It’s been a rough couple of months for “True Blood’s” shape-shifting bar owner Sam Merlotte, played by actor Sam Trammell.
His past has come back to haunt him in the form of Maryann, a maenad, who has almost all of Bon Temps in a hedonistic, black-eyed daze chasing after the flannel-shirted bar owner in between their own heady carnal indulgences and rampant town vandalism.
But while just a few weeks ago it seemed like Sam was a goner with Maryann’s faithful having trapped him in a jail, and later, a restaurant cooler, the Stackhouse family returned to their little Louisiana town and Jason, fresh from breaking his anti-vampire cult haze, banded together with Detective Andy Bellefleur to save their floppy-haired buddy from ultimate destruction.
As the show heads into its Season 2 finale this Sunday, Sam’s life appears to be on the line again, with Maryann hell-bent on sacrificing the town good guy.
So what’s it been like for the real-life Sam to play a character whose fate isn’t so certain?
Access Hollywood caught up with the star on the eve of Sunday’s season finale (which airs at 9 PM on HBO) to find out.
Access Hollywood: What’s it been like being the center of attention on your show the last few episodes?
Sam Trammell: It’s pretty fun. I sort of have enjoyed this year even more than last year. Sam’s journey this year has just been so intense because I’ve been under the gun from day one and knowing about Maryann and her power when everybody else [didn’t]. And it’s just really heavy duty everything he goes through. The betrayals that [fellow shape shifter] Daphne did to me and almost getting killed at [Maryann’s] orgy — it’s pretty heavy. But the season finale is going to be awesome and I’m definitely an integral part of all that.
Access: Were you worried at all about job security early in the season when you saw what was coming up for Sam?
Sam: Well, you know, I was. Nobody’s safe, I mean that’s for sure and I was definitely a little worried when [series creator Alan Ball] said I was going to be leaving town, maybe. And I was like, ‘Wait a minute, I’m not really leaving town?’ And he’s like, ‘No, no, of course not.’ But, you’ll just have to see what happens in the finale because definitely there’s a major character that’s in big trouble.
Access: Other than yours?
Access: The whole gang seems to be in trouble.
Sam: There are a lot of people in trouble for sure.
Access: There’s been a lot of nudity this year thanks to Maryann’s affect on people. Did hitting the sets with great numbers of nude people around you feel odd?
Sam: It’s been very strange… I’ve seen some things that I did not ever want to see in my life. It’s bizarre and people were really naked. But the tough thing about it, even though we were shooting in Malibu, it was freezing cold. I got in my car one night – because we shoot all night – and the thermometer said 34 degrees and there was frost on it. It almost became about survival. When they said ‘Cut!’ people would huddle together under blankets and get near heaters.
Access: How did people handle that kind of stuff on set?
Sam: Well, you know, there are a lot of people in the wardrobe department that will come immediately with robes and blankets and that kind of thing so people got covered up pretty quick. One of the toughest things when you’re working as an actor is pretending that you’re warm when you’re really cold. It’s really hard.
Access: When actors have to show their bodies off on screen, they tend to do alter their diets. Do you have a routine seeing as Sam sheds his clothes when he shape-shifts?
Sam: I basically don’t have food at all before [laughs]. I mean, you definitely… cut down the carbs and you can stay away from Kraft Service. It’s really a lot about cutting your calories and of course you’re exercising, but you can exercise a lot and if you’re still eating certain things, it’s not going to make a difference. And everyone has certain points in their body where their fat goes to and mine’s right in the belly.
Access: You’ve had a lot of scenes with Michelle Forbes, who plays Maryann, and although she wants to sacrifice you on “True Blood,” you’re actually close?
Sam: I love Michelle, she’s one of my favorite people on the show. We get to work with her a lot …. We met each other before we did the show — we had some mutual friends, so that was kind of a bonding thing. She’s really cool and she’s so good at that part and she’s so open and free and she has fun, but she’s kind of creepy. She’s just a cool chick, y’know?
Access: Who’s your best pal on set?
Sam: I guess whoever I’m working with. Chris Bauer who plays Andy is someone I knew beforehand so he’s a good friend. What he’s done with the character this year is so much fun. He’s really brought so much humor to the part and he’s just got a carefree attitude, of just. ‘What the hell, I’m gonna go for it!’ He’s just great. He’s a really funny guy.
Access: In addition to all the drama on the show this season, there was some big off screen news – Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer got engaged. Did people see that happening on set?
Sam: I did not. When Stephen told me they were involved, probably about half way through last year, I was completely shocked. I had no idea. I was like, ‘What? Are you serious?’ I couldn’t believe it and it’s sort of a testament to how they carry themselves. They’re very professional and they don’t really carry it on to the set.