True Blood Stars Preview Sookie-Alcide Sex, the 'Hunt' for Eric and More

True Blood may be getting back to its small-town roots in its final outing — beginning Sunday at 9/8c on HBO — but after speaking with the cast, we’re prepping for the biggest season yet.

TVLine caught up with the stars earlier this week at the Season 7 premiere in Los Angeles for the scoop on what’s to come, including when we can expect to see everyone’s vampire viking — dead or alive.

SOOKIE & ALCIDE: IT’S ON | Now that Sookie and Alcide are officially a couple, will we finally see them do the deed? Joe Manganiello would neither confirm nor deny the occurrence of “coitus non-interruptus” (his words), but he did discuss a racy scene with Anna Paquin in Episode 1 — awkwardly directed by Paquin’s husband Stephen Moyer. “I have to attribute that to his level of professionalism and our friendship,” Manganiello said. “I know him, and we’re friends. If I had to play out that scenario, I was so happy it was with him [as director].” (In summary, there will be skin.)

PAGING ERIC NORTHMAN | With Eric still M.I.A., his progeny is a woman on a mission. “I’m on the hunt for Eric; I would cross oceans for him — and I do,” Kristin Bauer Van Straten revealed. “It’s a huge year in terms of emotions and relationships, which is so fitting because it is the last season.” And during her maker’s absence, Pam will struggle with one all-important question: “Who is Pam without Eric? That’s a huge question for her this year.”

TARA-BLE NEWS | Tara and her manic mama haven’t always seen eye to eye – for so many reasons — but Season 7 will prove to be their most trying yet. “In the first episode, she’s in the middle of working out her issues with her mother… but then the vamps show up,” Rutina Wesley said, hinting that their mother-daughter moment will hit a serious bump.

NEW ALLIANCES | Whereas every season up to this point has had a designated “big bad,” Chris Bauer said that’s not the case this year. “It’s more about the momentum of all the events leading up to now,” he explained. “We now have to deal with the consequences of our actions, and that’s about as scary as anything.” And in the midst of the chaos, Andy will have to trust the very people he’s despised for six seasons — vampires. “He has to trust Jessica and team up with Bill,” Bauer revealed. (Bonus scoop: Andy also has plenty of relationship drama this season.)

REDHEAD REDEMPTION | Seasons may change, but one thing never will: Jessica’s angst. “She hates herself right now,” Deborah Ann Woll explained. “She’s in a lot of pain. She did something really terrible, and it’s going to take a lot to climb out of that hole.” (Editor’s note: She’s referring to killing Andy’s fairy daughters.) “I’d say that’s what she’s working on this season … putting all her energy into making it right with Andy and the fairy daughter that lived.”

JASON’S GIRL | As the new vamp on the block, Violet “knows what she wants and she goes for it,” Karolina Wydra told us. “A lot happens between [Violet and Jason] this season. She’s there to protect Jason and they are buddies in crime fighting. … She comes from the old world, and it’s not about dwelling or emotions. That will serve her well when the infected vampires come to town. There’s a war to be had.”

A NEW FANG-BANGER | Arlene’s got a new man in her life — and he’s a biter. “He’s just sexually attracted to Arlene at first, then he falls in love,” Riley Smith told us of his character, Keith. “She has a line where she says, ‘I’m not a fang-banger. I’m not going to go there.’ And I have to woo her into it.” And woo he does! “I had to get nude,” Smith admitted. “It was a 16-hour day for one sex scene on a pool table, but by hour three, Carrie and I were so comfortable and normal with it.”

True Blood - S07E01 REVIEW

After last year's season finale, you might've thought True Blood's writers were high on V. Sam (Sam Trammell) is the mayor now? Sookie (Anna Paquin) and Alcide (Joe Manganiello) are together? Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) might be dead? But when Sam announced Bon Temps' new credo — a human for every vampire, and a vampire for every human — he refocused this messy, sprawling story on what really matters to fans. No more Lilith. No more wolf pack. No more Rutger Hauer holograms. Just the fanged ones we love and the mortals they snack on.

That was the plan, anyway. At the start of the seventh and final season, you'd be forgiven for thinking there are zombies out there, too. The opening scene makes True Blood look a little too much like The Walking Dead: Hep-V-infected vampires are pulling bodies out of cars, feasting on flesh, and kidnapping people from Bellefleur's. Luckily, they're also killing superfluous plotlines. A major player is dead before the opening credits even roll.

But there are still too many characters to keep track of, and their numbers are only growing. Humans we've never seen before are planning an armed revolt against the vampires. H-vamps are holding people captive in the basement of Fangtasia. Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) is hanging out in Morocco, playing Russian roulette with the locals. Sookie even discovers a whole other town that's been ransacked by the H-vamps. Plus, Jessica's (Deborah Ann Woll) boyfriend, James, isn't himself: Nathan Parsons has replaced the original actor, Luke Grimes. Just when True Blood needs a close-up on familiar faces, its world won't stop expanding.

Speaking of familiar faces — you've always kept your eyes on his face, even when he was naked in that deck chair, right? — Eric is back. Sort of. When he first appears, he's letting Jason (Ryan Kwanten) unbuckle his belt, with enough candles flickering in the background to light a cake for his 1,087th birthday. But as it turns out, this is all just Jason's dream. More silly than sexy, the scene glows as if someone had set True Blood's Instagram filter to "Valtrex commercial." We've seen this kind of cheap fake-out before, like when Jason's romance with Warlow was later revealed to be just a fantasy. They can't fool us again.

Is all of this enough to abandon True Blood before its grand finale? Not quite. There's a clever twist involving Eric that could set up an exciting arc for Sookie. Whether he is dead-dead or just undead — we won't spoil that here — he will definitely spark some suspense this season. Even if Sookie ends up with Bill (Stephen Moyer), there's enough of Sweden's favorite sunbather to satisfy. A human for every vampire? Then I'll take Eric, please. B-

TVLine + EW