EXCLUSIVE: Michael McMillian On 'True Blood' Comics, TV Crossovers, And Steve Newlin's Return

Michael McMillianEarlier this month, we brought you the news that "True Blood" actor Michael McMillian will be teaming up with veteran comics writer Marc Andreyko to script the next arc of IDW Publishing's "True Blood" comic book series.

McMillian and Andreyko's "True Blood" arc will explore what happens when new vampire Jessica Hamby is turned feral by a contaminated bottle of synthetic blood substitute Tru Blood. Along with aeries regulars Sookie Stackhouse and Bill Compton, the arc will also feature the comic book debut of fan-favorite "True Blood" characters such as Hoyt Fortenberry, Terry Bellefleur, Arlene Fowler, and McMillian's own character, anti-vampire crusader Steve Newlin.

I caught up with McMillian recently to get a few more details about his "True Blood" arc, how it will connect with the wildly popular HBO television series, and what could be in store for fan-favorite character Steve Newlin in both the comics and television worlds. We also got an update on his other comics project: the four-issue "Lucid" series that marked his comics debut and will see its third issue hit shelves soon.

MTV NEWS: First off, congratulations on the new gig. It must be a crazy feeling to suddenly find yourself writing scenes for your own character on "True Blood"...

MICHAEL MCMILLIAN: Yeah, it's interesting that it worked out that way. I'm sort of killing two birds with one stone here, getting to write for "True Blood" and being able to put myself in a comic at the same time. I think Steve makes a cameo as early as page three in issue #1, so I got him in there as quickly as I could. [Laughs]

MTV: So when it comes to the comic book series, how much input are you getting from the television team? Are they involved in the comic book creative process?

MCMILLIAN: Yeah, Alan [Ball] is overseeing the entire process from his bloody throne. [Laughs] He reads all the scripts, and read the outline that Marc and I turned in. Before that, he was the one who ultimately selected which story we would do from the group of pitches. It's fun because the comic really does feel like an extension of the show, which is terrific. Marc and I have made it our goal to have it feel just like that. We want the audience to pick up the comic and feel like they're getting a little extra show while they wait for Season Four.

MTV: You mentioned wanting the comic to feel like an extension of the show. Where does this story arc fit in the overall "True Blood" continuity? Does it have a specific spot in the series timeline?

MCMILLIAN: It's tough because "True Blood" the TV series has such a tight continuity that it was a challenge for Marc and I to figure out where the story would fit in. Ultimately, we have our thoughts as to where this takes place, but you kind of have to go into it both as writers and audience with this sort of loose sense of continuity. I think fans will be able to figure out where it fits in overall, though.

MTV: The first arc of the comic got around that by having everything take place in a single night at Merlotte's. Are you planning something similar for your arc?

MCMILLIAN: We have to keep it kind of loose, because the show is so unpredictable that we can't build too strong of a foundation of "Well, this takes place immediately after Episode 3 of Season 2" and that sort of thing. Most stories in "True Blood" take place over a short amount of time. I think the entire three seasons of the show have only spanned a month and a half of those characters' lives. So it makes sense that the first volume of "True Blood" and this volume take place in a single night. This story will take place in about a 24-hour period.

MTV: So what about the story itself? Why is this the right story to tell at this point in the series?

MCMILLIAN: I think it's cool because the story centers on Tru Blood itself, the bottled blood. Marc and I went into it interested in finding out what areas of the mythology we could build upon that the show would not go into — which I think is a great role for the comic book. [The comic can deal with] how to expand the mythology laterally while the show drives all the characters and the story arc forward. The comic can kind of act as another format for the mythology to expand within.

We thought it would be cool to do a story about contaminated bottles of Tru Blood and what would happen if an ingredient got into bottled blood that made vampires go feral, go crazy, I think that really piqued Alan's interest and IDW's interest because there hasn't been anything like that in the show yet. What's at the heart of the whole mythology is this bottled blood that allows vampires to coexist with humans, so what happens when you take that element and you screw it up? What happens to vampire-human relations at that point?

Those are always my favorite stories of the show, and obviously playing Rev. Newlin I lean that way, but I love the stuff that comes down to the politics of vampires and humans. We wanted to tell a story that would put vampire-human relations at the forefront, and underneath that, all of our human characters are starting to go, "You know, I think life might have been better before all of this stuff started happening to us. I think things might have been better before vampires came into our lives." There's this sense of lost innocence that Sookie and Tara and Jason, and even the vampire characters like Jessica, are sort of longing for. And that's our starting point for Volume 2.

MTV: I'm sure Rev. Steve would say they're worse off with the vampires, and the same goes for characters like Tara, too... but how about someone like Sookie?

MCMILLIAN: It's interesting, because arguably, some characters really were worse off before vampires came into their lives. At the beginning of the TV series, Sookie never had a relationship. She was a mind-reader who didn't know what she was. She couldn't have a relationship because she couldn't stand hearing men's thoughts. In the first issue, she's sort of examining "Was I better off when I was sort of an outcast and a freak, or has life improved now that I'm constantly in danger?"

True Blood

MTV: So now that you're introducing all these characters form the TV series into the comic, are you getting any requests form the actors? Has anyone called you to say where they think their characters should go?

MCMILLIAN: [Laughs] So far I haven't gotten any requests. I think those guys have enough to think about with the TV show, and trust me not to make their characters look like a-holes in the comic. However, I definitely got some messages from Stephen Moyer and Alex Skarsgaard, who I'm friends with. They were very excited I was working on the book.

For me, this is the closest thing I'll have to writing an episode for the time being, and I say that in the sense that I love these characters and I love these actors. Working on Season Two was such a blast, and if you have an ear for dialogue and have a sense of character, it's impossible to work on that show and not take those characters and their voices with you. That's what's so terrific about having this comic — I get to channel all of that. For example, writing Jason Stackhouse in the comic is one of my favorite things to do, because I can hear Ryan Kwanten so clearly in my head playing that character. At the risk of sounding a little pathetic, it kind of gives me a chance to hang out with those characters and those actors again full-time.

MTV: What about some of the specifics — how long will the arc be? Is there a chance you could be writing more "True Blood" comics after this arc?

MCMILLIAN: This will be six issues, which is great. I'm excited because that's two issues more than I had with "Lucid," so I'm getting to flex my muscles a little more and relax and tell the story at a slightly different pace. Hopefully, if we do a great job and everyone is happy, Marc and I will be back for more. That's something we would love to do. I want to work on the "True Blood" comic for as long as they'll let me.

MTV: You mentioned "Lucid," so where are we at with that series? What's the latest?

MCMILLIAN: Issues 3 and 4 will be out in the next couple of months. I've seen the finished artwork for both issues and it's stunning. I think [artist Anna Wieszczyk] and I, as a writer and artist, we really hit our stride with issue 3. Having just finished up issue 4, I'm feeling really good about where the series ends up. In the spring, we'll have the collection of all four issues, and if it does well, I know Archaia is up for doing more. As a writer, I hope we do — because as readers are getting a sense of already, "Lucid" is designed to expand beyond this first volume. When I approached Volume 1 of "Lucid," I realized I could tell something that only exists in four issues or I could roll the dice a bit and approach this as Season 1 of a TV show. If we get canceled, there will be some pissed-off readers, but if I get a green light for a second season then I can take elements that are in Volume 1 that may not be clear why they're there and build on those for the second volume. I have a big-picture vision for "Lucid" that four issues cannot contain.

MTV: And what about the "True Blood" television series? We saw Steve Newlin make a brief appearance last season, so will we see him again next season?

MCMILLIAN: I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I never know what they're planning over there. I think it's a good sign that Steve was back in Season Three. So far I've been in every season, so I'm holding out hope that I'll be back for at least a minute or two in Season Four. I trust those writers implicitly, so when and if it's time for Steve to come back, they'll do it in a way that's really satisfying for fans of Fellowship Of The Sun. I love playing a character who is sort of a looming threat at the moment. One of the greatest things about playing a villain is people wondering when he's going to make his comeback.

The second volume of the "True Blood" comic book series kicks off February 2011, featuring a story by Michael McMillian and Marc Andreyko, interior art by Joe Corroney, and covers by J. Scott Campbell.

Let us know what you think of the interview in the comment section or on Twitter! You can also follow me, Splash Page editor Rick Marshall, on Twitter!