And it begins … HBO’s “True Blood” is off and running. I really expected the third season of this run-away hit to start relatively slow, and then build up. You know, kind of retrace the main character’s steps before moving into the heavy stuff. No way. Season three opened with a bang, and the second episode–regardless of how spell soul shaking it was–is simply bracing you for episodes three and four which looks like it’s no turning back for all the characters because all hell breaks loose.

If you have a distaste for evil, and things that cannot be explained away, this is not your show. But if you like vampire stories, mixed with the tattered underbelly of Southern morals . . . this is your show. Imagine humans and vampires, living and working together, I know I’d never go out at night. Oh, did I mention they added werewolves to the mix?

It seems like America, especially youth, is enthralled by these mythical characters that sprang from legends and myths from times past. Updated and ‘cute-ti-fied,’ these sometime lofty and noble characters are always matched by evil and nasty counterparts, and so is the case with HBO’s “True Blood.”

The reason why I’m such a fan of “True Blood” is because of the richness of all their characters, and they treat Black actor’s right. They are just as messed up, crazy, nasty and sometimes as evil as the White folks. The Black characters have actual love lives, and trials and tribulations they have to overcome too. And that works for me, because they are fully integrated into the entire storyline.

“True Blood’s” lead characters are Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer). Sookie is a mind-reading waitress who works in a dive run by Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell), who happens to be a ‘shape-shifter.’ When Bill, a 183-year-old vampire walks into her life, Sookie is hooked and the story progresses from there.

Rutina Wesley (“How She Move”) stars as Sookie’s best friend Tara Thornton. This child has serious issues–from an abusive mother who claims to have turned her life over to God to a boyfriend from last season, who was a serial killer, but-he-didn’t-know it-because-he-was-under-the-spell-of-a-really-evil-woman.

Anyway, the season opens with her being bitter and suicidal because he’s shot and killed, which is a whole ‘nother story, but she believes he was the only person who really loved her. And it appears girlfriend is going to spiral down even further, because it looks like she’s going to get hooked up with a vampire … a foreign vampire at that.

Thus far Tara’s saving grace has been her cousin Lafayette Reynolds, played by Nelsan Ellis.

Lafayette works as a short order cook at Merlotte’s where Tara sometimes tends bar. He’s gay and proud of it, but don’t let his flamboyant attire fool you, he’s not one to mess with. The only thing sharper than his tongue when he cuts you down to size, is his prowess as a fighter. When he’s not slamming burgers, he selling ‘V;’ vampire blood that appears to be better than drugs for humans.
This is a nasty, dangerous business and Lafayette has been at death’s door more than once.

Vampires take offense with humans who want to drink their blood … imagine that. But for now he’s desperately trying to save his cousin’s life. He doesn’t want her to go off the deep end so, he takes her to see his mother who is in a mental hospital, and for good reason. Alfre Woodard plays the role of his mother, a racist, pull-no-punches, straight-taker who is not pleased with her son’s gay lifestyle. Lafayette takes her insults in stride all in an effort to help Tara. Hopefully, Woodard will reprise her role in future episodes.

Both Nelsan Ellis and Rutina Wesley are relative newcomers to Hollywood. Wesley, a native of Las Vegas, Nev. is a classically trained actress. She made her film debut in the 2007 film “How She Move” playing the lead role of an ambitious dancer on an all-male crew. The Julliard graduate also appeared in Will Smith’s “Hitch.”

Nelsan, born in Chicago but raised in Bessemer, Ala., returned to Chicago at 14 and began to flourish as a singer, dancer, performer and playwright at a young age. His training and experience fueled his passion for the arts. He appeared in “The Soloist” opposite Jamie Foxx and in Universal’s picture “The Express.”

HBO’s “True Blood” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. and you can catch past episodes or season 2 go to www.hbo.com.

Gail can be reached at gail@hollywoodbychoice.com.