Howl! 'True Blood's' Joe Manganiello Talks Season 3 Finale

Joe Manganiello at the 2010 Entertainment Weekly Pre-Emmy party, LA, on August 27, 2010 (left) and as Alcide in "True Blood" (right) Joe Manganiello at the 2010 Entertainment Weekly Pre-Emmy party, LA, on August 27, 2010 (left) and as Alcide in

In one summer, “True Blood’s” Joe Manganiello has gone from rising star, to the hot hunk on everyone’s lips.

When AccessHollywood.com first spoke to the Pittsburgh-bred actor earlier this summer — on the eve of his personal premiere (in episode 3) of the acclaimed HBO series — he was buzzing and excited about welcoming family and friends to a small party to celebrate his work as Bon Temps’ newest arrival. He was thrilled to have won the role of the werewolf Alcide and found it a kick that a few people at his gym, hip to “True Blood” casting news, had recognized him and offered some early enthusiasm.

Now, things are a different story… a bigger one.

“Its like completely changed,” Joe laughed down the phone line from across town in Los Angeles. “I mean, the amount of fan response?… I’m a regular on the show now, that’s the big change. I guess the level of just like awareness I have… There’s paparazzi that would show up at my gym when I was working out. It’s been wild.”

The paparazzi presence has been interesting for the 6’ 5” actor, who told Access he’s now paying a little more attention to his out-of-home get-ups.

“Yeah, you have to watch what you’re wearing obviously and you mix your schedule up accordingly, but there’s an amount of it that’s good and it means people are watching the show and people are wondering what I’m doing,” he said. “You know, I don’t want to be famous because I want people chasing me around at the grocery store. I wanted to be recognized for the work I’ve done in order to get more work and better work and to be able to make better choices. It was really about freedom.”

As for his work – there’s more of it on the way this Sunday. Joe’s character Alcide, who has been absent for several episodes, returns to Bon Temps for the Season 3 finale, and while there, he’ll be running into Anna Paquin’s character – Sookie Stackhouse.

“I’ll say this: Sookie and Alcide pick up where they left off, with their last conversation on her porch,” he said, referring to the steamy moment where a not-quite-single Sookie stared dreamily into the tanned werewolf’s big brown eyes.

“From there, there’s a lot of unfinished business that any viewer of the show could see,” Joe continued. “So Alcide’s gonna come back and he’s gonna take care of some business.”

In the Charlaine Harris books that Alan Ball’s HBO series is loosely based around, Alcide is friendly with the vampire king of Mississippi, Russell Edgington, played by Denis O’Hare. So far the two haven’t interacted on the show as of yet — but could they?

“I cannot confirm or deny that, but you wont have to wait very long for that answer,” Joe explained.

As for finally getting some screen time with Alexander Skarsgard’s character – Eric Northman – who initially ordered Alcide to protect Sookie, Joe said that “possibly” could happen.

With “True Blood’s” Season 4 not set to begin shooting until November, the actor said he’ll be spending at least part of his time off in Europe, finally able to take it all in.

“I’ve been going full bore for the past 9-10 months, so I’m also gonna take a little bit of time off and go to Europe for a little while and bounce around,” he said. “I’ve never been to Europe, so I’m gonna go visit and check it out.”

The Season 3 finale of “True Blood” airs on HBO on Sunday at 9 PM.

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