<i>True Blood</i> True Blood

Blame it on being nearly killed by whackjob Maryann or having Bill's vamp blood in his system. Why else would True Blood bartender Sam Merlotte set out in search of his dangerous, shape-shifting relatives, the Mickens, in the HBO drama's June 13 premiere? I got to spend an evening with Sam Trammell (Sam), Marshall Allman (who plays his kid bro Tommy) and J. Smith-Cameron (Sam's trashy mama Melinda) in the Mickens' trailer. 

Here's Sam's never-before-revealed backstory: Daddy Joe Lee was in prison doing hard time when mama learned she was preggers with Sam. "So I gave him up for adoption to an affluent family," says J., a college chum of creator Alan Ball. 

These new bizarros finally provide Sam an opportunity to shine in a series that has become eclipsed by high-profile blood-suckers. Likening his clan to "the scab under the Band-Aid," Sam says his character "just wants to see what they're like and how bad they are" before returning to Bon Temps. "But he doesn't expect them to bleed back into his life, which is when the problems start." 

Near the end of the season, expect disturbing flashbacks to some bad, bad things Sam did after being abandoned by his adoptive parents. "You'll see a different side of him," teases Sam. "A dark side." And wait until Episode 6, when the twisted way Joe Lee pimped out his wife and son is revealed.  But while Sam has been steady with actress Missy Yager for six years, his character won't be getting much action after losing waitress lovers Dawn and Daphne. Of course that could change when Sam hires Holly (Lauren Bowles), another new waitress, near season's end. But, Sam reminds us, "Being a waitress at Merlotte's is typically a very dangerous position."

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