True Blood Season 3 and 4 from Alan Ball

January 5, 2010 by  

Although Alan Ball remains tight-lipped about the specifics of what True Blood’s third season will bring, he sheds some light on what goes into producing the vampire show that has become a huge success for HBO. In addition to sharing interesting stories about the casting of some of the characters, he also describes the process of adapting Charlaine Harris‘ bestselling Sookie Stackhouse books and of keeping a supernatural series grounded in reality.

Coming from the award-winning HBO show Six Feet Under, Alan was probably used to fans appreciating the emotion and meaning of his work, but True Blood has brought a different kind of response. People are incredibly enthusiastic about the show, and their obsession has at times made Alan feel like a rock star. He says that having such passionate fans makes it really fun and exciting for those who work on the show.

HBO seems thrilled by the reaction towards the series and has already made a deal with Alan to be the showrunner for the next two years. That makes season four all but guaranteed. Beyond that, we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

It’s clear how much Alan loves Charlaine’s books, or he wouldn’t have wanted to make a television show out of them. There are inevitable deviations from the source material in order to develop supporting characters like Tara and Lafayette, but he always tries to stay true to the spirit of the books. As for Season three and fans who might be concerned that Eric won’t be featured as prominently on screen as he is on the page, Alan assures us that his role will increase because he is such a big part of Sookie‘s life in the next couple of books. Some things will definitely be different, though, especially given the way they have changed things in the first two seasons and how future storylines will build on those changes:

“I think we’re always going to use the books as sort of a foundation, but I just don’t see how, as time goes on, you can’t diverge from them a little bit more each season. I don’t know, though. We’re starting to work on Season Three and we actually are really, really sticking to the books, at the beginning at least.”

Some people who have read the series might have been initially shocked by the sex and violence shown on True Blood, but Alan notes that those things are present in the books–it’s just different to actually see them come to life, and it’s never been so graphic that HBO had to prevent them from showing something.

Working on a show that has a supernatural element, Alan knows that they will need to use special effects to achieve certain things, but he never wants to use those cliche CGI techniques seen in past vampire and monster stories. He also doesn’t want the effects to detract from the characters:

“The effects are just the shorthand to get us from one stage to another. But we will never be about the effects. I mean, it’s less interesting to me how [Bill’s] face might change or what exactly are the mechanics of the fangs coming down–although we have really thought about that–than the fact that he’s been alive for a hundred and seventy years, most of them as a vampire, and his wife and children, whom he loved deeply, he outlived them. He’s outlived everybody. He’s in a changing world and he’s given up on the idea of having any sort of love in his life until he meets this girl. That to me is way more interesting than what [growing fangs] looks like.”

Alan also discusses a few of the casting choices that were made and how perfectly the actors have worked as their characters. Anna Paquin put herself into consideration for the role of Sookie, which surprised Alan because he didn’t expect an established film actress and Academy-Award winner like her to be interested in working in television. Luckily, she was, and she has gone on to embody Sookie, winning a Golden Globe for her portrayal. Bill Compton was a difficult part to cast because there were a couple of guys that Alan thought might be good that HBO didn’t really agree with, and it wasn’t until a London casting director sent him the tape of Stephen Moyer that he knew he had found the right man to play the Southern gentleman vampire.

The character of flamboyant Merlotte’s cook Lafayette survived past his book life because of the extraordinary talent of Nelsan Ellis and the impression he made on Alan:

“[He] channeled something from somewhere that is kind of amazing. I definitely knew Jason had to be a great character actor [Ryan Kwanten plays the role]. I think all the major characters I knew were going to be really, really strong and really, really compelling, but I think Nelsan is the one [who was most surprising]–I had no idea that would happen.”

Alan also describes how excited he was about casting Lois Smith as Gran:

“I love Lois Smith. That’s one of those things where when I’m talking to the casting director, I say, ‘I’d like someone like Lois Smith.’ ‘Let’s get Lois Smith!’ ‘You think she’s do this, she’d be willing?’ ‘Yes.’ I was so happy to have her. Anna was, too–Anna was like,” Ball does an impression of Paquin bursting into song, ” ‘Lois Smith!’ “

Those are just a few examples of how great the casting has worked out on True Blood. It even won an Emmy for it. We fans have seen all the actors create very dynamic, engaging characters under Alan’s very capable leadership. We can’t wait to see how the new characters and stories will play out in Season three!


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