Benedict Cumberbatch & Jessica Chastain Just Missed Out On Starring Roles In ‘True Blood’

Benedict Cumberbatch standing in front of a blue wall
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The 2008 dark fantasy True Blood almost looked very different than the show we knew. Instead of Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer, imagine Benedict Cumberbatch and Jessica Chastain in the roles of Bill and Sookie, with Jennifer Lawrence in the part as Jason’s love interest. It almost happened, according to a story from E!, which revealed that the actors were up for the parts, but narrowly missed nabbing the roles.

True Blood creator Alan Ball spilled the tea on the show while attending a 10th anniversary showing of the premiere episode. During the casting of the show, which centers on telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse, he said that both Cumberbatch and Chastain tried out.

“I read Benedict Cumberbatch. He came and read for Bill…. Jessica Chastain read for Sookie. Jennifer Lawrence read for, in season 3 there’s this werepanther girl, and she was great,” Ball said.

They opted to pass on Lawrence because she was only 17 at the time and thought the sex scenes with Ryan Kwanten’s Jason Stackhouse would have been too “gross” for the show because of her age. Ball didn’t dish on why the show passed on Cumberbatch and Chastain. He did, however, explain the process of choosing Paquin for the role.

“Anna wanted this role so bad. Poor thing, she read like five times and I was like oh, do we buy her as Southern? Do we buy her as Sookie Stackhouse?” he said.

Ball also spoke about Nelsan Ellis, who played Lafayette Reynolds so well in the show that they decided not to kill the character off early like he was in the books. Ellis died last year after complications due to alcohol abuse.

“He was so amazingly talented. I’m usually not a fan of actors ad-libbing, because usually, it’s not particularly better than the dialogue, it’s just different. But he mostly ad-libbed [his introduction] scene…. His character dies in the second book of the series and I was like, ‘No we cannot kill this guy, he’s too great.'”

HBO's "True Blood" Panel at ComicCon with Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer
  Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Of course, no tell-all would be complete without discussing the chemistry between real-life couple Moyer and Paquin, who have now been married for eight years.

“They’re falling in love [in their first scene together] because they hooked up on the second episode. The producer called me from the second episode and was like, ‘I think you should know that Stephen and Anna are hooking up.’… It was never an issue, they were total pros, and now they have two kids together…. They thought they were keeping it secret from everybody. The whole first season everybody knew.”

The story is currently being turned into a musical by composer Nathan Barr. According to Ball, the musical version will be more of a tragedy than the show, focusing on vampires “coming out of the closet” only to be rejected and forced to return to hiding.