If you haven’t watched this week’s episode of True Blood, “I Found You,” stop reading now (or, at least check out our full recap first). We spoke separately with writer Kate Barnow, director Howard Deutch, and actor Ryan Kwanten for an oral history, if you will, of Jason’s much-anticipated—and so very Jason—sex dream about Eric (Alexander Skarsgard).
In episode nine last season, Eric fed Jason his blood to heal him in Vamp Camp telling him, “When you dream of me, dream of nice things.” In the season 6 finale, viewers watched Eric burst into flames while reading nude on a Swedish mountaintop when the effects of Warlow’s blood wore off following his death. Eric’s first appearance in season 7 comes as a dreaming Jason finds him in what Barnow describes as a Spanish pension (which was actually a home in California’s Simi Valley, where the crew spent one 12-hour day). And so the four-and-a-half minute sequence begins…
Ryan Kwanten: Alex and I would really only see each other in table reads once every two weeks at best [over the years], and we always would end up talking at the end of a table read about how we never work together. [Laughs] I guess finally the writers wanted to put us together, and this was the end result.
Kate Barnow: We knew we owed an Eric-Jason sex dream from last season, and it just happened to fall into episode 2. It was the luck of the draw, but I was not sad when I received it. At all. [Laughs] The real question was how we would approach it because historically with the men-with-men sex dreams, they’ve just been sort of straight sex—no subtext—and we wanted to do something a little different with this one. Ryan, Alex, Howie the director, and I sat down together and talked through the scene, probably a good month before we shot it, just to kinda get the juices flowing about it, because we knew it was gonna be epic, but we didn’t know exactly what it was gonna look like.
Howard Deutch: Bucky [showrunner Brian Buckner] and Kate asked me for my input, and I felt like the more ownership of the scene I gave Alex and Jason, the more they’d be able to channel it. So it wouldn’t be me being a puppeteer or them just acting, they could be it. This is Jason’s dream, so Alex kept saying, “Well, you tell me what to do, Ryan. It’s your dream.” And Ryan would go, “Well, I don’t know. What do you want to do?” It started like that until Alex said, “Well, you know, I could f–k him or I could kill him. I’m not sure.” And out of that came the notion that there’s violence in the eroticism. There’s a sense of, What is gonna happen here? It’s not just romantic. It’s dangerous as well.
Kwanten: We wanted a very to and fro scene—much like a seesaw, where I would take the power base, then suddenly he would, then I would slowly gain it back, and then suddenly he would. We wanted that constant elastic-band-being-pulled type of feel.
Barnow: We wanted to make it feel like, “Oh, maybe, in Jason’s subconscious, he’s had feelings for Eric in ways that we’ve never known.” I personally feel like the character Jason Stackhouse has probably always really admired Eric Northman from afar: Like if I was vampire, that’s the kind of vampire I’d be. The writers have always had—I think it was actually really Bucky who’s always had—this idea that Jason was a big fan of James Bond. So I had it in my mind that Eric would be making a martini, because Jason, of course, would fantasize about that. It was not actually discussed whether the martini glasses would be oversized—it was just our genius prop master Tom [Cahill] who came up with these glasses that, in fact, look like they’re as big as Jason’s head. [The reaction to Eric's long pour] was all Ryan. They were having so much fun with it. We really had a hard time remembering that it was supposed to be a love scene, but they straddled the line perfectly: One minute was just pure burning desire, and the next minute we were all just dying laughing from the things they were doing.
The physicality of it was really those two actors bringing their A game. They came up with all that stuff. They really believed that there would be a sort of masculine component to it because of who they both were. In talking through it all, Eric’s not the kind of character that’s used to having his belt taken off, but Jason’s goin’ for it.
Deutch: My favorite part isn’t in the final cut. When he rips Eric’s belt off, he snapped it like a whip.
Barnow: So then Eric would have to get kinda rough with Jason. But then maybe he was getting rough with him because he was feeling turned on. They just had a real sensibility about how their characters would act in that moment, and it led to this hilarious tackle.
Deutch: Ryan came up with that. Ryan was like, “I need to tackle him. That’s gonna turn Jason on.” I was like, “Got it, okay.”
Barnow: We didn’t want to shy away from what a real love scene would look like with them. And of course, when it got hot and erotic, I was like, “Oh god, the entire crew is looking at me and thinking that this is my fantasy life.” That was the one problem with writing the scene. But it’s not like anyone instructed them on how to play the actual love scene—that was all them. And they had a great time doing it.
Deutch: All I know is after it was done and the producers and HBO all looked at it, they said they felt I oughta do more porn films. I’d love to take credit, but I can’t. It’s all those guys. They just played it for the truth of what their characters felt, and so they made love. We just had two cameras going on them, and panning and groping—they’re both gorgeous guys and they have amazing bodies, so it’s not that difficult to do that.
Barnow: I co-wrote the episode where Eric and Sookie have their first kiss that’s not a dream in season 3, so that was exciting. But there’s kinda nothing more delicious than being in a fire-burning, candlelit bedroom with Eric Northman and Jason Stackhouse and watching what unfolds. It was as fun as it could have been, and I may or may not have said to the boys, “If my career ended tonight, I’d be fine.” [Laughs] I think they looked at me like I really, really needed to just stop talking. But it was a good time.
Deutch: Did she tell you this story? I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but I don’t care. All the girls have major understandable crushes on Alex. We were doing the scene, and at a certain point, Kate came up to Alex to tell him about a line change, and as she was telling him, he started to play the part with her, and he looked in her eyes and connected with her, and she started to swoon. I had to catch her. It was hilarious. I’m not making it up. It’s true.
• Barnow encourages us all to revel in this scene because it’s the only Jason-Eric sex dream we’ll get.
• She hopes they make a gag reel of Jason’s reaction when he wakes up in the church. “The 20 or so ways that Ryan falls onto the pew are some of the best physical comedy I’ve ever seen in my life,” Barnow says.
• The first thing dream Eric says in the scene to Jason—”You found me”—is what real Eric says at the end of the episode to Pam, when she finds him, sick with Hep-V, in France’s Rhone Valley. “You will get some sense of why that is such a scandalous place for him to be holing up in episode 3,” Barnow says.
• Remember that Jason told Eric that a real island doesn’t need so much space to think. “It actually speaks to more of what Jason’s emotional journey is gonna be for the season,” Barnow says. “Potentially what he says in that dream has something to do with what he’s gonna want later.”
• Kwanten believes Jason does care about Violet. “I think there’s feelings there, fascination there, a fondness there, and also a really bizarre level of intrigue, too,” he says. “This is a woman with enormous history behind her, so he can’t help but be entertained, for lack of a better word.”
• We will get to see Jason in Rambo mode again. “Oh yeah,” Kwanten says, with a laugh. “He has a couple of bouts. You won’t be disappointed.”
• Well, unless you’re hoping to see Kwanten in that True Blood musical that’s in development, should it ever make it to the stage. “You don’t want to hear me sing,” he promises. But as for what he’d expect Jason to belt: “Something he could fist-pump to, a return to ’90s rock anthems,” he says.
• Tara’s return in Lettie Mae’s V-fueled hallucination was not for the faint of heart. Rutina Wesley spoke in tongues, perched on a cross off the ground, with a live snake. “She spent many, many hours with that snake around her,” Barnow says, “and that snake was being wrangled, but that snake also loved her and would go anywhere on her body. So she would be in the middle of a take, and it would somehow crawl up and be between her legs and she’d be like, ‘Okay, it might be time to cut.’ So she was incredible in that scene.”
• When we spoke with Deutch on June 26, he was directing episode 709, the series’ penultimate episode. Will we get anything as juicy as this scene in that hour? “Yes, actually, very, very juicy,” he says. “And I’m not just tryin’ to fan-flame.”