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True Blood 09
Credit: John P. Johnson/HBO

Spoiler alert! If you still haven’t watched True Blood‘s season 6 finale, stop reading now. Exec producer Brian Buckner answered burning questions including whether we’ll see Eric again, if Tara’s mother is a Hep V carrier, and why you should have faith in season 7.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’ve confirmed that Alexander Skarsgard will return and be a regular on the show next season. Eric’s alive!

BRIAN BUCKNER: [Laughs] Well, I did not confirm that he’s alive. Not that I want to create more conversation, because I don’t, but to be clear, we’re not saying how we’re going to use him, we’re simply saying that we are using him. I will say that I do long for the days when television audiences could stand to wait and enjoy the tease. But I understand we’re living in a different time. I don’t want to watch a show without him either.

So we can start with the next important question: Whose idea was it for Eric to be sunbathing nude on a snow-covered mountaintop in Sweden?

It was mine. The original idea was that it’s basically like a Corona commercial, but I didn’t want to do a beach because it’s obvious. This is a man who doesn’t want to love, and doesn’t want to feel pain, and every connection he has to people ends in pain. So if Eric could be an island, he would be. So with Nora gone, and having sought vengeance for her death, he found that the pain was still there and he doesn’t want to feel it again. So he retreated and returned home. That’s as much as the audience is meant to know. For now.

So he wasn’t suicidal, sitting on that mountaintop so exposed?

Nobody knew the rule that if Warlow died, the blood that he gave to you would lose its efficacy. It was a surprise to all the vampires who realized that they just lost their ability to walk in the sun, but Eric was the only one in a timezone where it was light out. I think in the sort of “What the f— just happened?” of it all [Laughs] some people missed the idea that it was Warlow dying that precipitated that event. So if people called it an anticlimax, that Warlow’s death came and went without consequence, no, the Eric thing is the consequence of Warlow’s death.

I think we’ve seen fairy blood wear off before, so a lot of viewers were thinking that was a possibility. Or are you saying Warlow’s blood would never have worn off?

Maybe it’s on us. Warlow’s blood was special in that once you had it, it was not gonna wear off. It was the real deal. That’s why Sookie’s blood and Adilyn’s blood didn’t do what Warlow’s blood could do. Bill, at a certain point in the season, realized Warlow is the prophecy, that’s why Lilith all along said that you alone are going to be responsible for the continuation of the species. But when Warlow died, out went everybody’s ability to walk in the sun.

[UPDATE: We’ve confirmed that the book Eric was reading was one chosen by Skarsgard: Den allvarsamma leken by Hjalmar Soderberg. Translation: The Serious Game. According to a synopsis on Amazon, it is Sweden’s most celebrated and enduring love story: “Sweden at the turn of the previous century. Arvid, an ambitious and well-educated young man, meets Lydia, the daughter of a landscape painter, during an idyllic summer vacation and falls in love. Lydia, however, has other suitors, and Astrid is frightened of being tied down by his emotions. Trapped inside loveless marriages of convenience, they struggle in later years to rekindle the promise of their romance with bitter and tragic results.” Well done.]

Another popular question is if Tara’s mother, Lettie Mae (Adina Porter), is actually a Hep V carrier. It occurred to me, but I ruled it out because she was just too convincing asking Tara (Rutina Wesley) to be her blood donor to make up for forgetting to feed Tara for days when she was growing up.

Let me just say this, and I realize that there has been an abrupt change in the kinds of storytelling that we do, but going into a seventh season of a show, if our characters can’t grow and change, then we have a problem. So we need to be able to allow ourselves to believe that Bill can see the error of his ways and want to change, and then the question becomes about forgiveness, and that Lettie Mae — I mean, what mother wouldn’t feel badly about that? The idea that there must be plot behind everything that we do — I don’t want to have the audience constantly demanding that everything be plot-driven. It was genuine on Lettie Mae’s part. It’s not to say that there won’t be complications that arise, but people can be telling the truth.

Tell me about the genesis of the idea to pair non-carrier humans with healthy vampires — exchanging blood for protection.

The season itself was such a firestorm [Laughs], but it came out of the writers’ room. To me — and I hope our fans can appreciate this — it is the organic direction for a show that was about the relationship between vampires and humans to take. It started completely focused on one vampire-human relationship, but now we have all these relationships that we hopefully care about, and we’re going to add vampires to the human relationships and humans to the vampire relationships and see how it f—s things up. So every relationship that we have that we care about is now gonna be a threesome or a foursome. Right? It’s gonna be about these relationships, so that it’s not all just big bad and plot.

To me, this sounds like a way for us to see more of characters we love — like Lafayette [Nelsan Ellis].

Some of my favorite Lafayette stuff we’ve ever done goes back to season 1, where he was in that relationship with Eddie [Stephen Root]. We’re gonna have to pair Lafayette up with a vampire. So yeah. Here’s my sincere hope: that we get to see more of everybody we love, because everybody is under the banner of fewer stories. The story is “for every human a vampire, for every vampire a human,” and now that there’s a lesser need for separate plot and separate story development for every single character that we have, we’re actually going to get to spend more time with them. That’s my hope, that’s the motivation, and that’s where it’s all coming from.

I know you’re not going to tell me who’s being paired up, but have the writers started debating it? I imagine that’ll be fun to decide.

This is the first time that we’ve actually ever taken a break between the previous season and the next one. Usually we’re back in the writers’ room on the day of the wrap party. What happens then is that we haven’t really had a chance to digest the season and feel how the fans digest the season, and what went down well and what didn’t go down as easily. This time, we’re back in on Sept. 3, and I’m sure everyone’s gonna come full of ideas and there will be much debate about it. But the pairings are fun. If people are considering pairings, then they’ve got the right idea.

People are also pondering why the Hep V-infected vampire hordes haven’t died like Nora did. That’s because the virus has mutated?

Correct. And that’s part of the reason for the time passage as well.

So they’re just physically weaker than healthy vampires?

They’re weaker and driven by a need to eat in a way that the vampires that we’ve come to know are not. They have to drink human blood in larger quantities and more frequently than before. And the other thing to clarify — honestly, it feels weird to have to clarify everything, which is essentially what next season’s job is [Laughs] — but they’re not going to be zombies. They’re far more organized and haven’t lost their mental capacity.

On to Sookie (Anna Paquin) and Alcide (Joe Manganiello): We skipped over the sex scene. We will see some in season 7, I presume?

Would it be True Blood without it? If we had put that scene back-to-back with the Jason-Violet scene, everybody would say that we’re pandering. Sometimes we can wait for things.

That Jason-Violet scene had to be the longest oral sex scene ever aired on TV.

You guys don’t know Karolina [Wydra] as well as we know Karolina now, but she is one of the most talented actors I’ve ever seen. And she gets it, and she’s really smart comedically and dramatically. And Ryan [Kwanten], of course, everybody knows. I never had a doubt that they could pull off that scene. But I also wasn’t going to the set for it. [Laughs] I did not want my wife to know I was there, and I wasn’t. The writer of the episode, Kate [Barnow], kept saying, “You should come see this.” I’m like, “Nope.”

When EW spoke to Deborah Ann Woll before the finale, she said that when she first read the scene in which she killed three of Andy’s daughters, she couldn’t imagine how Andy (Chris Bauer) and Jessica could both be on the show next season. Did you ever think about killing one of them off?

No. It’s hard to imagine, but I think she did the best thing she could possibly do: Here’s my protection, I’m asking for nothing in return. She basically wants to work off her sins. Not that I think she can ever forgive herself, but I can see her intervening and helping Andy and Adilyn get through life, and she can work off her sin in our eyes.

Sam (Sam Trammell) makes a point in the episode of saying that it’s the non-carrier humans who are making this deal with vampires. What happens to the humans who are carriers?

I think they’re s— out of luck. Maybe they could get some help, but vampires are not eager to do s— for humans if they don’t get anything out of it. Truthfully, as of yet, we don’t know which of our characters are carriers.

Arlene (Carrie Preston) bought Merlotte’s and renamed it Bellefleur’s. Can you tease anything about her arc for next season?

How does an Arlene who thinks she’s classy and well-to-do see herself? Money can’t really buy taste, can it?

We’re done with Warlow and Lilith. Could we see Niall (Rutger Hauer) again?

I can’t say either way. I mean, he’s alive, he can return. As is Sarah Newlin [Anna Camp]. But we have to go through that creative process still.

Was it just luck that Warlow found Sookie in the bathroom just as Niall was breaking through that portal?

It’s not luck in that we know that that is an exit from that other plane. That’s why the scene found its way into the bathroom. I will say it was fortuitous. [Laughs] But not completely inorganic, in my opinion. It felt wrong to lose Niall from the rest of the season altogether. So when he was willing to come back, we decided to have him be part of the endgame.

You always knew that Warlow would be just a one-season arc?

We did.

I’m happy Willa (Amelia Rose Blaire) and James (Luke Grimes) will return next season.

I am, too. We’ve only scratched the surface of what those two actors can do. I always think it’s a nice thing to be able to introduce next season’s regulars in an organic way in the previous season, if you know where you’re going, as we did in this case. It felt really good, especially with Vamp Camp being what Vamp Camp was — that was a way to meet new vampires. On a show where everybody always says there’s really no humans left, if you do the math, there’s not that many vampires. So if we knew that we were gonna do “for every human a vampire, for every vampire a human,” we knew that we needed to bring more vampire talent into the mix.

And vampires can drink from werewolves?

Yeah, but they just don’t like the way they taste. Alcide [Joe Manganiello] might be a prize for all our female and gay male fans, but for a vampire, he’s like the worst-tasting thing there is. Which can be fun. But also, does Alcide seem like he would take a vampire partner or would he stand on his own?

Tell me about the idea for Sam becoming mayor.

I understand that there is love for these basic tenets of the book. But even [author] Charlaine [Harris] understands that the books and the series are two completely different things at this point. And six seasons in, you need to be willing to accept change and make change. We don’t really have a town mayor anymore. We had this time passage. It seemed like a really fun thing to do. And then it can put Sam and Andy into story together, and I’ve always loved them in story together. You have the mayor and the sheriff, and they have opposing points of view about what’s going on in this town. Now we’ve created a new combination of characters to move into story together that we haven’t really had that much in the past. It’s all about shuffling the deck at this point.

Is there anything else you want to say?

I want to allay everyone’s fears; at the same time, I want them to trust us. [Laughs] I promise people none of this has been done without forethought.