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True Blood Season 2: a Show for Adults

True Blood creator Alan Ball has always thought it was a show for adults. He lets us into a few of Bon Temps’ secrets, explains that sex and vampires always go together, and why ad breaks are never a good idea …

True Blood Season 2 Picture

True Blood Season 2 Picture

We’re about to start season two of True Blood here in the UK. Can you tell us what to expect?

I’m totally in season three now so I’ll have to go back. What can we expect? Just… more. We’re definitely going to meet some new kinds of supernatural creatures, we’re going to meet some new vampires. We’ll meet the oldest vampire we’ve ever met. Sookie and Bill are together now, a couple, so let’s see how difficult it is to have a vampire-human relationship. We’re going to see what it’s like to be a brand new vampire through the eyes of Jessica. I love her.

How have you found the transition from Six Feet Under (which Ball also created), which was successful, to something like True Blood, which is a real phenomenon?

I don’t pay that much attention to that side of it, but this show is so much fun because it’s really like making a living basically just playing. I don’t wanna say working on Six Feet Under was depressing, but we were really ready to move on after season three, because it was like, we’ve done that, we’ve done that…

True Blood is very pacey and I like that it moves from one episode to the next without any time lapsing.

You know, I bought the first book in the series by Charlaine Harris, totally on impulse, as I was wasting time in a Barnes & Noble before a dentist appointment. Charlaine does that a lot. She’ll end a chapter with, like, “Then somebody opened a door and Gran was dead.” And you’re like, what? It was reminiscent of old-fashioned movie serials, and also it’s the way people watch TV a lot now, in the DVD boxset. You watch an episode and you gotta watch the next one. And there’s something kind of fun and dare I say addictive about that. I think it’s all great for the show.

Can we talk about themes? I’ve noticed a lot more religion in series two.

We definitely get into the nature of religion and the nature of dogma and how that affects people, and why religion exists. With the Fellowship of the Sun, it was fun to create a false organisation that targets one particular group and uses religion as a tool of fear and power, because we know that happens on a daily basis. Certainly you can’t turn on TV or go on a computer in America and not see somebody go on about how America is a Christian country and other bullshit. Originally when I started working on the series, I wanted to explore the twin polarities, in the south, of Sunday morning revival church meetings, and Saturday night at the bar where you go and get so drunk that you give yourself permission to do the things you wanna do. Because they’re opposite sides of the same desire, which is the desire for transcendence.

The sexuality of vampires is a big part of the show. Is it important to put it out there so plainly?

I think it is important, because there’s definitely an erotic basis for why vampires are such powerful symbols in our psyches. You know, the fact of hard fangs penetrating skin…

Which you make very explicit.

Yeah! And vampires are sex. That was definitely a part of Charlaine’s books. They’re this great amalgamation of satire and horror and humour and romance novel. And romance novel is kind of like porn. Lady porn! And the romance and the thrill of surrendering to a vampire is such an inherent part of it, I thought, I’m not going to shy away from that, that’s the fun part.

You’re on HBO, a subscriber channel. Does that make a big difference to what you can show?

Absolutely. And it’s not just the issues of broadcast standards, in terms of what we can depict and what language characters can use. It’s the fact that the show exists without advertising. I am so spoiled. I cannot watch a show where it gets interrupted for ads. I have to TiVo it and skip through the ads, because the culture of advertising is so false and phoney that I just… ugh, you know?

Here it’s shown on two channels, and both have advertising

Hmmm. I don’t write breaks, so somebody’s making some arbitrary choices about where the breaks should be.

Have you seen it like that?

I haven’t and honestly it would be upsetting to me. I’d be like, what’s that doing there? [laughs] I couldn’t work at a broadcast network now. I’m too spoiled. The executives at HBO don’t want things to be easy and overly explained and pre-digested. They want things to be complicated. If this show was on a network then Bill and Sookie’s relationship would be perfect and he’d never do anything horrible and it wouldn’t be messy and you’d never see them have sex and him actually bite her. But that’s the point.

And it’s shocking, the first time you see it

Yeah! It’s shocking but it’s also like, OK, that’s what this relationship is. That’s why the idea of having a vampire lover is one that so many people fantasise about. It supports this entire cottage industry of vampire romance fiction/TV shows. Whether it’s for preteen girls who are afraid of sex or whether it’s for horny housewives whose real life with their husbands isn’t exciting. I actually had one of our assistant directors went home to visit her friends in Texas, and one of her friend’s husbands came up to her and said, “We just want to say thank you for that show because we’re having better sex than we’ve had in years on Sunday nights.” Hello, vampires are about sex.

But it’s never been for young teenagers.  And by the way, if people think teenagers aren’t having sex, they’re out of their minds! I mean teenagers are like vampires. They basically are sex!

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