Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) is a main character in the hit HBO vampire series, "True Blood." Sam is the owner of a local bar in Bon Temps, Louisiana, where the heroine of the series, Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), works as a waitress. Sam is a shapeshifter, meaning he is able to turn into any animal he sees. However, he keeps this a secret from most of the residents of Bon Temps. His most familiar incarnation is as a collie. In general, Sam is portrayed as a sensitive and moral protagonist, always striving to do the "right" thing and in turn gets in trouble for it.
In Season 1, viewers are slowly introduced to Sam's character through flashbacks that explain his past. It is revealed that he has a long-time secret love for Sookie, but she only sees him as a friend. He has a brief affair with a bartender at the bar and Sookie's best friend, Tara Thornton (Rutina Wesley).
In Season 2, with the appearance of a maenad named Maryann Forrester (Michelle Forbes), the audience learns that Sam was abandoned by his adopted family because they found out he was a shapeshifter. He shows up on Maryann's steps as a young teen and has a brief affair with her before stealing a significant amount of money and running away. Maryann shows up in Bon Temps years later, as she wants to capture him and sacrifice him to the god Dionysis as an offering. Sam is tricked into having a love affair with a shapeshifter named Daphne (Ashley Jones), who becomes a new Merlotte's waitress. It is revealed later that Daphne was secretly working for Maryann. At the end of Season 2, Sam plays a crucial role in defeating Maryann by turning into a bull and tricking her into believing he is Dionysis. At the climax of the scene, Sam stabs Maryann's heart with one of his horns and disappears into the night.
As the series progressed, viewers are told more about Sam's history and his current personality begins to make sense. His role on the series is to act as a voice for the viewers, as he constantly questions Sookie's actions, and the actions of other characters. The audience cares about him because at first although he seems mysterious and somewhat dark, he is actually revealed as a gentle man. Viewers also note that his character has surprisingly become a sex symbol even though the series doesn't explicitly focus on his sex appeal. Sam appears partially nude frequently throughout the series since when he shifts back into human form from animal form, he is not wearing any clothes.
[To Sookie about being a vampire and drinking synthetic blood] "You willing to pass up all your favorite foods and spend the rest of your life drinking slim-fast?"
"No! But next time you think somebody's being harmed in the parking lot, pick up the phone and call the police. Do not go out there alone like a goddamn vigilante!"
"I'm not the killer, I swear. I'm a shapeshifter."