"True Blood" star Ryan Kwanten says he's the "go to guy" when a production calls for working with panthers though he has a healthy fear of them.
Real panthers were used in the HBO series, and Kwanten said Thursday he was supposed to work with a panther in his new Australian Western "Red Hill" until he learned the feline turned on its owner in a deadly attack.
Instead, Kwanten acted while writer/director Patrick Hughes pretended to be the feline off camera. Kwanten joked that it was his "finest bit of acting to keep a straight face and try to stay in it while my director was licking his paws and carrying on." Another panther was filmed for scenes added in later.
Kwanten, who plays Jason Stackhouse in "True Blood," said the hairs on his back stand up when panthers are on the set, but the animals are always chained.
"You're definitely on your toes" when working with the big cats, he said.
He likens a panther growl to a cat's purr amplified a thousand times. It evokes a "primeval kind of feeling," he said.
The HBO series features the animals as were-panthers, a panther-werewolf hybrid.
"Red Hill" debuts in theaters Nov. 5.