'True Blood' Showrunner on Shocking Finale Reactions: 'The Anger Is Surprising' (Q&A)

Brian Buckner talks to THR about his shock at fans' reactions to Eric Northman's near-death in the season six finale.

Season six of True Blood wrapped up on Sunday with a finale packed with surprises, from the death of Warlow to the sun-frying of a very naked Eric Northman. Then, halfway through the episode, there was a six-month time jump which saw a lot of changes in Bon Temps, including the threat of Hep V-infected mutant vampires and a new relationship between Sookie and Alcide.

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The dramatic finale left fans with many questions, but the most pressing is the fate of Alexander Skarsgard's much-beloved character, Eric Northman.

The Hollywood Reporter spoke with executive producer Brian Buckner about Eric Northman's fate, his surprise at fans' anger and how long he sees the show staying on HBO.

THR: Let's just start with the most obvious. Is Alexander Skarsgard coming back as Eric Northman?

Brian Buckner: The character of Eric will be back as a regular on our show, but I'm not promising how we're going to use him. But I also don't want to incite more controversy. Here's what I would like to say: Eric Northman will be back in your living rooms next summer.

THR: I assume you knew you were going to shock and piss off a lot of people with that surprising scene?

Buckner: Well, yeah, but truthfully, here's the thing -- the idea that the audience needs to and deserves to know that everything's going to be OK sort of runs counter to what I think our job is. So, yeah, of course Skarsgard and I sat down and said, "We're doing this story for behind-the-scenes reasons," but we knew it was going to be fun. The anger is surprising. But I understand he's beloved, and he understands he's beloved and he's going to be a part of this show going forward. We should be allowed to put characters in jeopardy -- and people can hope we didn't just do that -- without death threats.

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THR: We got some pretty passionate comments on our website about those choices.

Buckner: I'm happy people still care. I didn't want to upset people or ruin their fall, winter and spring. But I stand by it -- I think it's good storytelling. I understand that it made the rest of the episode hard to go down for people. I get it. I guess I can't be surprised -- it's the level that surprised me.

THR: Speaking of surprises, on top of all that other stuff, there was the full-frontal nudity. Tell me about your discussions with Alexander Skarsgard when it came to that.

Buckner: First of all, he's Swedish. He doesn't feel about this the way we all do. When we usually shoot scenes with that level of nudity, the men are wearing socks. Alex is not fond of the socks. So I wasn't entirely sure whether he was comfortable with it. When we were going to lock picture on the cut, I sent him an email. He was already off in real Sweden somewhere, and I said, "Are you comfortable with this?" and he said, "No problemo!" That was the level of the talk. That thing about Eric Northman, the too-cool-for-school, it comes from Alex. He is really a cool cucumber.

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THR: Let's talk about the time jump. How did that idea come about?

Buckner: The real question was: Are we going to do it at the top of the next season or within the body of the finale this season? We sort of went back to the template of "let's set the table for next season." It's not something that's unfamiliar to us. We've done smaller time jumps. On a show that so seldom skips things, I find it truthfully refreshing to be able to reset and not let the audience see every micro-move. Some people feel cheated. They won't next year. I think people are like, "I wanted to see their first sex," but Sookie and Alcide are very attractive and their fifteenth sex is pretty good too.

THR: At Comic-Con you were speaking about simplifying the number of storylines. Is that still the plan?

Buckner: It was my absolute goal and objective to narrow the number of separate stories we're telling. That's why we're doing for every human, a vampire, for every vampire a human, because now we get to focus on the characters and the relationships. The original promise of the show was, if vampires exist, what do the relationships between humans and vampires look like? And that was Sookie and Bill. And now we have this whole town of characters we're invested in, and we get to look at what those pairings will do to the relationships people are already in. All of it is about trying to get back to the more entangled romances and soapy-ness that the first season had.

THR: This show has had six great seasons, and you'll start on the seventh soon. How long do you see this show running?

Buckner: I think we have one or two more great years. It's going to be an HBO call. I don't have the answer yet. I'm requesting it. I want to know if I'm breaking the final season or not. I do hope to get that answer. The show is viable as long as the audience still cares. They might be mad right now, but they care.

E-mail: Rebecca.Ford@thr.com
Twitter: @Beccamford