True Blood PaleyFest’09: The Stars Speak

April 16, 2009 by  

tb1Korbi Ghosh from Korbi TV attended the True Blood panel discussion at the PaleyFest’09 on Monday, April 13, 2009 and brings in the following report her account of what transpired during the evening and what the actors had to say about the show.  Here is her article presented in its entirety.

True Blood is the sort of show the Paley Festival is really about. People flew in from other states, camped out in lawn chairs on the pavement by the Arclight theater and went fully insane when they finally made it inside and the cast was trotted onstage for their viewing pleasure. There was an entire row of women wearing “Bill’s Babe” t-shirts. It was fun.

Show runner Alan Ball was introduced last, but was first to speak, telling the audience how he stumbled upon Charlaine Harris‘ “True Blood” book series completely by accident. He was 20 minutes early for a dentist appointment and decided to kill some time at the book store. He spied “Dead Until Dark” and the tagline — “Maybe having a vampire for a boyfriend wasn’t such a bright idea” — caught his attention. He bought it on impulse and shortly thereafter became obsessed, ordering book after book from Amazon. “It was like crack,” he said. “I became a crack addict.”

He didn’t go to HBO with the idea right away because he wasn’t sure if it was going to be a TV show or a movie at first. Instead, he went to Charlaine, got the rights and later brought HBO into the picture. Yes, when you’re Alan Ball, you have the luxury of bringing HBO in.  And then HBO and Alan started bringing the actors in.

Alexander Skarsgard (Eric) told us that he first read for the role of Bill. He said he was just devastated when he didn’t get it. But he then went off to do “Generation Kill” and when he got back they said, we got a fantastic actor to play the role of Bill, but there is this other part…

Carrie Preston (Arlene) — whose husband Michael Emerson was spotted sitting in the audience… it is seriously weird to see Ben Linus in a suit just hanging at your local movie theater on a Monday night — met Alan on the set of his movie “Towelhead” — which she encouraged everyone to go see, because it’s brilliant — and said they got to talking about Alan’s next project and he said, I might have a role for you. Though she said the part of Arlene definitely didn’t scream Carrie Preston, a few auditions and a great red wig later, she got it.

Rutina Wesley (Tara) told us she was just really proud to land her role because pretty much every young black actress she knows auditioned for it… Interesting fact, I actually saw the original “True Blood” pilot and very much liked the actress who originally played the part of Tara, but after a season of Rutina, I can’t imagine anyone else doing it.

Ryan Kwanten (Jason) — who is from Australia and has the sexiest accent, my goodness, I had no idea — was actually spotted by Alan Ball in the film “Flicka.” Alan saw him in that part and thought, wow that is Jason (well, the PG version of Jason) and requested that he come in to audition.

Anna Paquin (Sookie) said she stalked Alan for months, desperate to be Sookie. This was the dream job and she was just dying for it.  Now, looking forward to season two (they are, by the way, currently shooting episode 7 of 12 and Alan is preparing to write 11), die hard fans of the book series will be happy to know that Alan feels quite strongly about sticking to Charlaine’s stories and her vision. He will not veer too far away from what’s already been put on the page, however he does feel that it’s his job to really flesh out the supporting characters while servicing Sookie‘s story.

Rutina Wesley said that during the first table read this year, the actors were told something to the effect of, okay, now your characters are going to be doing some things you really won’t believe this season, but just trust us…

This got a knowing laugh from the rest of the cast, so it should be a great surprise to see what Alan’s got up his sleeve.  Something we know for sure that’s on tap though? More naked men. There was a lot of talk about Ryan and “the sock” he often wore on set. He said there was many a time that he went to his dressing room before a scene and all that was waiting for him was that damn sock… Oh, and Alexander said, I’m from Sweden, I’m disappointed I’m not naked all the time. I want that in my contract… To which Alan Ball responded, we’ll be calling your people tomorrow.

Sam Trammell (Sam) said his least favorite scenes involved his nakedness… well, running naked in beige-colored jazz shoes (the jazz shoes because there were ant hills everywhere).  But Anna said she was a fan of Sam‘s nakedness… the scene when he was sans clothes on the bed at least. She mentioned “the sock” and said the sheer giggle factor of it was great.

Scenes she didn’t like? Anything with “burnt” Bill. She couldn’t even look at Stephen Moyer (Bill) — her real life boyfriend — when he was in the burn make up. Too disturbing. Even Sam agreed that it was painful to see. Also, the subject of the graveyard scene with Bill and “the dirt” was brought up by a fan in the audience. Now, if you don’t know what that’s about, I guess I don’t really need to get into it. But Anna Paquin was like, yeah, I saw the online forums. It’s hot sex outside, why is everyone thinking about where the dirt is going?! P.S., it was peat moss.

For me though, the show’s best scenes included anything with Nelsan Ellis (Lafayette) and it sounded like Alan Ball felt the same way. He mentioned that he had previously been quite put off when an actor came in to audition for him and just started improvising on lines — like, oh, I guess you’re going to write the script then? — but Nelsan changed him. He said Nelsan would be in the kitchen at Merlotte’s and it was like the dude was channeling from some other place. Nelsan, by the way, is really nothing like Lafayette… which makes his portrayal of Lafayette even more impressive.

Seems certain fans have mistaken the man for his character, which, you know, Nelsan said isn’t always cool with him… I mean, he said it with a smile. Actually, the whole cast seemed pretty flattered by any and all of the fan attention they’ve been getting. Anna said the “What am I thinking, Stackhouse?!” screams she’s been getting in public lately are cute and clever and awesome.  What else? Well, we saw a quick clip of the upcoming season and it seems we’ll be getting more quality time with the annoying chick/newly made vampire we were introduced to at the end of season one. I guess Sookie and Bill are now taking care of her and, in the scene we watched, the couple got into a screaming fight over Sookie helping the chick go see her parents. But seriously, Bill is in the right on this one, because the girl’s eyes were bleeding afterward… However, she is insanely annoying, so maybe it wasn’t the worst idea. Anyway, Sookie runs off and then a monster starts chasing her, so yeah, there will be monsters this year. I’m sure you already knew that.

Also, Michelle Forbes (Mariann), whose character we met last season when she scooped Tara up out of jail and into her palatial estate, is going to be more trouble than anyone ever thought. Alan said she’s benevolent, sure, in a “not really human, psychotic, loves destruction and chaos” kind of way.  Cool!

Now, as far as how secure “TB” is and how long it could possibly last, there are no official plans for a season three as of yet, but Alan seemed pretty confident that it could go on as long as there were books for them to follow. He said season one followed book one and season two will follow book two and, well, Charlaine publishes like a book a year, so the possibilities are endless…

But if you’re still worried, just go buy the DVD. According to Alan, successful DVD sales will ensure the show stays on the air for (almost) ever.

SOURCE:  Korbi TV: “True Blood” takes on The Paley Festival

(Photo credit:  IMDb.com)

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