The “True Blood” Season 7 premiere, “Jesus Gonna Be Here,” introduced a whole new threat upon Bon Temps … as well as a new character playing a familiar role. Viewers may have been shocked or confused to see a different actor portraying James – Jessica’s vampire love interest whom she met while at Governor Burrell’s vamp camp in Season 6. But who is the new guy? And why did the HBO series replace Luke Grimes with Nathan Parsons? We’ve got answers:
Luke Grimes was the first actor to play James, winning Truebies over with his good looks and charm in Season 6. The character developed a relationship with Jessica while at the vamp camp, refusing to have sex with her in front of the scientists and even saving Steve Newlin from drinking Hep-V-infected Tru Blood. James was one of the lucky vamps freed by Billith when the vampire god arrived with his magical Warlow blood, and was last seen singing in a band at the Bellefleur’s human-vampire mixer.
Season 7 picked up with a horde of Hep-V vamps attacking the mixer … but when James flashed across the screen he wasn’t being portrayed by Luke Grimes anymore. Instead, “The Originals” and “Bunheads” star Nathan Parsons was featured in episode 1.
While the recasting was definitely a surprise on-screen, news of the switch-up actually broke in late December. TV Line was the first to report that Grimes decided to drop out of the popular series. At the time HBO told the site that, “the role of James is being recast due to the creative direction of the character.” And while the actor’s rep decided to stay mum on the subject, a source close to Grimes told the site he didn’t like what was in store for James in Season 7.
“He initially joined the show because he wanted to work with [his ‘Forever’ co-star] Deborah Ann Woll,” the insider revealed. “But when he started reading the scripts for Season 7, he was disappointed to learn that they were going in a completely different direction with James.”
HBO announced in mid-January that Parsons would be taking over the role of James, who would get entangled in a “surprising love triangle” come Season 7. Parsons made his on-screen debut in the final season premiere on Sunday … which hinted at James’ new love interest.
“True Blood” viewers will remember that the premiere found Bill pairing James up with Lafayette. The vampire escorted Lala back to the safety of his home and opened up a little bit about his life as a human. James revealed that he had been a draft dodger during the Vietnam War. When he found out that his secret boyfriend/ neighbor died during the war, he went to the house to offer his condolences. Unfortunately his lover’s father didn’t want his condolences. Instead, his boyfriend’s dad brutally beat him with a bat in the middle of the street and left him to die. It was only because a local vampire took pity on him that James was turned and gifted with eternal life.
While James is romantically linked to Jessica on the show, his coming out to Lafayette and tender demeanor towards him hinted that the pair could potentially develop a relationship in the final episodes of the season.
Since the big news that James is gay, Grimes’ departure from the show has become a hot topic. Buzzfeed reportedly spoke to a source close to “True Blood” that confirmed the reason the actor left was that he felt uncomfortable playing a gay character. The source revealed to the site that Grimes did not approve of the first few scripts and did not want any same-sex kissing or sex scenes. He reportedly said that he’d be comfortable if Lafayette were attracted to James, but “not if the attraction was mutual.”
Luke Grimes’ publicist, Craig Schneider, told Buzzfeed that the recasting of the role “had nothing to do with the storylines,” and that Grimes had not had access to that information at the time that TV Line broke the story.
“Luke always had an out clause as a means of pursuing other opportunities which arose in the form of features beginning with ‘The Shangri-La Suite,’ followed by ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ and most recently, Clint Eastwood’s ‘American Sniper’ with Bradley Cooper,” Schneider wrote in an email to Buzzfeed.
Meanwhile, HBO is standing by the original statement that Luke Grimes left the show due to the creative direction of the character.