The story behind how Alan Ball—the person behind the acclaimed film American Beauty and the similarly acclaimed television series Six Feet Under—chanced upon what would eventually be the upcoming HBO series True Blood is a pretty uneventful one. The series, which is set to hit screens on September 7, is based on a series of books by Charlaine Harris, and is set in a time when vampires try to find their place in the world, and call for equality with humans.
“I was early for a dentist appointment, and I had some time to kill,” he recounted. “I went into Barnes and Noble, and I just bought this book on impulse. It was just a little paperback, and on the cover, the tagline said, ‘Maybe having a vampire for a boyfriend wasn’t such a good idea.’ I thought it was kind of funny. I started reading it that night, and I couldn’t put it down. And the minute I was done with it, I wanted to read the next one.”
He thinks Harris’ writing has hit the right spot. “They’re very sexy, they’re hilarious, [and] there’s a lot of very interesting sociology … it’s the kind of book you think, ‘I’m going to read one chapter before I go to bed,’ and you read six,” he said. The screenwriter also thinks Six Feet Under fans will like the series, which stars Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer. “It’s another amazing cast, who are just doing really spectacular work,” he said. “There’s a lot of dark humor. It certainly goes places that I’ve never seen a series go before. It’s not as existentially exhausting as Six Feet Under was, maybe, but ultimately, it’s similar terrain in that it’s really just exploring the human condition… and the vampire condition, since they’re not really humans anymore.”
He also thinks the series will be different from other programs and films about vampires. “There’s a lot of gray area; the vampires are just like humans,” he said. “Nobody’s a hundred percent good, nobody’s a hundred percent bad.” He also pointed out that ithe program has a different setting. “[It’s] a vampire show that’s taking place in such a mundane location,” he said. “It’s now New Orleans; it’s not Anne Rice. … We’re staying away from vampires having strange contact lenses. … I just want to give my actors fangs and let them act.”
He also thinks that, ultimately, his work in adapting the popular book series is helping him as a filmmaker. “I think working in television is great because you’re always learning,” he said. “The fact that you have to keep telling a big chapter of that story every two weeks, you’re always learning. I tend to be drawn towards material that has a sensibility that, while it may not match my own original sensibility, it’s very much in the same ballpark.”
-Henrik Batallones, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
(Image courtesy of HBO)