Executing the True Blood Writing Recipe

October 15, 2010 by  

Original Work Landed Alexander Writing Job

Alexander Woo True Blood WriterNAACP Image Award nominee, Alexander Woo has been a writer and producer forHBO’s True Blood since season 1 and he recently sat down with Asia Pacific Arts to explain how the writing process for each episode works.

Alexander told of how being an original play writer helped him when he interviewed with series creator Alan Ball:

“Every show is different, in terms of the kind of sample work they request from a writer. Luckily, Alan Ball is also a playwright and comes from a theatre background, so he requested to read my original plays. He read Debunked, which is set in the American South during the 1800s, and I guess it showcased my ability to write in dialect and in period. Also, with original work, a writer’s voice is more prominent than in a television spec script, and Alan must have seen something compatible with my voice as a writer and the kind of voice he wanted for the show.”

A Glimpse into the Writers Room

After admitting he made sure to read all the Sookie Stackhouse novels before his interview, Alexander was asked if he references the books for the writing of the episodes:

“We do, as a jumping off point for storylines, but we don’t strictly adhere to them — which is interesting to us as writers and we hope to the fans as well. You get an idea of what might happen from the books, but you never quite know because True Blood is its own world. “

He went on to tell how the writers work together to outline each season:

“We outline the episodes together, and then each writer is assigned an episode, and they flesh out the first draft with scenes and dialogue on their own. Then the script is brought back to the room, and we go page by page and help each other revise the script with notes. Our writer’s room is a very democratic environment, so everyone gets to provide their input. The way I see it, the outline process is like designing the menu, and the writing process is doing the actual cooking. Even if you’re given the best recipe in the world, it’s the execution of creating the dish that matters.”

Favorite Episodes and Themes

When Alexander was asked which of the episodes that he had written was his favorite he admitted it was a very recent one:

“I like elements of almost all of them. I certainly liked episode 105 [“Sparks Fly Out”], because it was an introduction to Bill and the first sense of his humanity. And really, it’s also Lafayette’s first breakout scene with the three rednecks who send back a burger because it might have AIDS. This past season, the scene that I couldn’t wait to get to the set and watch come to life was the scene in where Russell Edgington kills the newscaster [in “Everything Is Broken”], by yanking out his spine on live television and then sitting down and addressing America. Denis O’Hare is such an extraordinary actor, so you knew that was going to be fun. I was really pleased with that scene as well.”

The past seasons have focused on themes such as genealogy, caste systems and hate. Alexander explains that each season takes on a life of its own in the writing process, and doesn’t always end up where he thought it would:

“Certainly in the first three seasons, the story always ended up in a different place than where we thought it would go, and some of the themes that developed surprised even the writers. So we have some ideas of where the themes might be in Season 4, but at the time of this interview, we only have two scripts written. By the time we get to episodes four, five and six, we might be going in a completely different direction. But that’s part of the exciting thing about doing TV. It’s a little scary and a little strange, but then it becomes this intensely collaborative experience, where you might see something that happens on set, you might see a story want to go a certain way, or you might see a certain chemistry between two characters. If the boat wants to sail that way, you can let it. So some of the themes that end up being played out in Season 4, we may not even be aware of yet.”

Most of us that read the books appreciate some of the departures the writers take each season, even if we don’t always understand them. It’s nice to know that sometimes they are in the dark just as much as the viewer is!

Alexander’s entire interview can be found on Asia Pacific Arts website.

SOURCE: http://asiapacificarts.usc.edu Spinal Yanks and AIDS Burgers: an interview with True Blood scribe Alexander Woo

(Photo Credit: Asia Pacific Arts)