'True Blood': Marshall Allman talks Tommy's [SPOILER!]

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Image Credit: John P. Johnson/HBO

SPOILER ALERT! If you’ve yet to watch this week’s episode of True Blood, stop reading now and come back when you have… 

Fans have long been expecting Tommy, Sam’s screw-up brother, to exit the show. But even if you were one of the viewers who’d hoped it’d happen sooner, Marshall Allman’s death scene had to move you. At least that’s what the actor, who knows Tommy had haters, hopes. He admits it’s tough playing a polarizing character.

“To act, no matter how the character is, you have to love and have compassion for the character you’re playing,” he tells EW. “You can’t judge a character that you’re playing because then you’re fighting against doing what the character’s doing. People were pretty vocal about not liking Tommy, and I would have to understand and just hope that the True Blood team would give Tommy some sort of redemption so that he’s not just hated and forgotten, and people are just like, ‘Well, glad he’s dead.’ At this point, at least it’s not pure hate. That’s all I’m grateful for.” He laughs. “I was so honored that they would give me that time in the show. I love Tommy so much, and for other people to see him the way I see him would be a joy. And to all the Tommy fans who believed in him from day one, it’s like a rebel crew of people, they’ve got a soft place in my heart.”

Producers told him early in the season Tommy’s end was near. “I was sad, but then I was seeing where the story line was going, I don’t know that Tommy could ever go on forever,” he says. “When I saw the writing that they were doing for me, I was like, ‘Man, if Tommy’s gonna go out, this is a really great way to go out.’ The reason why it was perfect is because Tommy tried to do good, but then he messed up. He tried to defend Sam, but he didn’t hold on to the shift to make them think Sam had died. He failed at being a martyr, which is perfect for Tommy. He messed that up, too.”

Why did Tommy make so many bad decisions? The answer is in the advice Allman gave costars Sam Trammell (Sam) and Dale Raoul (Maxine Fortenberry) when it came time for them to act as if Tommy had shifted into their characters. “All I gave them was that through everything that Tommy’s doing, whether it’s good or bad, he’s always got this junkie part of him that gets a high off the adrenaline,” Allman says. “And that’s what turns [his] decision-maker off. He’s more about the adrenaline of the moment than he is about the wisdom of is this a good decision.

The most difficult part of acting the actual death scene was getting the biology right. “Basically his insides had exploded. How does that physically look, what was shutting down at what times, and the breathing — that was mainly the challenge of the scene,” Allman says. “The heart, what Tommy says, that’s what I’ve been feeling for two years working on the character. Caring about Sam and wanting a family — that part was easy. And like any great scene with Tommy, he has some self-loathing. So it was nice that there was a little bit of comedy, a little self-effacing humor. It was just a beautiful scene.” (For that, he’s grateful to writer Nancy Oliver.)

Allman has become somewhat of an expert on death scenes. “There’s a running joke amongst some of my friends. They’re like, ‘You die in everything,’” he says. That includes as a guest star on Cold Case, Ghost Whisperer, Law & Order: SVU, and Grey’s Anatomy, as well as in the 2005 Bruce Willis film Hostage. “That was a pretty epic death scene, too. That was when Ben Foster threw me over a 40-foot railing and I plunged to my death in my brother’s arms,” he says. “It was the most insane setup with flames, water, and a crane, and they’re like, ‘This is a very expensive shot,’ and when we cut, they’re on a megaphone like, ‘Did you move?’ The underlying pressure is, ‘You better not have moved, because if we have to do it again, you’re gonna cost us time and money.’ That’s intense. If any actors need advice on how to die on camera, I’m right there. It varies from situation to situation.” The easiest kind of exit, he jokes, is “when you die off-camera and others characters announce your death in a really dramatic way with some sort of pop song orchestrating the emotion of the scene.” The next easiest is “when they cut away fast,” he says. Also a piece of cake: Something like what happened to his character on Prison Break. “We just kinda didn’t really hear from him anymore. So that was pretty easy,” he cracks. “Unemployment is a lot easier than a death scene. No, I’m just kidding, unemployment is harder than a death scene.”

Hopefully, he won’t have to worry about that. He has three movies awaiting release, including the Billy Bob Thornton-directed Jayne Mansfield’s Car with Thornton, Robert Duvall, Kevin Bacon, and Robert Patrick. For more updates, follow him on Twitter, where he’s listed five rules for Tommy’s funeral. (Sample: “Jessica must attend, clothing: minimal.”)

Read more:
EW’s True Blood recaps

Comments (60 total) Add your comment
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  • diane

    Nice interview. Didn’t like Tommy, but I was moved by his death scene and felt bad for him. He had a terrible upbringing.

    • deedee

      must admit I got a little weepy during this scene

      • Cheery

        Ugh, I shed some tears too. It was a moving scene :’(

    • Emma

      I felt sorry for him… he DID try to be good, but he had such a terrible childhood…
      At least, he has known a brother’s love.

    • Tajah

      Last season, I liked him as Tommy was such a screwup but needed a break and Sam gave it to him. This season, I was waiting for Tommy to die and just get off my screen. However, I loved the death scene in that it was really emotional and in the end, brought the 2 brothers back together. I did tear up. Marshall did a great job.

    • Poppy

      First off, Marshall Allman played Tommy’s character beautifully and bravely. It’s got to be tough to play someone you know everyone hates. Glad there was some redemption for him at the end; his death was a moving scene with Sam and left me with the thought he didn’t want to be bad, he was just made that way. I also liked Tommy’s line about “hell being a dog fight.” It just reminded us of what a really shi**y life he had. RIP Tommy.

  • crispy

    Good riddance to bad storylines.

    • Mother Nature

      Thought you’d quit watching, Crispy. Nice to see you. I’ve missed your posts since GoT went off.

    • benlinus

      Ditto, hated that character and I cheered when he got that beat down; rewatched it a few times to while smiling.

    • kate middleton

      Agreed, glad he’s finally gone.

    • B

      Agreed. I never cared for this storyline, or at least not for the way it dragged on.

      That said, unlike most of the people commenting here, I was NOT AT ALL moved by the death scene. I personally felt like the writers were trying to force me to be moved by something that hadn’t earned it ahead of time. I don’t know what it was, but it didn’t play out as a genuine “moment” for me.

  • Candace

    Tommy’s character played a pivotal role in Sam’s development. Marshall Allman’s charismatic portrayal brought a great vibe to the show, and always brought a smile to my face. R.I.P Tommy. See you soon Marshall!

  • Gina Vera

    EW your Twitter Link doesn’t work properly.

    • Stan

      it never works properly…I just got use to it and don’t even try to go to twitter via EW.

  • XSE Drake

    Like Tommy or not, there is no disputing that Marshall Allman was fantastic in the role. It’s too bad that it seems some of the dislike for his character overshadowed what was a brave and layered performance. I was really sad to see Tommy go and wish Marshall much luck with his career.

  • Zo

    I had been annoyed by Tommy– or frustrated was more the word for it. He couldn’t seem to appreciate anything good that was in his life. Although when you’ve had a life his, you often don’t feel like you deserve anything good, so you push back against it. It’s really painful to watch and happens often in real life.
    I couldn’t believe that I was so emotional when he died, actually. It was so sad that Sam was the only good part of his short life. I felt bad that I had ever been so annoyed at him.

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  • HD

    I loved Tommy, he was just lost like so many of us are at one point or another. Great actor and great character, I was really sad to see him go. In fact, I didn’t really even believe he was truly dead (and still not sure that I am) until this article. I doubt that’s the last we’ve seen of him, but if it is, it was a great way to go out indeed!

  • Ben

    In the death scene there were alternating shots of Tommy with bloody teeth and then with no blood on his teeth. The acting was excellent, the editing in slight need of improvement.

    • Heidi

      I noticed that as well. I completely zoned out during that scene though, waiting for the switch between bloody teeth and pearly whites.

  • anona muss

    I liked Tommy. Not as a person but as a conflicted soul. Very much like Sam but whereas Sam had decided to almost always be good, Tommy chose the dark road. And I totally get what Allman’s saying. It’s a compliment to his acting that as horrid as Tommy, he could still garner sympathy.

  • Aidee

    I was a fan of Tommy so I’m sad he’s gone and the death scene totally made me cry. He had it rough of course he wasn’t gonna be the most like character, I’ll miss him and I think his storyline could have been better.

  • Bobby

    Marshall Allman is a wonderful actor he’s done an outstanding job personifying Tommy and the death scene was just awful but I loved that there was some redemption at the end and that Sam told Tommy he loved him.

  • Bobby

    by “awful” I meant awfully sad and hard to watch.

  • Mikey M

    He was good with what they gave him. They didn’t do much with him except make him an asshole.
    I will miss that buttt of his.

  • sam

    Hated the character of Tommy. It was a terrible idea to bring in Sam’s disgusting annoying family. It seems that everything that isn’t in the books at all is terrible. The producers are great about mixing up the books, but really bad at new stuff.

    • DUH

      i see your tommy and raise you jessica and lafayette (two great “new” things).

      • LeAnne

        yes DUH!!!! I agree….. without creativeness of the writers there would be no Jessica and LaLa would have been dead in the first scene of season 2!!!! The books are something that AB draws from, not copies word-for-word. How boring would that be? We who have read the books (and love both books and show for different reasons) would have no suspense!!!!!!

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