We really didn’t deserve True Blood. Alan Ball’s adaptation of Charlaine Harris’ The Southern Vampire Mysteries book series was campy, trashy, and surprisingly effective.
We spent seven seasons with Bon Temps and its population of humans, vampires, and myriad other supernatural creatures. The fun part of the show was that every time we thought we knew what lurked beneath the realms of known science, some other strange and magical species or creature popped up. It made audiences giddy with anticipation at the start of every new season and every new storyline.
Unfortunately, not every storyline produced a character worthy of the show’s premise– that’s not to say the writing didn’t fail the characters on occasion, but that’s a different list. True Blood had a pretty big cast of regulars with some turnover, as life in Bon Temps was dangerous. There was also a rotating roster of guest stars as the Louisiana locals made contact with the wider network of supernatural creatures and institutions, along with the humans who got caught up in various movements or rose up in response to the changes in the world around them.
Sometimes added characters enriched the show overall, and sometimes they felt like unnecessary weight that distracted from more interesting people and arcs. On a show with as many labyrinthine and intertwining arcs as True Blood boasted, it’s no surprise that we could make a pretty big list of characters that work — and those that didn’t.
Here are 12 New Character Additions That Hurt True Blood (And 13 That Saved It).
25 SAVED – RUSSELL EDGINTON (DENNIS O’HARE)
The King of Mississippi remains one of our favorite, dearly departed vampires.
Mad as a march hare and just as wily, Russell hated humans so much that he bred a pack of his own werewolves and used them to change the course of human history whenever it suited him. He also made the mistake of offing Eric Northman’s father, thus making himself a lifelong enemy of the Viking vampire.
As dastardly as he was, Edgington’s utter glee during every act of villainy made us strangely enamored of a monster who’d have probably done the same to us if we’d ever dared introduce ourselves.
24 HURT – NIALL (RUTGER HAUER)
Niall is one of the few characters True Blood characters who was far more well-drawn in the books than he was on the show.
In the TV series, he serves the purpose of illuminating much of the Stackhouse and fairy history, but he never materializes into the major player he threatens to be.
Niall’s portrayer, Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner, Ladyhawke), was a great actor wasted on a character that didn’t do much justice to his talents — the first of many.
23 SAVED – JESSICA (DEBRA ANN WOHL)
Jessica arrived later in the first season as Bill’s punishment for destroying Longshadwo at Fangtasia — this was back when Bill was heroic and didn’t just prance around whining after Sookie.
The Magister forced him to sire another vampire to replace the one who was taken. It’s totally inhumane and terrible, but that’s vampires for you. At the end of the day, it turned out to be a good move because Jessica became one of True Blood’s most compelling and enduring characters.
Watching her fall in love with Hoyt only to reject the traditional life he offered and grow into a truly independent woman was the show at its best.
22 HURT – WILLA BURRELL (AMELIA ROSE BLAIRE)
Eric’s second “child” had interesting context, to be sure. She was the daughter of the vampire-hating governor of Louisiana and Eric turned her (with her permission) in order to stick it to the governor.
Her character worked, to a degree, but she way too much attention for being such a late addition to the series.
There wasn’t any real justification for the amount of focus she got at the expense of other, established characters. No matter how compelling her surrounding story was, we still would’ve rather spent time with other people.
21 SAVED – THE MAGISTER (ŽELJKO IVANEK)
Željko Ivanek is an asset to any show he’s on no matter what.
Having him be the first real manifestation of vampire society law enforcement we see on the show was more than effective.
Despite how heroic Bill’s actions in destroying Longshadow might have been, Ivanek’s Magister made it very clear that vampire law might be brutal and ruthless, but it was a system that had been in place for a millennia. It wasn’t about to be cowed by a self-hating vamp.
20 HURT – LORENA (MARIANA KLAVENO)
Lorena was Bill’s maker who committed horrible crimes to ensure that he stayed by her side. She then encouraged him to indulge his basest instincts with her for decades before he finally left in pursuit of his former self.
That was all plenty interesting in flashbacks, but the show attempted to convince us that Bill and Lorena had some kind of viable relationship in the present.
The writers gave Lorena a bloated storyline when she was really just another desperate, angry woman like so many who crossed the show’s path in its seven seasons.
19 SAVED – SARAH NEWLIN (ANNA CAMP)
The Newlins were idiotic, bigoted hypocrites who resembled real-life, human monsters in our world today– and they were remarkably entertaining in that respect. But Sarah Newlin was the real power player in that couple and it was her addition to True Blood we really appreciated.
She was smarter and more diabolical than her husband, but Anna Camp brilliantly hit her wildly emotional notes as well.
Her obsession with Jason was hilarious and her eventual fate was incredibly satisfying. She remains one of True Blood best villains and she’s frighteningly relevant today.
18 HURT – EGGS (MECHAD BROOKS)
Tara deserved a worthy love interest, but Mechad Brooks just didn’t quite pull it off. Eggs never turned into anything beyond a victimized boy who loved Tara, but couldn’t really handle her.
Then, when he perished, it just further complicated Tara’s storyline at a time when we just wished she could’ve taken a break and gone on vacation.
Tara was True Blood‘s queen of pain for so long, and when she finally found happiness with Eggs, we weren’t that invested in it, but we were even less invested in her heartbreak after. This whole storyline was painful.
17 SAVED – AMY BURLEY(LIZZIE CAPLAN)
As much as we hated her, we really, really loved to hate her.
Jason’s crazy girlfriend breathed fresh life into his feckless storyline in Season 1.
Sookie’s brother went from a randy, mopey moron to a lovestruck, morally convicted addict. It wasn’t necessarily an improvement for him, but it was more interesting for us to watch.
Amy’s villainy provided a focal point for a slightly different flavor of vampire prejudice – she othered them just as much as the ignorant Anti-Vamp people, but she cloaked her prejudice in false worship. At the end of the day, vampires were just objects to her – not necessarily to fear, but definitely to use.
16 HURT – QUEEN OF LOUISIANA (EVAN RACHEL WOOD)
It seems strange to put any character played by Evan Rachel Wood on the neg side of a list, but this one just didn’t work as well as we wanted it to. After her introduction in the season 1 finale, we had three months to anticipate what the Queen of Louisiana would bring to True Blood. It turns out that we should’ve managed our expectations.
The Queen of Louisiana became a spoiled, psychotic brat.
Even Evan Rachel Woods’ brilliant technique and perfect look couldn’t make her interesting. Thank goodness for Westworld, right?
15 SAVED – ALCIDE (JOE MANGIANELLO)
Okay, to be fair Alcide didn’t save much. He was very, very sweet, but the entire werewolf storyline was frustrating, labyrinthine and ultimately panned out to a very dissatisfying end. Alcide did put Mangianello on our radars and we will always have a soft spot for him because of that.
For the short time he and Sookie had uncomplicated relationship, he was just what she needed after the roller coaster of her dalliance with Bill.
We owe Alcide a debt of gratitude, because if he hadn’t existed for Joe Mangianello to play, we might not have Magic Mike XXL.
14 HURT – NORA GAINESBOROUGH (LUCY GRIFFITHS)
While the idea of Eric having a sister was intriguing, watching them make out was less so. We’re always interested in learning more about the Northman extended family, but Nora felt a little unnecessary.
She wasn’t amusing like Pam, and when she eventually perished it felt like a plot device to cause Eric pain.
Lucy Griffiths is always great, but this character just didn’t bring much to True Blood that wasn’t already there. She was also adjacent to the Lillith storyline, which was completely eye-roll worthy.
13 HURT – STEVE NEWLIN (MICHAEL MCMILLIAN)
It’s not that Steve Newlin was a bad addition– he just stuck around way too long. The bigoted, closeted Reverend made a fine two-dimensional villain, but we really didn’t need him to return a second time around made into a vampire.
Michael McMillian is a great actor, but whiny Newlin never did put the fear of God into us like his wife did.
He was only good for a laugh here and there, but unfortunately we, along with his wife, were saddled with him for way, way longer than we should’ve been.
12 SAVED – MARNIE/ANTONELLA STONEBROOK (FIONA SHAW)
Marnie and her companion spirit Antonella were the primary villains of Season 4, and while they were both completely corrupted by vengeance and a desire for power, they were also impressive forces of nature.
It’s rare that anyone could get a jump on Pam or Eric Northman, and yet Marnie (with Antonella’s help) erased Eric’s memory and cursed Pam with ugliness.
Marnie’s storyline empowered a lot of angry women, and before she went super dark, that was cool to see in a town like Bon Temps.
11 HURT – DEBBIE PELT (BRIT MORGAN)
It wasn’t so much that Debbie Pelt hurt True Blood as it was that her longevity hurt True Blood. Debbie was an interesting foil for Alcide while she was under the influence of V as well as in Russell’s control, but the two never had any real chemistry.
Brit Morgan deserved better than this crazed character.
The fact that she and Alcide were together for most of season 4 only for her to be driven mad by her jealousy of Sookie was a played-out, boring arc that was as predictable as it was painful to watch.
10 SAVED – NAN FLANAGAN (JESSICA TUCK)
Nan was the quintessential political operative for the Vampire Authority – pleasant and unflappable on camera, but biting someone’s neck in the back of a limo while cursing someone out on the phone the minute she got behind closed doors.
Her common sense, no BS attitude was a welcome shift from Bill’s overly romantic sad sack act and Eric’s steamy, bad boy vibe.
She might have looked like a Buffy villain, but she was by far the most normal vamp of the bunch.
9 HURT – RUBY JEAN (ALFRE WOODARD)
Alfre Woodard’s talent is undeniable, but her addition as Lafayette’s estranged mother was more distracting than it was satisfying.
We barely saw Ruby Jean, so it was frustrating to have her so close by and only appear a few times.
Woodward was wonderful as the mad Ruby Jean who occasionally saw severed heads on her dresser. It wasn’t that we didn’t like this character, it was just weird and imbalanced that we saw so little of her when she was so dynamic.
8 SAVED – ADILYN BELLEFLEUR (BAILEY NOBLE)
Andy’s only daughter to survive to adulthood made for a fascinating conflict between Sheriff Andy, Bill, and Jessica.
After sneaking out of the house to look for alcohol, Adilyn and her sisters wound up at a party at Bill’s house, invited by Jessica. Unfortunately, none of the young women were aware of how irresistible fae blood was to vampires, and Jessica wound up eating three of Adilyn’s sisters before Adilyn could escape.
It was a move that would have implications for the rest of the season and was a genuinely interesting arc.
7 HURT – LUNA (JANINA GAVANKAR)
It was nice that Sam found a girl who loved him back for once and getting to see him as a father was pretty lovely, too.
Luna often felt like a variation on Alcide – she was just sweet and honorable.
Luna was the first person with whom Sam could have anything resembling a healthy relationship, but she didn’t stand on her own. She just didn’t bring anything original to the show– until she skinwalked as Steve Newlin and lost her life.
6 SAVED – MAURELLA (KRISTINA ANAPAU)
Maurella was the perfect example of a tempting fae woman. She appeared out of nowhere, beguiled an already stupefied Andy Bellefleur, then vanished only to reappear pregnant, give birth, and vanish again– all in the course of a few episodes).
Even though she abandoned Andy with four daughters, putting a strain on his new relationship with Holly, Maurella was difficult to hate. She was useful in her own way due to the immense power afforded her by being 500 years old and she was kind of a whimsical manifestation of a modern fairy.
Plus, she gave Andy his adorable daughters, and we’re grateful that we got to see him as a father.
5 HURT – PATRICK DEVINS (SCOTT FOLEY)
Patrick Devins was a corrupt Marine in Terry’s platoon in Iraq who encouraged Terry to commit horrific acts. When one of those acts caused the creation of a fire jinn called an Ifrit, Devlin brought the news to Terry and eventually tried to sacrifice Terry to appease its call for vengeance. Terry eventually overpowered Devin and sacrificed the man to the Ifrit, but not before Devin took Arlene hostage.
Devin was a run-of-the-mill predictable villain.
The entire storyline was interesting, but less because Devin and more because of the Ifrit storyline itself.
4 SAVED – EDDIE FOURNIER (STEPHEN ROOT)
Oh, Eddie – our hearts still ache for you. You were too good for this world. Stephen Root brought Eddie to life as a beautiful example of how not all vampires were cool lotharios who could beguile anyone or thing they wanted.
Eddie’s family abandoned him and he was so lonely he gave blood to Lafayette just for the company.
When Amy finally exterminated him, his absence stung more than many subsequent fates of series regulars in the show’s seven year run.
3 SAVED – MISS JEANETTE (AISHA HINDS)
One of the best parts of True Blood was the fact that vampires were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to the supernatural creatures running around rural Louisiana and the rest of the world. There were shapeshifters, werewolves, fae, maenads, witches – all sorts of good stuff. Miss Jeanette was none of those, and that’s kinda what made her pure gold.
In the middle of a world of supernatural creatures and actual magic, she tricked people into thinking she was the real thing.
Also, it was so, so funny when Tara discovered her working in a pharmacy wearing the world’s worst wig. She was a walking, talking case for the placebo effect.
2 HURT – CRYSTAL NORRIS (LINDSAY PULSIPHER)
Did Jason Stackhouse know how to pick’ em, or what? Crystal Norris was another in a long line of horrible girlfriends Jason brought home to mess up his life– and everyone else’s.
Crystal was a werepanther, and of course she and her pack came with a whole lot of baggage. She eventually winds up violating Jason in a number of crazy ways after experiencing prolonged V usage and Jason finally has to ban her from his life permanently.
It wasn’t that some of her storyline wasn’t compelling– we just couldn’t figure out what purpose her character served other than to punish Jason once more for having poor judgement when it came to women.
1 SAVED – MARYANN (MICHELLE FORBES)
The minute Maryanne showed up it was clear she was way too good to be true. No one’s that nice on HBO without being the head of a cult or something much, much worse. Maryanne turned out to be both.
She was a maenad who clung to existence and gained her power through the sheer force of will. Okay, so the explanation behind her abilities never made the most sense, but the levels of depravity and insanity she brought out in people didn’t require a plausible foundation.
It was enough to watch Tara eat someone’s heart and get a glimpse of how far this show was willing to go.
Who was your favorite new character on True Blood? Let us know in the comments!