When the world was first introduced to Aussie actor Ryan Kwanten’s Jason Stackhouse, True Blood’s boneheaded hunk with a heart of gold, he was naked and crouched down between a woman’s legs. The first shot of his face is sort-of a peek-a-boo in between bouts of administering some, um, oral pleasure.
It was a fitting introduction to the character and the actor playing him, as sex and (blessedly) copious nude scenes would quickly become a defining part of Jason’s storylines. But give credit to Kwanten and True Blood’s writers for finding the beating heart beneath Jason’s impossibly chiseled pecs, as, over the course of the last six seasons, his character has become one of the show’s most pivotal, most fun, and most endearing characters.
On a series where bartenders can shape-shift into any animal of their choosing, a stranger on the street could likely be a werewolf, and humans are changed into vampires on a terrifying basis, it speaks a lot to Kwanten’s talents that Jason’s maturation from close-minded, doofy jock to moral crusader has been among the most fun of the show’s many transformations (supernatural or otherwise) to watch.
True Blood’s seventh and final season premieres Sunday night, picking up with Jason and his bevy of supernatural friends grappling with the deadly Hep-V epidemic afflicting the vampire population and the human bigotry threatening the few vamps who remain healthy.
“All good things, I guess,” Kwanten tells me, contemplating the end of the hit series. “I’d rather go out our way, though, than run things into the ground.”
Ahead of Sunday night’s premiere, we called up Kwanten to look back on the past six seasons as Jason (remember that unfortunate erection?) and find out a little bit about what’s in store for him this season. Mild spoilers for Sunday night’s premiere ahead.
So do you know how everything is going to end?
I do. And I’m going to tell you all about it right now!
Ha—I’m sure. Are you happy with it though?
Absolutely. We were lucky and blessed to have the writers that we have. They never cease to amaze me with the kind of crazy, emotional, intriguing, amusing, confusing, stuff that they come up with, particularly for my character. I just feel so lucky to have played that character for as long as I have.
It’s been a while. And Jason’s changed quite a lot over the seasons.
I hope so. He was quite the boy when we first met him.
What’s it been like to play that transformation?
It’s actually amazing, in terms of the amount of the days that have actually transpired since the beginning of Season 1 has not actually been that much. Does that make sense? It really hasn’t jumped forward that many years. Certainly not as many as seven. There’s been a growth, but I still think those character traits are very much in there. I think he’s starting to learn from his mistakes more.
He’s always been a bit of a moral compass for the rest of the characters on the show, right?
That’s a bit scary to think about, but I think you’re right!
Maybe not so much with the promiscuity and such, but the fact that he’s always been willing and open to changing his mind about people. And vampires.
Yeah! And I think that’s been the biggest growth. That’s a really good point. Because I don’t think he was necessarily a bigot, but he was a little more close-minded before. Now he has the ability to kind of weigh two sides and make somewhat of an education decision.
He seems to fall fast and hard with the women in his life. Whether it’s Lizzy Caplan’s Amy, Lindsay Pusipher’s Crystal, Deborah Ann Woll’s Jessica, Anna Camp’s Sarah—he’s had a revolving door of fast-moving, intense relationships. And now he’s with Karolina Wydra’s Violet. What is it about her that he’s drawn to?
I think with Jason, he really does wear his heart on his sleeve. There’s a woman who’s vibrant with life in the form of Violet who sort of represents everything that he’s never had. She’s got this incredible history behind her. I think it’s a pure fascination with her. She’s his equal in many ways. He’s just so intrigued by her.
When we last saw them together last season, we saw that she was withholding sex from him—there was that scene in the finale that might have been the longest oral sex scene ever, where she says she’s made him perform oral sex 178 nights in a row without letting him penetrate her. Not to spoil too much of the premiere, but they finally have sex in Sunday’s episode, but not until after they have an explosive argument outside by Jason’s police cruiser. What was shooting that scene like? It was pretty passionate…both the argument scene and the sex scene that followed.
Umm…it was fun. [Laughs uncomfortably] Anytime you’re doing sex scenes it’s not the best of times, and this one was done outside virtually on a main road. It was tough, but Karolina is an incredible actress. And she made it work…
When you’re on a show like this with such a fan base and you’re paired with all of these different women, there’s going to be a pairing that people root for the most, and I feel like, over the past six seasons, that’s been Jason and Jessica. Do you miss the dynamic with her?
I love working with Deborah, too. And I think the chemistry that Jason and Jessica have stems from that innocence they both share. In a weird way, it’s because Jessica is actually the age that Jason is sort of mentally. Jason’s perpetually a teenager.
Looking back at all the things that Jason’s gone through, what was the most fun thing act out? There’s certainly a lot to choose from: being addicted to V, being a part of that evangelical cult, and loads more…
Those are a bunch of the favorites. But there’s really been no ordinary day on set. The kinds of things they have me doing, I dare say, 95 percent of them I will never be doing again in my career. It’s a real treat to be working on a show like this, and on a network like HBO, where you can kind of push things and do things that you usually wouldn’t be able to do on a television show. And certainly not be able to do on you day to day life.
Even though HBO has that reputation for pushing boundaries, is there anything you’ve ever seen in a script and thought, even though it is HBO, would never fly—but then was surprised when it actually made it to air?
I guess the priapism episode, where Jason has priapism. [Should you need a reminder, that’s the episode where Jason overdoses on V and gets an erection he can’t get rid of.] I thought that this is certainly something that I wouldn’t imagine him doing, but if anyone is ever going to have that affliction it’s certainly humorous that it happened to Jason. But I thought it was certainly going to be an interesting one to shoot. And it certainly was.
The brother-sister relationship with Jason and Sookie is one of the most adorable on TV, mostly because you can tell how much they love each other. What’s it been like forging that relationship with Anna Paquin?
Mostly you’ve got to really be on your game, because she’s such an incredible talent. The great thing about working with her is that she comes in with such vigor to every scene, so you’re forced to come up to her level. The history that we have working together and the characters now have is something that you don’t usually get as an actor. In a film, for instance, you’re usually only with a person for two months, three months at most. In a television series, very rarely do you get a chance to last as long as we have. It’s been a real privilege to see that relationship grow from Sookie, even thought Jason was older, Sookie was the mentor in the relationship and would give Jason advice, even when he didn’t want. Now it’s sort of turned the other way. Particularly in this season there’s a couple of great scenes where it’s Jason giving her advice. And it’s good advice! It’s weird advice, but good.
Over the course of the series so far, so many characters that started out human have become vampires. Have you ever secretly hoped that you’d get some fangs at some point, too?
Never. I think there’s humor to be played in the fact that everyone else has these powers and Jason has none.