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Alan Ball of True Blood: The TV Squad Interview

by Jane Boursaw, posted Sep 11th 2009 2:01PM
Alan Ball, Rutina Wesley, Michelle Forbes, Deborah Ann WollOne of the most talked about shows of the summer is True Blood, HBO's supernatural series about vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, and all those eerie things we find both fascinating and horrifying.

With the season two finale right around the corner -- "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'" airs Sunday at 9 PM ET on HBO -- it's a great time to catch up with series creator Alan Ball (pictured, with Michelle Forbes, Rutina Wesley, and Deborah Ann Woll at the TCA awards in August). Read on for his thoughts on the future of Maryann, a Sookie/Bill pairing, and even a few spoilers on season three.

If you want to look at the full transcript of the wide-ranging interview, click here. The edited version starts after the jump. Oh, and read AOL TV's coverage of the show, as well.

I asked my TV Squad readers what they wanted me to ask you, and one of their main questions involves the books. Some feel the show doesn't follow the books closely enough. Your thoughts on that?

True Blood - Sookie and BillI think a book and a television show are two different mediums. If I were to follow the books, it would be all about Sookie, because Sookie narrates the story, and the other characters would rarely even show up. Jason would come into the bar and hug her in an attempt to make people think he loves his sister so he can pick somebody up. Tara wouldn't even have existed until this season, and she'd be white. Lafayette would be dead.

So all I can say to those people is, it's based on the books, but it's not a literal adaptation of the books. I'm doing what I think is the best way to turn that story into a television show. Also, if I just stuck to the books, there would be no surprises. You could go pick up the books anywhere and know exactly what was coming. So personally, I don't see any benefit of making a carbon copy of the books for TV.

Will Eric be a bigger part of the show in season three? Will he and Sookie get together?

I can't tell you if they're going to get together, because that's going to ruin the anticipation. But, if you've been following season two, he's definitely been doing things to make her more vulnerable and more susceptible to him. And he does want her, he's just not sure why. I think it's deeper than just, "I want her because Bill Compton has her." Although that's part of it, because Eric is a total alpha-dog.

Yeah, that opening scene in "Frenzy" [of Eric and Sookie in bed together] was cool, but it kind of made me feel bad for Bill. I'm as big a fan of Eric as the next girl, but between him and Bill, it would be a tough choice!

They're both vampires, and they're both deadly, so there's that. It's the classic good boy/bad boy. The good boy, he's great, but the bad boy ... you can't stop thinking about him.

True Blood - Eric NorthmanYes, right. And we kind of all want Eric to grow his hair back, too.


Oh yeah.

He wore a wig on season one, and we thought it looked ridiculous. I got a lot of e-mails saying, "Oh, I wish they'd take that wig off of him," so we did. We came up with the haircut just to get that ridiculous wig off of him. I think he looks so much better, and it's certainly loosened him up as an actor. It's like the wig came off, and he blossomed.

I'm always prepared to be shocked and awed every episode, and I am. Can you tell us anything about season three?

Well, the book is out there, so I'm not giving anything away when I say that we'll meet the Vampire King of Mississippi, Russell Edgington. And we'll encounter werewolves for the first time in the flesh; we've heard about them, but we'll meet them. I'm very excited about the character of Debbie Pelt. She's bad news.

Since I haven't read the books, who is that?

Debbie Pelt is the ex-girlfriend of a guy who's helping Sookie try to find Bill, and she is just hard ass, white trash bitch on wheels. She's so much fun. But there are other great characters, too. Everybody is struggling with identity in season three – What am I? Who am I? What is my life? Is it what I want it to be? How do I make it what I want it to be? What are my real values? And some people are like, "Am I human? I always thought I was, but maybe I was wrong." In one particular case, its like, "Yes, honey, you were wrong."

Is that Sookie? Is she part faerie? Can you tell me that?

I can tell you that Sookie is not 100 percent human. She is now aware of that.

After the white-light thing with Maryann.

Yes. She doesn't know what she is, but she knows that it's not totally human.

And people just love the story line with Sam and Andy and Jason. They're like, "Oh, they need their own spin- off show. Just put them on the road." Are Sam and Andy related at all?

They are not related; however, Andy is related to somebody in the show. He doesn't know it, but he'll be shocked when he finds out who it is.

Andy seems to be immune to Maryann's spells. Can you tell us why?

I would say he's been immune up until this point.

Ok. And Godric, is he really dead?

He is really dead.

That was such a tender scene at the end of "I Will Rise Up" between Godric and Eric and Sookie.

Yes, I loved that scene. However, Godric and Eric have a thousand years of flashback territory to be mined.

People haven't really been liking the Maryann storyline. What's your reaction to that?

I'm baffled because I think she's a fantastic character and a fantastic actress. I also know a lot of people who really love her. I think people are impatient, you know what I mean? When her story pays off, it is really, really gratifying.

Will she be in season three?

Maryann is not going to be in season three.

When I watch True Blood, I'm sort of prepared to be freaked out, and I usually am, but in a good way. When you're researching a lot of this stuff, is it kind of freaky to think about and write about, or is it just fun for you?

You mean researching people who eat other people's hearts?

Yeah, supernatural stuff.

Well, my approach for the show is to make the supernatural something that is a deeper manifestation than nature, than perhaps we are equipped to perceive. But in my own life, I think legends of supernatural, mythic things are really just a manifestation of the collective unconscious. So I don't really get freaked out. I mean certainly, you read about things people did to each other in the pursuit of some mystical or occult goal, and it's horrifying. But that's just human nature. That's just psychology. Psychopaths exist everywhere, and have existed all throughout history.

Do you believe in the supernatural?

I certainly believe that what we perceive as humans is just the tip of the iceberg. I don't necessarily believe in vampires or werewolves or that kind of thing, but I believe there is definitely a realm we don't necessarily have access to. I don't know what it is, and I hesitate to articulate it further than that, because I have no idea what it is, but I know it's there.

Why do you think people are so big on vampires right now?

Well, honestly, I think it's a bit of a coincidence that several vampire movies, TV shows, and books all happened at the same time, but I also think vampires are hot. Vampires are sexy. It's a very primal depiction of sexuality. It's also fun to fantasize about this creature that's stronger than we are, taking us against our will in a very sexual and savage way, whereas it's not fun to fantasize about a human doing that. It makes a certain sort of fantasy about surrender and being ravaged safe, because you know that a vampire is never going to come after you.

Right, and they're protective, like Bill is of Sookie. Well, some of them are anyway. That's appealing.

We're going to meet a vampire in season three who's not very protective at all. Those who've read the books will recognize the name -- Franklin Mott.

Can't wait for season three! Thanks so much for all your time, Alan.

Absolutely. My pleasure.

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I hated Eric's wig...very interview with the vampire fake!
He's way sexier with short hair!

September 27 2009 at 2:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree that the whole Maryann/possessed town thing went on a little long and I would've preferred FAR more time spent on the incredibly sexy and introspective Godric before we lost him forever BUT all in all I love where the Maenad story led to-- bringing Sookie, Bill, and Sam together as a team, and I love love love the Jason and Andy comedy duo... I hope there's a lot more of them to come.
I haven't read the books so I don't have this pre-conceived Eric desire like many seem to have BUT I will say that if Alan Ball isn't leading up to, at the very least, a hot and lurid affair between Sookie and Eric then he sure has me fooled. I'm pretty certain that he will have his time with Sookie while Bill is wherever Bill is right now.
Kudos on an excellent interview!

September 15 2009 at 11:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Alan Ball really needs a reality check if he can't understand why viewers like me didn't like the maenad secondary story line in True Blood's season two. Right from the start, the story was boring and stupid then steadily degenerated into disgusting. The wonderful primary story line of Godric was so outstanding in every way, writing, acting and execution, it made the Maryann story truly pathetic. It was a very big waste of my viewing time. Episodes 10 and 11 were so terrible I can't stand a repeat watching of either. I'm expecting more of the same from tonight's season finale episode. There were some very negative elements from the maenad story in episodes 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9, but the solid vampire story made them tolerable. Season two has given me as a viewer the sublime pleasure of episode 9 with the stomach churning nausea of all the Maryann trash.

With only a couple of exceptions, the ensemble cast is a group of wonderful actors who deserve to have worthwhile writing to use in their craft. I sincerely hope there won't be a repeat of season two's bad secondary story line. What really concerns me is that there's already a huge red warning flag up for season three. The bad character writing and premature introduction of Sophie Ann combined with the absolutely awful actress who was chosen to play her don't bode well for next season. I hope that character is quickly recast and her role kept to a minimum in screen time and episode appearances. There's more than enough material in the basic Club Dead story to keep the vamps well occupied.

The bottom line here is that I want to be entertained by the True Blood series not bored to death each week and nauseated for twelve episodes. If season three is a repeat of season two, Alex Skarsgard's excellent acting and hot good looks as Eric may not even be enough to keep me watching Mr. Ball's show.

September 13 2009 at 3:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mar9645's comment

whine whine whine...your opinions aren't facts, no matter how often you repeat them.

September 14 2009 at 7:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Uh please don't say "we all want Eric to grow his hair back" I think you might be one of the few ones who want that. We all love Eric without that stupid wig.

September 13 2009 at 8:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am SO GLAD Alan Ball & Co. aren't following the books to the letter. All of the changes they've made with the show have been huge improvements. The characters are more fleshed-out and complex when you're not seeing them solely from Sookie's perspectie. I've seen a few negative comments on forums about the Maryann storyline, but those tend to be from die-hard fans of the books who don't tolerate any diversions from book canon. Michelle Forbes is such a terrific actress that even though I find some of the story's supernatural elements a little silly, I'm still very impressed overall!

September 12 2009 at 11:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jane Boursaw

ProgGrrl - I haven't read the books either, so the idea of Sookie being part faerie is something people have mentioned in the comments throughout the season. I wonder if this comment from Alan is referring to Sookie:

And some people are like, "Am I human? I always thought I was, but maybe I was wrong." In one particular case, its like, "Yes, honey, you were wrong."

September 12 2009 at 10:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wondering why you had to include the sentence here about Sookie being part-faerie. That's just mean and spoilery, for people who haven't read the books. I have read the books but... maybe I'm being over-sensitive? There's really nothing else here that a non-book reader has to worry about.

September 12 2009 at 10:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Hannah Chang

I really loved the first season of true blood but the second season hasn't lived up to the hype. I understand that Allan Ball wants to tell a different story than the books. I agree that you can add new characters and change the scenes around. I love Lafayette...a wonderful actor who made the show so much more enjoyable to watch--thank you for not killing him off. I also loved the other characters like Tara, Eggs, Hoyt, Jessica, etc which made the show a bit more interesting to watch than just Sookie's point of view.
What really upset me this season is the butchering of main character's qualities. You can play around with the story anyway you want but you CANNOT play around with the character's intrinsic values. There is a theme throughout the story that ERIC is SOOKIE'S protector. He is ALWAYS the one who is there to save her, whether it be a new driveway, saving her life-multiple times, or even a new coat. BILL IS NEVER THERE. This is the reason most readers (when we only had the book) loved Eric and grew to love and become addicted to the books, one after another. To give those attributes and credit to Bill completely changes Eric as a character and makes the story less interesting and less addicting. Please don't waste or change Eric. I can't help feeling that Anna and Stephen's real life relationship is affecting the role that Bill now has in the show..a much longer and much bigger role than his character deserves now that he is involved with the lead actress. I didn't read the books until the show came out and with each show I just become increasing worried that you will forever change and defame the Eric we all know and love. If not Sookie, please give him a love interest so that we could see his true characters come to life, his protective, funny, egotistic, and loyal traits...don't take those away from him. To do that is to butcher a beautifully written character and story line and turn it into dog Sh*t. I will continue watching, for Eric--I love Alex-he does a wonderful job--and short hair please! But I think what is most important is the impression you leave on the people's minds after this series is over. Please don't ruin Charlaine's beautiful written characters...I don't quite care what you do with the story lines but please don't ruin the characters or give them credit for things they don't deserve--i.e. BIll.

September 12 2009 at 12:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Hannah Chang's comment
Diana Laurence

Alan Ball is brilliant! I think he does a wonderful job both doing justice to the original books and telling the stories via the medium of television. True Blood does an amazing job of conveying vampires as both scary and irresistibly sexy...which, of course, they are!

--Diana Laurence, author of "How to Catch and Keep a Vampire" (http://www.howtocatchandkeepavampire.com)

September 12 2009 at 12:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jane Boursaw

Ok! Ok! Apparently, I'm the only person in the known universe who liked Eric's long hair! :-)

September 12 2009 at 5:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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