Get reunited with the natives of Bon Temps and meet its new residents

By Tim Stack and Lynette Rice
July 16, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

Anna Paquin as Sookie Stackhouse

Why we love her Sookie embodies every gal’s ultimate fantasy: She not only kicks major butt, she also has three (count ’em, three!) hot men clamoring for her affections.

Where we left her The poor li’l fairy was screaming bloody murder on her kitchen floor after Debbie (Brit Morgan) took a shotgun to her best friend, Tara (Rutina Wesley).

What’s next Now that she’s given Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) and Bill (Stephen Moyer) their walking papers, Alcide (Joe Manganiello) may be moving to the front of the line. Or will he? ”There is definitely a mutual interest. There has been from the first moment they met,” Paquin admits. ”It wasn’t the right time before for either of them. Obviously we’ll get to more of that dynamic this season, but I’m not going to tell how!”

What’s not next More zingers for Sookie. ”Our table reads are laugh-out-loud funny, but Sookie is always more of the straight man,” says Paquin, sighing. ”I usually don’t have the sardonic quip.” She does manage to make a crack about her boobs early on in season 5, however.

One last thing…she’s sleeping with the director! Paquin’s husband of two years, Moyer, helmed an episode for the first time this year. ”He is great,” she purrs, ”but obviously I’m biased.”

Ryan Kwanten as Jason Stackhouse

Why we love him Sookie’s older brother isn’t very smart, but he sure is purdy — and he’s so lovable that even his screwups (Fellowship of the Sun, anyone?) are forgivable.

Where we left him Jason and Jessica had just had sex when Jason went to answer the door and found Fellowship of the Sun head Steve Newlin (Michael McMillian), now a vampire.

What’s next For starters, dealing with this very changed Newlin. ”There’s certainly a deceptive side to [Steve],” says Kwanten. ”What he’s back for will definitely raise a few eyebrows.”

Sibling revelry The actor says he developed an instant rapport with onscreen sister Paquin. ”I feel like it was immediate. She’s a Kiwi and I’m Australian, so we share a very similar sense of humor and lust for life.”

His most surreal sex scene Kwanten vividly remembers Jason’s season 1 addiction to vampire blood, coaxed by Amy (Lizzy Caplan). ”There was that sequence with Lizzy where they were on this V trip. One day we were shooting in an underwater tank, and the next day we were shooting in a bed that was in the middle of Huntington Gardens — and then to have the rain machine sort of falling over the bed, it was just the most bizarre thing in the world.”

Stephen Moyer as Bill Compton

Why we love him Bon Temps may offer a smorgasbord of hotties for Sookie, but no one can top Bill, with his sentimental heart and those puppy-dog eyes.

Where we left him Along with Eric, Bill protected his lady love by ridding the world of Vampire League spokeswoman Nan Flanagan (Jessica Tuck).

What’s next Bill has to figure out which side of the political spectrum he falls on: the synthetic-blood-drinking vamps or those who feed only on humans. Explains Moyer, ”Bill is wary of any kind of authority and those who seek out power. So though he may approach everything wanting to believe that it’s right, he keeps a healthy cynical attitude toward it.”

Changing directions Moyer went behind the camera for the first time and directed episode 8 of this season. ”Our show is so amazing in that we don’t just work with actors, we also work with animals and reptiles. It’s all so incredible, the technical things we have to work out. It’s been a great learning curve for me.”

Coolest dad ever? Every day he’s on set, Moyer talks to his London-based children via Skype. (He has a 12-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter from previous relationships.) ”I’ll even put the laptop on a dolly and my son will watch the scene — the ones that are okay for a young boy to watch, that is.”

Deborah Ann Woll as Jessica Hamby

Why we love her She’s still technically a teenager but has the bloodthirst — and libido — of a vampire.

Where we left her Going to feed on a stranger after having sex with Jason in his living room.

What’s next Jessica and Jason will have to contend with the repercussions of their hookup. ”Those relationships can’t ever remain the same,” says Woll.

How she gets into character ”In the months leading up to when we go back [into production] I rewatch the whole previous season. It’s fun, but it’s also a great way to get back into the feel of the story.”

Dream lover Woll says one of the most hilarious sex scenes she’s done was last season’s dream sequence in which Jason starts off doing the deed with Jessica but she then shifts into Hoyt (Jim Parrack). ”Jim had to sit on top of Ryan, and they’re very good friends in real life, so I requested to lie down at the side of the bed so I could watch them. They were so excited to make the joke happen. It was wonderful.”

Kristin Bauer van Straten as Pam De Beaufort

Why we love her Eric’s closest confidante is also True Blood‘s resident fashionista, and the most quick-witted of the series’ vamps.

Where we left her Enraged by Eric’s infatuation with Sookie (”I’m so over Sookie and her precious fairy vagina and her unbelievably stupid name!”), Pam was comforted by Fangtasia employee Ginger (Tara Buck).

What’s next ”We find out about Eric and Pam’s backstory — how they’re together,” says Bauer van Straten. ”It’s really amazing. For five years Alex and I have been asking, ‘How did they meet? How did it evolve?’ and many of those questions are answered.”

How she gets into character ”It didn’t take any time — this is the frightening thing. I think it’s probably because the writing is good, and partially there is a percentage of me that is Pam. I think we all have a percentage that is Pam. She’s saying it like it is. But as humans who want to keep our boyfriends and our jobs, we learn to edit.”

Shoe story ”It’s so sad how rare we get a shot of what’s on my feet. I always walk on the set, stop, do a full turn, and then I point to my shoes and I say to the director, ‘You have to get a shot of these.’ And it rarely happens.”

The naked truth ”Anna and I walked in on naked Alex banging Yvetta [in season 3] for about a hundred takes, and Alex is Swedish and comfortable, and after a while he’s walking around naked and it’s just like, whatever. That day, whenever we needed to refer to his most private of parts, for some reason we were calling it IKEA because he’s Swedish.”

Sam Trammell as Sam Merlotte

Why we love him It’s hard not to be fond of a dude who can shape-shift into any animal at the drop of his pants. But Sam is also one of the nicest men in Bon Temps, with a penchant for damaged women (see: Tara, Daphne, Luna).

Where we left him Sam and girlfriend Luna (Janina Gavankar) seemed to have a happy ending after Alcide killed her scary ex, werewolf Marcus (Daniel Buran), who with his pack had murdered Sam’s brother, Tommy (Marshall Allman).

What’s next ”The werewolves are going to find out about [Marcus’ death] and they’re going to be pissed,” says Trammell. ”There are a lot of people who end up being after Sam.”

Hardest moment so far Last season, Tommy shape-shifted into Sam, giving Trammell the chance to channel his costar Allman. ”That was definitely some of the most challenging and fun stuff that I’ve gotten to do.”

You can’t do that on CSI ”One of the craziest things was, in season 2, that meat tree out near Sookie’s house, and people dancing around it, and a weird violin section playing ‘Here Comes the Bride’ off-key. That’s when you love it. You just say, ‘You know what? This is not a procedural.”’

The naked truth ”It’s funny because most of the guys who are naked on the show are in these well-lit bedrooms with really nice music, and I’m outside in the woods looking very insignificant among big, large trees. I want some good lighting and some romantic scores.”

Rutina Wesley as Tara Thornton

Why we love her Sookie’s lucky to have such a trustworthy friend who speaks her dang mind — and throws one mean punch.

Where we left her Looking pretty dead on Sookie’s floor after Debbie blew the side of her head off. ”It was actually a tough scene to shoot. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” Wesley recalls. ”I’ve been this character for so long, so when things become near fatal, it’s very scary.”

What’s next She’ll be back. How? Well, keep reading…

One cryptic clue about this season ”Tara is a new woman,” says Wesley. ”We are going to see how she recovers. This is something Bill and Eric are not going to come to the rescue with, so Sookie has to figure it out on her own. She’s strong and resourceful. She doesn’t need a man to figure out her problems!”

Why so angry, girl? ”So much has happened to her. I’d be running around too, looking for a fight,” says Wesley. ”One day she’ll figure out her power and be a little more stable.”

How she gets into character ”She’s like a second skin for me. It’s easier now to slip in and out.”

The naked truth ”I’ve shown just as much skin as everybody else. Some of my stuff has been graphic. Sam and I really went at it.”

Occupational hazards Playing trouble-prone Tara has given Wesley the opportunity to test her tolerance for highly uncomfortable situations. ”I never know what they’ll throw out and whether I can do it,” she says. ”Can I be tied to a chair or duct-taped to a toilet? Can I survive all of that?”

Nelsan Ellis as Lafayette Reynolds

Why we love him Tara’s cousin — and Sookie’s good pal — has evolved from a short-order cook at Merlotte’s into a full-fledged medium. Plus, no one can rock a cropped football jersey quite like Lafayette.

Where we left him After being possessed by witch Marnie (Fiona Shaw), Lafayette struggled to deal with the fact that he had murdered his love Jesus (Kevin Alejandro) while under her spell.

What’s next ”He’s obviously had a lot of loss,” explains Ellis. We’ll see Lafayette embracing his magical abilities and perhaps returning to some of his bad-boy ways (remember how he used to be a drug-dealing prostitute?). ”I can say that he’s definitely learning how to use his gifts, and we get sort of the old Lafayette to come back and emerge. He’s starting to slip back into some old habits.”

How he gets into character ”I used to throw on some Rihanna. Then the eyelashes come on. Then I would walk around like him. Now I’ve been playing him so long, he slips into my life. My friends gotta be like, ‘Dude, you just slipped into Lafayette.”’

Weirdest fan tribute ”At Comic-Con, the second season, a dude came and said ‘I’m getting you tattooed on my leg.’ I just thought that was the craziest thing. He was a white dude, and he has this black man tattooed on his calf. I thought it was a little loony, but I was like, ‘Hey, I’m in love with ThunderCats. Ain’t no judgments here.”’

Joe Manganiello as Alcide Herveaux

Why we love him He’s a gentle giant (and werewolf) who deserves more than trailer-park trash like Debbie — may she rest in peace.

Where we left him He killed pack master Marcus, saw the empty hole in the concrete where Russell (Denis O’Hare) was unearthed, and professed his desire to be with Sookie. Whew!

What’s next He’s in line to replace Marcus, but Alcide doesn’t want the responsibility, much less the demands of being a wolf in disguise. ”He hates werewolves. He feels like he’s missed out on a lot of life because of being a werewolf,” says Manganiello. ”And he looks down on them because they are disgusting outlaws.”

Sookie and Alcide, sitting in a tree…? ”Alcide is ready for love,” Manganiello teases. ”There is a lot of anticipation [for him to hook up with Sookie]. He’s ready. He’s like a big pet dog; no matter how much he’s beaten down, he is always there. He’ll run up and lick your face!”

The naked truth Between his work in the stripper movie Magic Mike and this season of True Blood, Manganiello’s fans will not be disappointed: ”I’m going to have one helluva soft-core-porn reel.”

Christopher Meloni as Roman Zimojic

Why we love him He oozes charm but wields a mighty stake as head of the Authority.

Where we left him Catching rapists and molesters for 12 seasons on Law & Order: SVU.

What to expect He quotes the Vampire Bible, serves exotic drinks like the blood of a fine 18th-century Austrian hemophiliac, and rocks a mean golf shirt over those well-defined abs (yep, Roman likes to hit the links).

How he gets into character ”I looked at politicians, but I didn’t find any juice there. So I found Roman in the words, the setting, visiting the set.” And the golf part? ”It took me, like, a week to wrap my head around that. I was laughing the whole time. What is this?

Best part of playing a vampire ”Getting to stake a motherf—er in one take. I busted a hole in that a–hole. It was beautiful.”

The naked truth ”I only sodomize men for HBO, so I don’t know why they pegged me [for nude scenes],” jokes Meloni. (In case you’ve forgotten, he’s talking about his five years starring on the prison drama Oz.) On True Blood he’ll have relations with a sizzling temptress named Salome (Italian newcomer Valentina Cervi). ”She and I get a little hot and heavy, but she has a nicer body than I do, so she’s more naked than me.”

Alexander Skarsgård as Eric Northman

Why we love him We should hate anyone who gets in the way of Bill and Sookie’s true love, but he (and that fine body of his) makes it so…very…hard.

Where we left him Killing that heinous vamp Nan with Bill once she realized Sookie was a delicious fairy. (Fairy blood is like sweet nectar that also allows vamps to enjoy daylight.)

What’s next Eric’s certainly not going to lick his wounds now that Sookie’s given him the heave-ho. ”His way of dealing with it is by shutting down all his emotions. Like, ‘All right. It’s my fault. I opened up, and this is what happens when you open up,”’ says Skarsgård. ”He doesn’t dwell.”

Blood is thicker than politics Lucy Griffiths debuts this season as Nora, a chancellor in the Authority who also happens to be Eric’s long-lost sister. ”She’s one of the few vampires out there who he really, really loves and cares for,” explains Skarsgård. ”She’s in the Authority, and they might not agree on things, but Eric would do anything to protect her, for sure.”

Buddying up to Bill ”I think Stephen and I have enjoyed it almost a little bit too much. We love working together. But I keep having to remind myself that deep down he’s still an antagonist and there’s still tension there. We can’t have too much fun.”