed by Sookie Stackhouse – as is seemingly every mystical creature in the southern U.S. – Warlow was billed as a conflicted character.

However, it doesn’t take much for Warlow to turn to the dark-side with a devious plan to take Sookie away from Bon Temps.

To be fair to British-born Kazinsky, the character never had the same charisma or sheer crazy as a Maryann or Russell Eddington.

Also, anything to do with the faerie realm in True Blood always tended to take the show further away from what made it so great in the first place.

20 Saved: Alexander Skarsgård as Eric Northman

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As Eric Northman, Alexander Skarsgård was True Blood’s most valuable vampire. As the sheriff of Area Five, owner of the awesomely named vampire club Fangtasia, and former Viking, Eric exuded everything that was great about the show.

When Skarsgård’s first appears as Northman, sitting on his throne in Fangtasia, you could feel the character’s sheer power and charisma - so much so that in the resulting love triangle between Eric, Bill, and Sookie, you were always really rooting for Eric.

Even as the show began to get tangled in sub-plots, Skarsgård could always be counted on to deliver even the most hackneyed of lines with the utmost of brilliant distain.

19 Hurt: Karolina Wydra as Violet Mazurski

Of all of Jason Stackhouse’s girlfriends on the show, Violet was the worst. Played by Karolina Wydra, Violet was an 800-year-old vampire with super strength, aggression to spare, and a taste for putting her man through the wringer - literally.

When True Blood reached its conclusion, Violet was an unwanted distraction, taking viewers who had stayed with the show for seven long seasons away from a satisfying conclusion.

By the time Violet had got her comeuppance, many viewers were left wondering why it hadn’t come sooner, seeing that the show was offing so many fan-favourite characters at vampire speed by that point.

Wydra's casting certainly didn't help.

18 Saved: Chris Meloni as Roman Zimojic

Chris Meloni played 500-year-old vampire Roman, the leader of the Vampire Authority and the visionary behind The Great Relvelation, where vampires came out into the open.

The show was starting to drop in quality during its fifth season, and the Vampire Authority wasn't exactly the most inspired idea.

However, Meloni invested Roman with a self-belief and confidence that made the character a compelling watch.

He also rocked several smart suits and polo shirts.

The part was definitely a change for Meloni, who had spent a decade playing Detective Elliot Stabler on Law and Order: SVU.

It’s just a pity that his character ushered in the whole Bilith plotline.

17 Hurt: Gary Cole as Earl Stackhouse

When it came time to shed some light on Sookie’s linage, HBO cast Gary Cole to play Earl Stackhouse.

Led to the faerie realm by her fairy godmother, Claudine Crane, Sookie Stackhouse finds dear old dad Earl chowing down on something called light fruit.

It turns out that this was a despicable ploy by Queen Maab to prevent those who consume it from returning to the human world.

Unfortunately for Earl Stackhouse, he already consumed an orchard before escaping with Sookie to the human realm, where he promptly kicks the bucket.

This all happens in the first 10 minutes of the season 4 opener and is then promptly forgotten about.

By casting an actor as well-known as Cole and introducing Queen Maab as a potential villain, it teased so much with the fairy world only to never follow through.

16 Saved: Anna Camp as Sarah Newlin

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Anna Camp brought out both the comedy and the horror as Sarah Newlin.

First appearing as the wife of Fellowship of the Sun televangelist Steve Newlin, Sarah Newlin was once of the most memorable villains to ever grace True Blood.

While the character wasn’t exactly subtle, with her business suits, make-up, and blow-dryed blonde hair, she was still a hilarious send up of U.S.'s religious right.

As Newlin graduated to the show’s main antagonist by masterminding the attempted systematic destruction of the vampire race, Camp never lost sight of the ridiculousness of the character.

This made her portrayal all the more unnerving.

15 Hurt:  Evan-Rachel Wood as Sophie-Anne Leclerq

Evan Rachel Wood in True Blood should have been awesome. The actress is normally excellent in everything she’s in and is currently delivering the performance of a lifetime in Westworld.

However, her role as the Vampire Queen of Louisiana Sophie-Anne Leclerq was, to be honest, more out of place than a vampire in sunlight.

Spoilt, childish, whiney, and in trouble with the IRS, the character of Sophie-Anne was something of a bore.

In the end, Sophie-Anne was a desperate character, playing scratch cards in a vain effort to pay off her debts before being married off to the much more entertaining Russell Eddington.

14 Saved: Fiona Shaw as Marnie Stonebrook

True Blood has definitely been guilty of stunt casting during its time, with famous faces distractingly cropping up in ill-thought out guest parts (hello Gary Cole as Earl Stackhouse).

However, the casting of heavyweight Irish actor Fiona Shaw as medium Marnie Stonebrook was a masterstroke.

As the leader of a Wiccan coven, Stonebrook tries to channel the spirit of an ancient witch to go after vampire kind.

Perhaps best known onscreen as Petunia Dursley in the Harry Potter series, Shaw leant season four antagonist Stonebrook some much-needed human frailty after the more supernatural villains that had gone before.

13 Saved: Michelle Forbes as Maryann Forrester

Michelle Forbes was perfectly cast as season 2 villain Maryann, a maenad who rolls into Bon Temps exuding the power and poise of a mythological figure.

Unbelievably, she arrives in town after getting burnt by the downright boring Sam, but then there’s no accounting for taste.

Forbes presides over raucous parties, bizarre rituals (licking an ostrich egg?), and the psychological destruction of Tara all in the name of exacting revenge on Sam - again, no accounting for taste.

Despite romantic entanglements, this bohemian "social worker" was one of the most memorable villians on the True Blood, and perfectly encapsulated everything that was crazy good about the show at the beginning.

12 Hurt: Sam Trammell as Sam Merlotte

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Sam’s unrequited love for Sookie gave the first season of True Blood emotional heft - he was an everyman who the viewer could relate to in a world beset by vampires.

Sure he was a shapeshifter who liked to transform into a cute dog and go for midnight walks with his canine pals, but compared to even some of the human characters, he was comparatively normal.

In those early seasons, particularly season two where Sam was front and center, Trammell was excellent – all hang-dog eyes like a lost puppy.

However, with Sookie passing Sam over for Bill, there wasn’t much for Trammell to work with in later seasons.

By the time Sam became the Mayor of Bon Temps, you could practicarly hear the collective audiences shrug.

11 Saved: Joe Magnaniello as Alcide Herveaux

Werewolf Alcide was yet another love interest for Sookie to run to when things weren’t going right with Bill.

Some of his plot lines weren’t exactly the most interesting, though, and the whole thing with him becoming a pack master just seemed like an excuse for him to do something before getting with Sookie again.

However, when you want someone to appear as a convincing werewolf, then Joe Magnaniello’s a solid choice.

While the hirsute and ripped actor appeared shirtless throughout most of  the show, you were never in doubt that once the full moon came, he would be the most likely to start howling.

10 Saved: Deborah Ann Woll as Jessica Hamby

Bill’s progeny Jessica helps to show what the world is like for a new-born vampire.

Deborah Ann Woll performance makes us feel for Jessica as she struggles to hold on to her humanity, control her vampire instincts, and try to live something of a normal life.  

However, the character never actually appeared in the books by Charlene Harris, making this a rare case of a show improving the source material.

While the show’s finale has its detractors, no one would begrudge the happy-ever-after vibe when she marries recently returned boyfriend Hoyt.

The success of the role led to a Woll landing a major role in Daredevil as Karen Page.

9 Hurt: Scott Foley as Patrick Devins

Scott Foley will be forever known to some people as Noel Crane from Felicity. He definitely won’t be remembered for his role as Patrick Devins, an Iraq veteran who shares a dark history with Terry.

Rolling into Bon Temps in the show’s fourth season, Foley’s character was looking to lift a curse that he and Terry Bellefleur picked up in Iraq.

However, things don’t go well for Devins, as he’s eventually taken out by Terry before a fire jinn turns up looking like something out of Lost.

The problem for Foley was that the character wasn’t particularly memorable and, in the end, was used in a storyline that clumsily shoehorned in the Iraq war in an attempt to seem contemporary.

8 Saved: Kristin Bauer Van Straten as Pam Swynford de Beaufort

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True Blood might ostensibly be about Sookie and Bill’s relationship, but the real power couple on the show were Eric and his progeny Pam.

The chemistry between them burnt like a vampire on a beach, and Bauer Van Straten’s Pam was more than a match for Alexander Skarsgård’s Eric.

Every time Pam appeared on screen, she seemed to come up with a classic one-liners, and her distain for humans was palpable, not only in her mannerisms but in her words (“That ‘thing’ owes me a pair of shoes" being one example).

While Pam had put-downs to spare, a refined sense of sarcasm, and an epic wardrobe, it was Bauer Van Straten’s performance that ensured that the character became a fan-favourite.

7 Hurt: Jessica Clark as Lilith

Lilith never really had the terrifying presence that the original vampire created by god in his own image should have conveyed.

Instead, this was a case of the producers teasing something special without actually being able to follow through.

Speaking in riddles and sashaying all over the place, Lilith seemed more like a back up dancer in a pop band than anything else.

Unfortunately, actor Jessica Clark stood no chance in creating a memorable character. It probably didn’t help that she mostly appeared as visions to Bill while he was locked up by The Vampire Authority.

Then there’s the whole Billith thing, which sent the show sideways.

She also created Warlow – and no one likes Warlow.

6 Saved: Michael Raymond-James as Rene Lenier

Rene Lenier, the first season’s surprise villain, was a supposed Cajun charmer who dated waitress Arlene and worked with Hoyt and Jason on the road crew.

Michael Raymond-James definitely brought a healthy whack of charisma to the part, which made his reveal as the villain even more terrifying.

The character also encapsulated the prejudice that vampires and those who befriend them faced after coming "out of the casket."

Also, spare a thought for Arlene - not only did Rene turn out to be not quite who he said he was, but her relationship with her next boyfriend, and future husband, Terry, was similarly doomed.

5 Hurt: Rutina Wesley as Tara Thornton

Rutina Wesley brought one thing to the character of Tara: rage. In the first two seasons of True Blood, Wesley’s Thornton took no-nonsense from anyone, while also appearing in some heart-breaking plots lines.

However, with the sheer number of characters and convoluted relationships that the show piled on season after season, Tara suffered the same fate as a lot of the original characters by becoming either lost in the sea of faces or suffering ludicrous plot developments, including being a cage fighter.

Things reached a sticky conclusion when Tara was taken out in the first 10 minutes of the season 7 premiere.

It was an unceremonious and shocking end to what had been a major character.

4 Saved: Ryan Kwanten as Jason Stackhouse

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Sookie’s dim-witted hunk of a brother Jason was known for his misguided schemes and disastrous romantic encounters, which provided a lot of the comedy on the show.

Ryan Kwanten is so convincing in the role of the southern Jason that you’d never guess that Kwanten actually hails from Sydney, Australia.

The relationship between Jason and Sookie could be intense, but there is one classic burn from Sookie is particularly harsh.

When Jason says, "You know, I was sitting in that jail, I just kept thinking about all the stupid stuff I've done," Sookie replies, "That must have kept you busy."

Overall, their sibling relationship was spot on.

3 Saved: Jim Parrack as Hoyt Fortenberry

On True Blood, it was supporting characters who made the show a must-watch and kept the audience coming back for over seven seasons, especially when the main Sookie/Bill plotline started to become a bore.

There were flamboyant characters, like Lafayette, and then there were the characters who helped viewers understand what a world where vampires and humans co-exiasted might have felt like.

Jim Parrack’s character Hoyt Fortenberry was definitely in the later camp.

His erstwhile mama boy's relationship with newborn vampire Jessica was tender, at times heart-breaking and, ultimately fulfilling when they married in the show's finale.

This was all helped by Parrack’s ability to keep his character believable and resist the temptation to become a redneck cliché.

2 Hurt: Robert Patrick as Jackson Herveaux

When Terminator 2’s Robert Patrick was cast in the role of Jackon Herveaux, the father of Joe Manganiello’s werewolf Alcide, many expected it to be a meaty, intense part.

Instead, Jackson was ultimately a background player. He was kind of creepy, a bit menacing, but not integral to the plot - not that the werewolf sub-plot was a major part of the show, as it acted more as something to do for Alcide while he pined for Sookie.

Patrick originally appeared in a three-episode arc before becoming a series regular.

However, the T-1000 looks nothing like his television son - Manganiello is a mountain, while Patrick is a wiry actor.

Because of this, it was never the most convincing of father/son pairings.

1 Saved: Carrie Preston as Arlene Fowler Bellefleur

Carrie Preston’s Arlene represented the fear and bigotry felt by everyday people who had just found out they shared the planet with vampires (not to mention werewolves and faeries).

She even went as far as putting silver bracelets on her children’s wrists when Sookie came over to babysit with Bill - not that Arlene’s not without her own supernatural powers, considering that she's a physic medium.

Preston expertly provided both comic timing in her role and pathos, as her character lost first a fiancé and then a husband during the course of the show.

Through Preston’s performance, the show was able to ground the show in the real world, while keeping the character believable and sympathetic.

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What do you think? Are there any other casting decisions that hurt or saved True Blood? Sound off in the comments!

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