Things To Do In L.A. When You’re Dead: The True Blood Set Visit

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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.

Mel and Liz belly up to the bar at Merlottes.

Mel and Liz belly up to the bar at Merlotte's.

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!

Mel checks out Sookie Stackhouses front porch.

Mel checks out Sookie Stackhouse's front porch.

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!

The grand staircase at Casa de Compton.

The grand staircase at Casa de Compton.

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

Fan of the Southern Vampire Mysteries since 2001, and co-admin of True-Blood.net since 2008. Team Sookie!

16 Comments

  1. aslinn

    April 15, 2009 at 8:08 am

    Cool pictures girls.

  2. Deb Fransen

    April 15, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Oh my hell, I am soooo jealous….. :)

  3. NorthLeen

    April 15, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    There’s no pics of Fangtasia? ;)

    • Yukailin

      April 16, 2009 at 2:22 am

      Fangtasia is a real bar so they would have had to go out on location to see it, and only on a day when it was being used for filming, since at other times it’s in operation as a bar.

      • Lissa

        April 16, 2009 at 1:24 pm

        It pretty much looks the same when not filming.

        Dark red lights and gothic-ish furnishings.

        Alex’s Bar, Long Beach

  4. Bre

    April 15, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Lucky asses!!!
    Super cool.
    Love all the pics!

  5. Melissa

    April 16, 2009 at 12:12 am

    Very cool! Thanks for sharing! I’m in love with the staircase at Comptons *swoons* & Merlotte’s looks like my kind of hangout. :D

  6. kaybee

    April 17, 2009 at 1:28 am

    You gals are lucky. I love the Compton house and I am intrigued to see another part of it in the new season. I did see an onset photo of Bill’s bedroom win its entirty like the chairs and firepalce on one side of the room. Thanks for the pics!

  7. Debbie

    April 20, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    Thank you for the fabulous opportunity to see these pictures through your eyes! We met after the Paley Fest at the “retro” coffee shop. I was sitting next to you and came with my sister from NY. It really was a pleasure meeting you both. We are thoroughly enjoying True-Blood.net and all the attention to detail you are both putting into this.

  8. J

    July 29, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Wow awesome picss :))
    Is the set opened for public?? Like can anyone just get lke a tour??

  9. Chrissy

    August 16, 2009 at 12:43 am

    Hey I live in los angeles, ca….can you tell me where can i go to visit the set as well …. lol plz thanks,,, ..

  10. Mitch97

    September 4, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    Omg wow! i’m in love with true blood.You are so lucky.Thanks for sharing

  11. Alex CK

    November 16, 2009 at 5:58 am

    Thank you so much for sharing! Love your site :O) LOVE the show! Would be so cool to go and visit the set! But since I´m in Sweden, that has to wait ;o) Is it possible by the way for anyone to do? Thanks again!

    Cheers! Alex

    • Mel

      November 16, 2009 at 9:50 am

      Hi Alex, thanks for your kind words. The True Blood set is a closed set, meaning visits are by invitation only. However, if you’re ever in Los Angeles and decide to take the Warner Bros. studio tour, you’ll see where the Merlotte’s exteriors/pond scenes are filmed.

      • Alex CK

        November 17, 2009 at 4:27 pm

        Hi Mel and thank you so much for your answer!

        I do hope I’ll make it back to LA one day soon, and I am pretty sure that I will take the tour, if only to see a hint of Merlotte’s :O)

        Keep up the great work!

        All the best, Alex

  12. Suzie Mc lellan

    March 15, 2010 at 12:58 am

    Hi i’m going to Lafayette on april , I would love to see the filming locations of True Blood .
    If somebody can give me the adresses , it would be great !
    Thank you so much !
    Suzie