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'True Blood's' Nathan Parsons on Sex Scene: A 'Difficult Line to Walk' (Q&A)

The actor says James' storyline with Lafayette is "a story that’s being told all over the place, and TV doesn't pay enough attention."

True Blood Season 7 Still Nelsan Ellis Nathan Parsons - H 2014
John P. Johnson/HBO
"True Blood"

[WARNING: Spoilers from Sunday's episode of True Blood, "Lost Cause."]

The tension between Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) and James (Nathan Parsons) reached another level in Sunday’s True Blood.

The pair's connection was hinted at in previous episodes, with James admitting to "groovin' on" Lafayette in last Sunday's hour. When Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) gives James the cold shoulder yet again at Bon Temps' "celebration of life," he goes to a sympathetic Lafayette and the pair end up having sex. Jessica walks in on them and breaks up with James.

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Parsons tells The Hollywood Reporter it’s the last viewers will see of the James-Jessica romance. "The line is drawn after this episode. Now we'll start to see more of Lafayette and l together, and Jessica has another thing she’s going to start dealing with," he says.

The actor points out that this intimate a male homosexual relationship has been rare on True Blood and that Lafayette's scenes with Jesús (Kevin Alejandro) in previous seasons were less physical. He tells THR it was a new acting challenge for him, but that working with Ellis this season made it more natural. "It helped immensely to know him and to trust him and trust each other that we're going to do this right," he says. 

He talks with THR about the sex scene, filming with Ellis and his Jim Morrison influences.

What attracts James and Lafayette to each other?

I think they're kind of of similar minds. James is a flower child himself. He's a hippie, he's free love. The trick with James is, though he's a pacifist, he's still a vampire, which is not a peaceful thing to be. This inner conflict that he always has is externalized with Jessica, when she's getting upset with him. He's just trying to be the right person for Jess, and she keeps blowing him off. Lafayette's the only one who has the interest and takes the time to say, "What's wrong, what's going on with you?" There’s a mutual connection where they both just want to have fun and be easy, love each other, take care of each other.

James became a vampire because of intolerance to homosexuality in the 1970s. Will he face it again in present-day Bon Temps?

Because the town is already going through so much because of this vampire apocalypse, basically, no matter what your preference is, if you look out for and care about each other, they're going to overlook it. There's a lot more that could have been discovered and gone over with that -- there's just way too much that needs to happen. There is still some other trouble that arises, but that's not till later episodes. It's nothing related specifically to sexuality and to gender. It has much more to do with the overarching problems that vampires cause.

You've filmed almost exclusively with Nelsan this season. What is it like working with him?

He's fantastic. The very first episode, the scene between the two of us was my first day ever on the set, and so right off the bat I knew working with him was awesome. He's brilliant, just the way that he plays around with the scenes, with the words -- he's so free when he’s in that character. What he just naturally brings to the character is so free, it allows you permission to do that yourself. It forces you as an actor to be completely present and responsive. You're not sure if he’s going to start dancing, or what.

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This episode is a turning point in Lafayette and James' relationship. What was most difficult about shooting those scenes?

We just had to be really careful about how we went about it. We didn't want it to be uncomfortable to watch or over the top. It has to be something that is seemingly organic and loving, instead of just having sex for the sake of having sex. I think that was the difficult line to walk. It comes out of nowhere and we have to do it tastefully, and we all have to be comfortable with what's happening. But Howard [Deutch], the director, was great about it. Nelsan and I just went along for the ride, and I think it turned out really well.

And this story is important and should be told and needs to be shared. It's a story that’s being told all over the place, and TV doesn’t pay enough attention to it. The "Do I love this guy or love this girl?" and "Is this right or is this wrong?" becomes more important than the act itself, and that I think was really well done by the writer [Craig Chester] and Howard and Nelsan and myself.

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How did you approach shooting their sex scene?

It was a full-night shoot, and we had a bunch of group stuff to do earlier that day. There were 20 actors there and we shot all their stuff, and then for the last four or five hours it was just me and Nelsan. I think once we got over the craziness of organizing the extras, and doing the group shots and the Steadicam work, we were able to focus in on the intimate moments without the distractions. Once you break the ice physically, then it all becomes easier, and you realize it is just two people. There's another 200 people in the crew, of course. But in that moment, it's really just about two people and a shared connection. That right there made the whole thing work out -- that we'll get to the physical stuff, that's a given, but before that and after that, there are little moments of true connection that happen, and they just escalate and escalate.

You replaced Luke Grimes in the role. What did you bring to playing James?

He's a Jim Morrison type, so I started reading Jim Morrison's biography. There were all these little details. He was always really soft-spoken, never raised his voice. Luke did something similar, but they also talked about the way that Jim Morrison would stand sometimes, the way he'd sometimes suck in his cheeks, all his interesting quirks. I thought, "Huh, maybe I can work these in here. Maybe I can play with the idea that Jim Morrison is alive, he just got turned into a vampire."

Email: Austin.Siegemund-Broka@THR.com

Twitter: @Asiegemundbroka