True Blood Season 3 Spoilers from Alan Ball And The Writers From Paley Center

October 29, 2009 by  

Alan BallAlan Ball and his creative writing team attended the Paley Center for Media panel discussion last night where True Blood fans were treated to lots of laughs and lots of information about Season 3 to keep us all hungering for more.

Right off the bat, we can assure you that Snoop Dog is not going to get his wish for a cameo on the show. Alan Ball feels that celebrity casting takes you out of the fictional world that they’re trying to create and distracts the audience. It made more sense for some celebrity casting on his hit series, Six Feet Under, but on True Blood, it’s not very likely. Alan can’t imagine a role that Snoop would be appropriate for.

Alan is having tons of fun working on the show, saying, “It feels odd that I get paid for it.”  Alan says that with Episode 5 of Season 1, the show really hit its stride. Bill Compton has his Civil War flashback during that episode, and Alan feels that by the time they got to that episode, the set up for the series was finished, the audience knew the characters by then, and the writers could start to relax and have fun.

Female heavy writing staff came about because Alan just hires based on skill. He reads people’s original work and gets a feel for their own voice, then uses his instincts during the meeting to know whether he will want to work with them eight hours a day or not. “The show has really strong female characters at the center of the story, so of course you’re going to hire women.”

Being on adult cable TV means that there’s almost nothing they can’t do. Fluidity between serious moments and comedy keeps the audience on it’s toes. Alan says vampires are a metaphor for sex, so it would be strange if they didn’t include that element in the show, but:

I can’t imagine a version of the show anywhere except HBO….I will admit to sitting in the room and saying “Can we get his shirt off? Come on! It’s Louisiana! It’s really hot!”

However, they did tone down the 1920s scene with Bill and Lorena. The original draft included a rape scene, as suggested by Stephen Moyer, but Alan decided that was not going to play well for the audience, so it was scrapped.

The vampire/Human marriage rights certainly mirrors the gay marriage controversy in contemporary society, but Alan does not want that to be a main focus. He says:

It’s some fun window dressing, and it’s only a symbol for the gay and lesbian community because that’s what’s going on right now. If we go back fifty years ago, it could have been African Americans. A hundred years ago, it would have been women and their struggle for equality and the right to vote.

He notes that the issue is in Charlaine Harris‘s Sookie Stackhouse books, which the show was based on, and says that it makes the story more contemporary, so it will certainly continue to be included in the story, but it’s not at the heart of the show. It’s simply there as part of the fabric of the storyline and provides context.

The theme of the outsider starts with Sookie ,who from the first thinks of her telepathy as a disability, and the outsider is part of the vampire myth as well, so it’s just one more part of that idea.

The enthusiasm level of genre fans is very high, and Alan‘s very happy about that because it shows that people are passionate about the show, which is tremendously gratifying to him. The other writers love the people who come to conventions and public appearances in costumes, and they all love that people hold the show so dear.

When asked if he had a favorite character on True Blood, Alan says:

I will preface this by saying I love every character equally. I love all of them and I want all of them to get what they want and they need in their fictional lives, but I really enjoy writing Jason and Lafayette.

When one of the other writers mentioned their love of writing for Alexander Skarsgård and how unexpectedly funny he is as Eric Northman, Alan says Alex has expressed a “willingness to go there” when it comes to being naked in Season 3, and in fact he will appear without most of his clothes in the very first episode, an announcement which was met with great applause by the audience.

When asked if there was any character that they regretted killing, the writers said they hated to let go of Gran but it’s such a big part of the book, they had to. They kept Lafayette even though he was killed in the books, but Gran had to die because it was important for Sookie in order to force her to realize that she is alone in the world. The characters, in general, since the writers know going into the season who’s going to die, are not missed as much as the actual actors whom they will no longer be able to see anymore.

Alan says that we will find out what happened to Bill in Episode 1 of Season 3, an announcement which made the audience very pleased.

When told that among fans Evan Rachel Wood is a controversial choice to portray Queen Sophie-Anne Leclerq, Alan wanted to know why people hate her so much. The audience gave a few reasons, but all responded that they are still going to watch the show and buy the DVDs, regardless. Alan assures us that she will be back next season, as will the Newlins. There are also a “boatload” of new characters who will be introduced. Maryann, however, is really dead and will not be back.

Alan says that there will be more conjecture of what Sookie really is in Season 3, and she will get closer to the answer. We will also get closer to an answer for why Sookie is something other than human while her brother Jason isn’t.

During Season 3, the main theme will be that of identity–Who am I? What am I? What do I want to be?

Alan also made it known that Stephen Moyer will not be marginalized. Bill and Sookie may go through some rough patches that will last perhaps longer than Bill fans might like, but in the TV world, they have a connection that will never die, despite the fact that Charlaine had to be talked out of killing Bill off in the last book in the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mystery series.

The writers don’t feel that much pressure to stick to what happens in the books because they spread the story out among other characters, not just focusing purely on Sookie‘s story. That gives the writers much more freedom. They stay true to the spirit of the books, but they are not going to be bound by the novels. They want viewers who’ve read the books to still be surprised.

No weddings will happen in Season 3.  Someone will want one very badly, but that wedding will likely not take place, and the character who wants it to happen is not who we think it’s going to be.

Season 4 will include Eric getting amnesia, but there will be surprises all the same, and the writers don’t really have that much mapped out about the rest of the action in future seasons beyond a basic skeleton. The story can evolve as it’s being told, for example, keeping Lafayette on the show despite the fact that it was contrary to the novel’s plotline. The writers also acknowledge that Eric‘s story wants to be told, so we will get to see that evolve.

We will not see Bubba on the show, because there is no way to have Elvis appear on the show without having it look fake, and Alan wants to make sure that the characters are believable.

We will learn more about Nan Flanagan. He loves the contrast between the public face she shows as the spokesperson for vampire rights and the person she truly is when she appears in a more private setting.

The “blood bond” idea from the novels, which happens between a vampire and a human when that human drinks a vampire‘s blood, will be featured in the show, and there will be more of Pam in Season 3.

Alan ended up working on True Blood because he couldn’t put Charlaine‘s books down and so he pitched the show to HBO. He was completely unaware of Twilight at the time, and it was not a conscious decision to get on some kind of vampire bandwagon. He says that vampires have always been there in our culture. If it’s more than coincidence that so many vampire genre ideas are all popping up at the same time, he has no idea why that is.

The writers all love that Alan does not give them a set expectation for what will happen in each episode, but allows them freedom to be creative and take risks. Once the drafts have been revised and finalized, the person who wrote the script works as a producer during the shooting to be sure that the scenes play the way they intended.

Generally, Alan says that he does not like improvisation of the actors because the writers choose every word on the page for a reason, but Nelsan Ellis as Lafayette really surprised him in the first scene of the pilot, and that scene is the reason he could not kill him off. Sometimes he has to keep him on script, but he loves allowing him more freedom. The AIDS burger scene also really stands out as an amazing moment which caused the crew to burst into spontaneous applause after the first take.

Allan Hyde as Godric is a fan favorite. The end scene with his death was shot partly with green screen, partly on a rooftop as the sun came up and they could only do three takes before they ran out of time to shoot. More than likely, we will see him again in flashback scenes with Eric.

Please be sure to check out the full 55 minute audio of this extraordinary panel discussion.  Click the link, and then scroll down to the audio recording which appears halfway down on right-hand side of the page.

Many thanks to @KitchenBitch on Twitter who graciously provided a link to an audio recording of the event.


(Photo credit: Kevin Parry / Paley Center for Media)