Exclusive: Alan Ball on his HBO Series True Blood

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Based on the Southern Vampire novels from Charlaine Harris

While you wouldn’t expect the Oscar-winning writer of the suburban drama American Beauty to have much to do with the horror genre, Alan Ball dealt tangentially with the supernatural when he wrote and produced five seasons of the HBO show Six Feet Under, which centered around a family-run funeral home where the “guests” offered their unfiltered opinion on the complicated dysfunctional relationships of their caretakers.

With his new HBO show True Blood, Ball is taking on some “pretty hardcore genre” as he puts it. Based on Charlaine Harris’ “The Southern Vampire Mysteries,” the new series which premieres on Sunday, September 7th stars Anna Paquin (aka “Rogue” from the X-Men movies) as telepathic barmaid Sookie Stackhouse whose quiet Louisiana parish is set abuzz by the appearance of its first actual vampire.

When ShockTillYouDrop and ComingSoon.net spoke to Ball recently about his upcoming indie drama Towelhead, we were curious to know why he decided to tackle the vampire genre with his second television series for HBO.

“After five years of ‘Six Feet Under’ and peering into the existential abyss, and contemplating the constant presence of mortality – and therefore contemplating my own mortality and the general sort of impermanence of everything – I was ready to just have a little fun. When I discovered these books, they were so much fun and they stood up and by the time I was on the fourth book I thought, ‘This would make a great television series.'”

Those who’ve actually read Harris’ novels might be curious how the television series might diverge from the stories in the eight novels published so far.

“We’re keeping it close to the books, but at the same time, we’re adding a lot of stuff because the books are narrated by the main character and there are a lot of other great characters and we’re creating stuff for them to do.”

When asked about how many of the original writers or crew from Six Feet Under might be returning with his new series, Ball responded:

“I’m working with a lot of new people. Dan Minahan is doing an episode and I think besides myself he’s the only director that has worked on Six Feet Under. I feel like working with new people. You have a chance to learn stuff and honestly I couldn’t afford a lot of the people that worked on Six Feet Under. There are definitely some, the production designer is the same, the editor is the same, but there are also a lot of new people.”

Ball admitted that the B-movie influences are very much a conscious decision on his part, and that a lot of that came from the novels. “It’s really pulpy. It’s total pulp,” he said.

“We haven’t had an official deal for Season Two yet,” Ball replied when asked about long-term potential for the show, “but they have made a deal with the studio for stage space, so I’m assuming we’re going to have a second season. I’m just waiting for the official pickup. I think this show could run for many seasons. There’s a lot of stuff in there, there’s a lot of doors to open, there’s a lot of places to go, and the characters and the cast are really phenomenal. I mean really, really top notch and first-rate, so you know I’m hoping…”

True Blood is part of a high-profile resurgence of vampires as a popular genre among more than just diehard horror fans this fall, something seen as we speak by the insane success of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight novels and the anticipation for the upcoming movie based on the first one.

“All of this vampire stuff is happening at once,” Ball mused when asked about this. “Is it just a coincidence? Is it part of a larger phenomenon? I don’t know, but I think people seem to love vampires, there seem to be a lot of people who are big fans of vampire-related material, so hopefully they have a lot of things to look forward to, our show included.”

That said, Ball admits that he deliberately hasn’t read any of the “Twilight” novels for obvious reasons. “Once HBO greenlit True Blood, then I figured, I can’t read anything else about vampires because I don’t want to be influenced.”

Look for the full interview with Ball over on ComingSoon.net next week before his directorial debut Towelhead opens in select cities on September 12th. You can read more about True Blood and Charlaine Harris’ novels on the author’s official site and on this unofficial site.

Source: Edward Douglas