HBO's True Blood is riding the modern day vampire wave, showing off fan favorites like a cross-dressing short-order cook and a smoldering blond vampire with tin foil in his hair. But the lack of capes hanging in the wardrobe closets hasn't stopped the show's avid devotees from sinking their teeth into the fanatical world of dressing up in costume and role-playing.
No one's more surprised than the show's stars.
"It's been a little bonkers!" Michelle Forbes, who plays a sexy "Maenad" creature named Maryann Forrester, told ABCNews.com. "I was a part of Battlestar Gallactica, so I'm used to that world. But I didn't expect it with True Blood. I thought it was a show about a sleepy little town in Louisiana."
That fictional "sleepy little town" is Bon Temps, home to a cluster of vampires who are fairly newly "out of the coffin."
The plot follows Anna Paquin's Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic waitress who falls in love with vampire Bill Compton, played by her real life fiance Stephen Moyer.
"True Blood," which is in its second season on Sunday nights, is violent and heavy with graphic sex scenes, the latest installment of our strange obsession with blood-sucking, murderous vampires.
"People love the show," Mehcad Brooks, who joined the cast in the season one finale as Eggs Benedict Talley, told ABCNews.com. "Dirty, sexy vampire sex in a puddle of blood. Who knew?"
"True Blood" fans have attached themselves as much to the non-vampire-playing stars as the fanged ones; two of the three characters most often replicated in costumes aren't even vampires.
Female fans don cutesy blond wigs and tiny waitress outfits to look like Sookie, often on the arm of a hunky, fanged Bill. The breakout fan favorite is Nelsan Elli's Lafayette, a flamboyant cook with a penchant for do-rags and lipstick.
"When I meet fans who say, 'I've dressed up as you,' I am taken aback, really," Ellis told ABCNews.com. "It's flattering though. The costume designer is very creative. She digs around in some special places. It's not easy to replicate."
Like Ellis, Brooks hasn't escaped the vampire obsession despite playing a human, always to his surprise.
"Women ask me to bite them," he said. "I say I'm not even a vampire, and they ask me to bite them anyway!"
Vampire fans haven't really been able to get a weekly fix since "Angel, the "Buffy: the Vampire Slayer" spinoff, went off the air in 2004. In the meantime, they've had plenty to feed on, Twilight mania for one. When the actors aren't vampire fans to begin with, it can be hard to understand why a character so frightening can have such appeal.
"People say to me, 'You're not even a vampire? So not cool,'" Brooks said. "They seem disappointed that I'm not a parasite."
But all of the actors agreed that that connection to the characters is what makes working on a show like True Blood so special.
"People are scared by me now!" Forbes said. "I've had waiters tell me, 'Oh my god, I love the show, but you really terrify me. You're not going to do anything to me, right?' But having an emotional impact is a wonderful thing."
For actors like Ellis, who are experiencing fame for the first time, meeting their most diehard fans can be a little unsettling.
"Yesterday, I met a fan who knew a whole lot about me," he said. "She kept saying, 'I know this, I know this, I know this.' It freaked me out a little bit, and then she said, so sweetly, 'I'm not a stalker. I just love you.' How can you not appreciate that? We depend on our fan base for the longevity of our careers. I was almost like, here's my social security number, too!"
Still, being followed around is taking some getting used to.
"It's completely new to Rutina [Wesley, co-star] and me, so we talk about it," Ellis said. "We're always like, 'Yeah, it's kind of interesting that that person just followed me to my car.' Sometimes, it's shaken me. I had a very ordinary life before True Blood. I was with my grandmother recently. She wanted to know why all of these strange people were walking up to me at the grocery store."