True Blood Bliss: Fang-demonium at the PaleyFest, An Addiction to Charlaine Harris novels and Craving a True Blood Fix!

May 17, 2009 by  

tbpaleyfest09Greetings…sorry it has taken so long between installments in my seemingly neverending saga… Real life has seriously been trying to take the wheel and I am once again in the drivers seat! Want to come along on the ride?

Oh…and just a quick pause to wax eloquent about my addiction to the writing talents of Charlaine Harris…I just finished her new book, Dead and Gone…and, junkie that I am, I am *already* wondering how on earth I can stand waiting for a whole year for another one. Charlaine, please, Must we wait a whole year?

Now, back to our regularly scheduled trip down memory lane…

Last time around I was talking about my journey to the PaleyFest…and it was chock-full of miracles, serendipity and a nearly averted tragedy…nevertheless, Sarah and I were determined that nothing would keep us from getting to the ArcLight on Monday April 13.

We planned to meet Kasandra (editor at at the ArcLight cafe at 3 p.m. … along with my local True Blood posse and a bunch of other fans…and it was such a blast hanging out with people who love the show just as much as we do. Kasandra spoiled us rotten with fabulous Vampire goodie bags (I could tell you what was in them, but then I might have to get out my TSA-approved Vampire Stake…) and a raffle for all kinds of True Blood goodies (with a  groovy “Peace, Love, Vampires” T-shirt won by yours truly!). We had a wonderful afternoon and just want to give a shout out and many thanks to Joe at the ArcLight cafe and all the staff for treating us like royalty! A Special Thanks to Kasandra and You totally ROCK!

It seemed like the time went flying by and before we knew it, Sarah and I were in our seats in the front row, lefthand side. Everyone was chatting and taking pictures and there was a wonderful buzz humming through the crowd in anticipation of the evening. The Highlight reel from Season One was such a treat and little did we know that we would be getting a sneak peek of Season Two…what on earth (or in any other dimension!) was chasing after poor Sookie? Having to wait another two months to see “the rest of the story” seemed like an eternity to me that night…and it still feels like it is a million years away…Hurry, Hurry… True Blood Season Two premieres on June 14!! (Do you get the feeling that I am impatient for my True Blood fix??)

Having read all of the books (multiple times now) and after watching the first season of True Blood (ditto), I have to give heartfelt “hallelujahs” (a la Lafayette) to Alan Ball and Charlaine Harris. Somehow, they have managed to create something particularly unique and fascinating, which keeps the best of Charlaine”s original vision while allowing Alan to spread his wings creatively. They have given us a veritable banquet of yummy storytelling brought to gorgeous life by a cast of characters who are wonderfully diverse (from England, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Virginia, Las Vegas, etc) and as vividly charismatic as we could possibly have hoped for. As Charlaine and Alan described it at Comic Con, they discussed the creation of True Blood on a  “most interesting, artistically surrealistic afternoon”. Charlaine became convinced that he understood her stories and would do them justice and that she could entrust “her babies” to him. I feel her trust in Alan Ball was completely justified.

I know that there are some fans of the books who seem to want the series to mirror each and every facet of each and every page…but I just don”t see how that could even have been possible. As Alan and Charlaine have both said: the books are Sookie”s story, very often narrarated directly from her own thoughts and impressions. In order to take this story and create True Blood, Alan told us at the PaleyFest that, “he did not want to be simply a stenographer, but he wants to deliver  some surprises for everyone to look forward to along the way”. As for this diehard fan of both the books and the series, I am happily anticipating the delicious surprises he has in store for us in Season Two.

We have so many wonderful memories of the panel discussion at the PaleyFest. The True Blood panelists seemed very much like one big happy family reuniting to share the joys and triumphs of creating something mysterious and magical together. How lucky were we to be there to listen in? Very!

Our favorite memories and highlights of the True Blood Panel Q&A:

Regarding Season Two, Alan talked a bit about Maryann (Who is she really? or… What exactly is she?)…saying that she is Trouble with a capital T. More Trouble than we can even imagine. I have always loved Michelle Forbes since first seeing her in “Kalifornia” in 1993 and I can hardly wait to see what she can do with this character! It seems that Maryann is going to try her hardest to suck everyone into her own particular version of Hell…Look out Bon Temps!

When asked about the creation of Tara (described by a fan at the PaleyFest ~quite accurately I think~ as a fun, memorable, bad-a$$ character), Alan said that he felt that Sookie needed a girlfriend…so it would not just be Sookie and then a parade of hot guys. (to which I found myself thinking, and what in the world would be wrong with That?! *wink*).  He saw Tara and Sookie as two little girls who had various reasons to find themselves as outcasts and who bonded together when they were kids. I am looking forward to seeing the relationship between Sookie and Tara and how it plays out in the series … especially since Tara is so completely different as versus the storyline from the books. I especially love it when Tara gets feisty…so I hope that we see alot of Tara kicking some butt this season.

Alan talked alot about his gratitude to the many people who work so hard to bring True Blood to life. He told us “when you work with people who are so gifted and so creative, like this amazing cast… the writers, producers, crew, designers… my job is to sometimes just get out of the way…to recognize what the show IS, what it wants to BE, and to just step back and get out of it”s way.”

Regarding the original audition process, Alan told us that he is very instinctive and looks for those actors who have a particular gift in bringing the material to life.

Speaking about the amazing Lois Smith (Gran), Alan told us that he felt very fortunate and blessed to be able to work with her. He spoke about Michael Raymond-James (as Rene Lenier) “weeping” when he had to re-enact the killing of her character…he was so upset to have to even pretend to do such a thing to Lois Smith.

Anna Paquin (Sookie Stackhouse) told us that it was just heartbreaking to lose Gran, especially because of how wonderful Lois Smith is …even though they only had her for short a time, she brought the viewers a “massive insight into that family and how they survive … because they had this fantastic, kind, sort-of-crazy matriarch who has loved and nurtured them …”  Anna said that Lois is “exactly who she pictured as Gran when she read the script so it was kind of spooky when she was actually playing her Grandmother.” She spoke of working with Lois as something truly extraordinary and such a gift.

Rutina Wesley (Tara) then mentioned that one of her favorite scenes (and one of mine as well!) was the “pie-eating scene” after Gran”s funeral. I remember thinking what an amazing actress Anna truly is … just watching that scene, seeing her pour so much emotion and such heartrending grief into her expression and through her eyes during a scene which was quite lengthy with no dialog, just Sookie sitting at the table, eating the last pie her Gran would ever make. Anna”s Golden Globe win was well-deserved…for this and so many other beautiful, funny and heartbreaking moments throughout the season.

One of Anna”s favorite memories was when Sam (Sam Trammell) wakes up naked in Sookie“s bed and then changes into a dog…and Sam talked about running naked through the grass in jazz shoes…(I am getting a visual of this and it makes me go…woooof!) Alan says that Anna told him that one of her favorite things is getting the sh$t kicked out of her in action scenes … which is actually a very good thing since Sookie spends so much time getting beaten up!

Alexander Skarsgard (Eric Northman) told us that he thinks that “Eric is a little misunderstood”. He said, “I don”t see him as an evil guy…he knows what he wants and how to get it… he is very confident…and I love him. He”s very loyal and if he likes you, he”s a really, really good friend…He just doesn”t like a lot of people”. Alex said that he often finds himself in situations of defending Eric… saying that,  “People say he is an evil bad guy. He”s a sweetheart”. As for the Eric fans I know, they would really like to find out just how sweet Eric can be! *wink*

When asked about some memorable Eric scenes from the book, Living Dead in Dallas, Alex told us (much to the delight of Eric fans everywhere!)…” …the scene with the pink leggings? If I can find an excuse to wear that…I will definitely enjoy that moment”.  We will be looking forward to that as well. Quite a LOT.

Alan spoke quite a bit about how much he has changed his mind about allowing for improvisation from his actors…saying it was Nelsan Ellis as Lafayette who convinced him. Alan said that there were scenes when Nelsan was  “absolutely channeling from some other planet”. As for me, Lafayette is one of my favorite characters both in the books and in the series. I always looked forward to the next sassy and brilliant thing he would say with such panache and joie de vivre. Nelsan always brought Lafayette to life with a mischievous wink and a endearingly tender heart underneath all of that Spice.

One of Nelsan”s favorite moments was when Vampire Bill tells Sookie, “I can smell the sunlight on your skin”… calling it a brilliant line. To which Alan replied that it was taken directly from the book. (Charlaine, an absolute genius with dialog!)

When asked if he could be any other character on the show (to which Carrie Preston yelled out, Arlene!), Stephen Moyer“s first response was to emphasize how much he loves playing Vampire Bill. He then told us that he might like to “channel a little of his own inner Lafayette”… imagining that Bill Compton might have a twin brother we might see in flashback, “wearing that pink lycra suit”. (Please take note True Blood writers!)

Stephen also talked, at length, about the infamous graveyard love scene. Actually, Anna began the conversation by remarking how incredible it was to her that there was so much speculation about “where the dirt ends up”…to which she remarked: “your boyfriend comes up naked out of the dirt and he”s not dead and you have crazy sex…why would you be thinking about where the dirt is going”? As I was picturing that scene in my mind, I am imagining many other things would be on my mind besides the dirt…(is it hot in here, or is it just me?) Then Stephen told us that he was smeared from head to toe with “organic peat moss”… (there are lots of people who would like to apply for that job…) He said he had to “wait underground, in this little shed they built for him, with a black “bin liner” stretched across it (called something a little more…descriptive.. by Anna) with the dirt piled across it and he then sort of gave birth, alien-like…”  He then said, “you don”t get a chance to do That very often!”

It is certainly enlightening to realize the intricate and complicated process the actors undertake to bring the story to life. I just have to say that Stephen Moyer was absolutely breathtaking in his portrayal of Vampire Bill. I cannot even imagine anyone else in that role…

Carrie spoke fondly about working with Michael Raymond-James (as the recently departed Rene Lenier) and when asked if the cast had read the books, Carrie told us that she had to read all the books to find out if her character dies (to which Rutina Wesley pantomimed anxiously paging through the books…)

Everyone seemed to agree that the books provide an invaluable blueprint for each character, keeping in mind that there is plenty of opportunity to allow the characters to evolve and grow. Alan has often said that he intends to stay very true to Charlaine”s original vision and the spirit of the stories she has created… and if Season One is any indication of the brilliance of combining the books and the series into a *magical concoction*, I think we are about casino online to be transported into another dimension entirely in Season Two.

When asked what she likes most about her character, Carrie said that Arlene,”speaks her mind, if she thinkin” it, she”s gonna say it” (and as she”s talking, she is taking on more and more of Arlene“s distinctive southern accent…) In her best Arlene-voice, she said that “We should be a little worried that there are Vampires hanging out with our kids”…(pronounced keeee-ids).

Rutina told us that she loves ” Tara“s big ole heart…even though she has a big ole mouth!”  Rutina thinks  “that is just Tara”s defense since she has never learned to take care of herself and has always taken care of other people.” Another thing she loves is Tara“s “loyalty to and concern for Sookie.”

Ryan Kwanten (Jason Stackhouse) spoke about the way he has changed his style of acting since joining True Blood, saying that he has “had to throw out the textbook and everything he ever knew about acting and literally fly by the seat of his pants since that is the way Jason so often goes”… and the whole cast laughed when Ryan described how often he would go into his dressing room and find that his wardrobe consisted of only one item, fondly described as “the Sock”. Or, the “Sack of Destiny”. We can only imagine…!

And, on that same subject, Alex said, “I”m from Sweden… so I”m disappointed that I don”t get to be naked all the time. I want that in my contract..” to which Alan replied, “we”ll be calling your people in the morning”. Lets just take a minute and think about that, hmmm?
The crowd at the PaleyFest was certainly a well-traveled bunch…with people having flown in from Texas, Seattle, New York, Colorado, North Carolina, Florida and many other states… and it seems that the demographic of the show is every bit as diverse…and then some…

Nelsan says that the fans are amazing but there are times when it gets “a little quirky…Some people seem to think you actually ARE your character…and so they take some…liberties. They say they want to hang out and I say…uhhh…that”s Lafayette..”.

Anna says she loves it and finds it massively flattering how much everyone loves the show… even when folks yell out to her, “what am I thinking, Stackhouse?”

Stephen told a story of going to the gym and he said this guy came up to him,  “about 70 years old and says, I love the show, Bill (which Stephen says with a pronounced southern drawl) and then says, hang on…and comes back with another guy about 45 years old, who is his son…and this guy says, Duuude (which Stephen gives a definite surfer-dude accent)..and he says, stay there…and comes back with this 20 year old guy, who is his son…” and Stephen says that the three of them told him that they work out together and watch the show together with their wives and family and kids. I can attest to this kind of demographic myself…since I watch the show with my hubby and my mom and sister and our friends of a wide variety of ages and backgrounds.

There just seems to be something about this show which can appeal to anyone who is looking for something with real heart and soul …something deeply elemental which calls out to the need inside of all of us to find our own tribe…to fit in…and to live with a fearless passion and a joyous abandon. I love the way so many conversations are sparked by the struggles and challenges the characters are faced with in the show.

Alan talked quite a bit about how the show seems to mirror many things that are going on in our own culture…and about the “culture wars”… He said the show is “becoming something that he never imagined it would become…and is really loving watching what it is becoming.” He told us that his “instinct is that the show could last for a very long time. Charlaine publishes a book a year, Season One was based on Book One (Dead Until Dark). Season Two is based on Book Two (Living Dead in Dallas)” … then Alan said to the cast, “I hope you guys are prepared to get older…but that could be a problem for those of you who are playing Vampires”. (which got a big ole laugh!) He says that the show is just such a “big bowl of weird possibilities which is so much fun and so many places for it to go that I don”t even think about where it”s going to end…”

Alan responded to fan questions about how to “encourage” HBO to continue renewing True Blood for many seasons to come by giving what he called a “shameless plug … Everyone Buy the DVD” Which, by the way, is available on May 19. As for me, I am going to tell a bunch of friends and hope they tell 10 friends … and so on and so on and so on!!! I am more than happy to do my part to keep True Blood on the air for many more years to come.

After the panel was over, the crowd very enthusiastically did their utmost to “meet and greet” the entire cast. It was Fang-demonium gone wild! Nevertheless, I have to say that everyone in the cast who stayed to meet the fans were exceedingly gracious and kind…doing their utmost to say hello and take pictures with and sign autographs for as many fans as they could, especially given the short amount of time they had before they had to clear out of the theater. I had an opportunity to speak to Alan very briefly…but I was overwhelmingly happy to have the chance to say Thank You to him for bringing so much joy into my life. Ditto to Alex, most especially for his efforts to take a picture with my friend Debby and I. Alex also took the time to take a picture with Sarah (who drove 1200 miles and got into a car accident along the way) and I was so happy she got to meet him after all she went through to get there! Sam was also very sweet to my friend Sarah, especially when her camera decided it did not want to cooperate. Thank you Sam…three times was the charm!

The best part of it all was being able to share  the evening with some very special people who I love very much…my SiStars: Tamara (my real sister, actually!), Debby, Cheryl, Susan and Sarah, our newfound friend! A special thank you from my heart to these amazing women for being such a Light in my life and for sharing their favorite memories of the PaleyFest with me…Their memories and mine have enabled us to share our journey with you…and I Thank You so much for walking down memory lane with me in my True Blood Bliss! xoxo

(Photo credit: Paley Center for Media)