Things To Do In L.A. When You’re Dead: The True Blood Set Visit
If you listened to last week’s True-Blood.net Radio show, you heard us allude to “other things” we were hoping to accomplish while we’re in Los Angeles for the PaleyFest panel. We didn’t want to be specific in case we jinxed it. There was no jinxing, so Tuesday we found ourselves, along with writers from two other fansites, meeting up with Kelley, one of the wonderful publicists from HBO, on the lot where portions of True Blood is filmed.
That’s right, we got to walk the hallowed halls of Merlotte’s, the Stackhouse ancestral home, and the Compton manse. It was just as awesome as it sounds. The sets were empty while the show filmed some Fellowship of the Sun scenes with Ryan Kwanten, Amy Camp and Michael McMillian on location, so we were able to wander around and look at everything with the guidance of production assistant Khadija. The attention to detail on the sets is amazing. Suzuki Ingerslev and her team deserve every design award out there for their work. Just a hint to Emmy voters. While we wandered, we took lots of photos to share with y’all in the Gallery and include in our recap of the tour.
We started at Merlotte’s Bar & Grill, which is actually set up like a real tavern, allowing the cameras to follow the actors from room to room without cutting between sets. Sam’s office (where Mel got to sit in Sam’s comfy leather chair) is all masculine wood, leather, and hunting decor. The number of dog pictures and figurines at Merlotte’s is hilarious, given the circumstances. From Sam’s office, you can walk across the hall to the kitchen, where Lafayette serves up biting commentary along with the burgers. Down the hall are the restrooms, labeled Bucks and Does, and a cigarette machine.
The hall also provides access to the bar/dining room which looks like it’s been around for decades instead of just a couple of years. The wooden walls sport vintage tin signs advertising different beverages and Louisiana delicacies; the bar itself has vintage coasters embedded in the acrylic, coffee-ringed top; and the menu features some tasty (and reasonably priced!) options. Behind the bar is a ‘fridge full of (empty) bottles of beer, but no Tru Blood, and other bottles of liquor line the shelves. Tons of snapshots are tacked up along the wall, including several of the characters we know and love. One of our favorites is a snapshot of Sookie and Tara doing a “best friend” pose and smiling. Awwww. Just inside the front door and off the dining room, an old pool table waits for someone to rack up and play. We were delighted to look out the windows and see cars in the “parking lot”, against the swampy backdrop. It must make it easier for the actors to get into character at Merlotte’s when it’s so authentic!
After our trip to Bon Temps’ favorite dining establishment, we walked over to the Stackhouse home, a half-sized house built on the soundstage. Gran’s second-floor bedroom is separate, since the house set is only the first story, so we started there. It’s as homey as you’d expect, full of well-worn books, vintage furniture, needlepoint, and even a tea tray with some (fake) jam thumbprint cookies. Framed photos of Sookie and Jason as children and as adults are scattered here and there, adding even more personal touches. At the main house set, we explored the front porch with it’s peeling paint and wicker furniture before moving inside to rescind any vampire invitations. Who are we kidding, we’d invite Eric and Bill and Pam in anytime!
The main house set features the foyer with a half-staircase and the ceiling fan where the poor cat was left on display (we took a photo in memory of the cat), the dining room, the kitchen, the backporch/laundry room/gardening room, the living room, and the sewing room. Again, the details are astonishing. You could move into that set and feel at home instantly. There’s even food in the ‘fridge! Standing on the spot where Sookie found Gran prompted discussion of that scene and its impact on all of us, even after several viewings. So powerful. In the livingroom, we recalled the “Sookie and I are going for a walk” scene and exclaimed over Ryan Kwanten’s ability to express so much without saying a word. That guy, we can’t wait to see what he does in season 2!
Bill Compton’s house was our next stop, and what a contrast to the other two sets. Where Merlotte’s and Sookie’s place were full of homey clutter and memorabilia, the Compton house is sparsely furnished. The walls feature peeling wallpaper and a tarnished mirror in the foyer, but no pictures or other decorative items. A couple of candleholders, an ornate clock, a beautiful old piano, a large mirror, and a couple of lovely old couches in the living room are almost all you’ll find downstairs. Almost. Another part of the house will be revealed in season 2, so stay tuned for some behind-the-scenes scoop on that after the season premiere.
Unlike the other sets, Bill’s house has an upstairs that is accessible by the once grand staircase. The rooms up there are “half rooms”, more like facades for those sweeping entrance shots of Bill’s house, and are in dire need of renovation, as is the rest of the house. Suzuki’s team did a tremendous job of making Bill’s house look derelict. The depth of detail – gouged and broken plaster, painted over, then wallpapered – looks as real up close as it does on television. We even spotted some “water damage” in the foyer. Bill really needs to get that renovation going. Back downstairs, we tried to find Bill’s hidey-hole, but it wasn’t set up so we just pretended it was there and tried to get each other to lie down on the floor and pose. No one was willing to play “undead”, though.
Bill’s place was the final stop on our tour, wrapping up a delightful couple of hours snooping around the characters’ favorite places. After seeing these gorgeous sets up close and personal, we have the urge to marathon season 1 and watch them in action, as it were. Many thanks again to Kelley, Khadija and HBO for giving us this opportunity and letting us take lots of photos to share. Be sure to visit HBO.com to keep up with their True Blood buzz as season 2 approaches!
Photos source: True-Blood.net