True Blood stars Anna Paquin
and Stephen Moyer receive
advice from director Alan Ball.l.
CC: So we’re not sweeping out the rugs or
tearing skeletons from closets here?
True Blood director Alan Ball
enjoys supernatural success
AB: I grew up in a conventional family. It
was kind of boring. [Laughs] Well-adjusted
people who really get it and are able to capably
traverse the highs and lows of life without any
real upsets or surprises? Those are the people
we aspire to be and the people with whom we
want to surround ourselves, but, as characters,
they are boring. If you look back at mythology
and early literature and the narratives of different religions, it’s all about the big, crazy stuff
and these wildly unconventional families. I’m
just doing that.
By J. Rentilly
CC: Much of your work has been about
dealing with mortality, and now True
Blood is about characters who
are, in many cases,
stories for different
times of life?
IN THE WORLD of Alan Ball, there will be
blood. It may be the blood spilled amid the
suburban ennui of his Oscar-winning 1999
film, American Beauty, or the mortuary runoff
in his acclaimed HBO show Six Feet Under.
Since 2008, it’s been a focus of the swampy,
Grand Guignol-ish delights of True Blood, a
wildly sultry, sardonic, hypnotic series whose
second season is just out on DVD, and jam-
packed with bonus features. (“We are creating
content solely for the DVDs at this point,” says
the 53-year-old Ball.) True Blood, based on the
bestselling supernatural Southern Vampire
romps of Charlaine Harris, deals with vam-
pires and werewolves and politics and sex, and
yet, for all its genre trappings, it’s a deeply
human, relatable allegory—a juicy chomp of
pop culture that’s playful and edifying. And
Ball’s having the time of his life.
our psyche. We
entertainment now to
fulfill those needs.
five years of Six
Feet Under really
allowed me to
relationship with grief,
impermanence of things—just the fact
“True Blood is
really the most
fun I’ve had
on a job.
Perhaps a show
like True Blood
fits in there somehow.
CC: What attracted you to this material?
AB: I love Charlaine Harris’ books. They’re
funny, and they’re sort of sly and witty and
really violent and scary, and they’re very sexy. I
just thought they’d make a great TV show.
that we all live on the edge of the abyss. I
don”t think the immortality aspect of True
Blood is its appeal to me at all.
CC: How do you straddle the line between
faithful adaptation and keeping audiences
surprised and engrossed?
The Costco Connection recently had the
opportunity to speak with Ball about his
Costco Connection: The time is right for a
show about these Dionysian pleasures, apparently. True Blood is a huge hit.
AB: We try to walk that line. We try to
remain true to the books. One of the reasons the
books are so successful is because they actually
do work. However, we’ve taken some liberties.
You don’t want to simply give people what
I see it like this: After five years of therapy
with Six Feet Under, which was very good
therapy, and I believe it was entertaining and
moving for a lot of people, I was ready to go
on vacation. And True Blood is really the most
fun I’ve ever had on a job. Yesterday I was in
a production meeting and someone walked in
and said, “OK, I’ve got this severed head.
Where do you want it?” I work in a fun house
now, and I love it. C
For example, Lafayette dies in the first
book, and I was willing to do that [on the
series] until we were shooting the pilot and I
realized that this character and actor [Nelsan
Ellis] are so great, there’s no way we’re losing
them. At the very least, we always plan to stay
very close to the spirit of Charlaine’s books.
J. Rentilly is a Los Angeles–based journalist
who writes for a variety of publications.
Alan Ball: We all have a primal need for
some kind of connection to nature that our
culture tends to not take care of, the way earlier cultures might have had festivals and get
around the fire and beat drums and eat
mushrooms and go crazy. We’ve civilized
ourselves beyond that, though those needs
CC: Amidst all of the fun house, the emo-
tional core of this show transcends the genre.
The Costco Connection
True Blood Seasons 1 and 2 are available
on DVD (Season 2 on Blu-ray on May 25) at
most Costco locations and at Costco.com.
AB: That’s what makes the show stand
out. Each character is now its own character.
They have reasons for why they behave how
they behave. They are each wounded in very
specific ways, and they’re very complicated
and nobody’s perfect.
JOHN P. JOHNSON
MAY 2010 e Costco Connection 33
4/26/10 11:18 AM