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Alan Ball “They’re Never Really Dead”

Posted on the 24 August 2011 by Thevault @The_Vault

Alan Ball “They’re Never Really Dead”The creator and executive Producer of True Blood, Alan Ball sat for an interview with Pedestrian.TV prior to his Australian tour which takes place in September.

The interview is very in depth and Alan talks alot about True Blood, and his other projects, American Beauty and Six Feet Under, etc. One very interesting thing I learned during this interview is that we’ll see a new way of “coming back” in Season 4. Alan says:

“After season four, people will know there’s a different way for them to come back. I guess True Blood can exist in this world where nobody really dies, ever. [Laughs] You can blow them up and behead them and explode their guts across the screen but they’re not really dead.”


Below are excerpts from this intervew that we thought would be most interesting to the True Blood fans.


In the writer’s room when you’re blocking out and breaking a season where does it start for you? What are you trying to achieve and where is the usual starting point in the writer’s room for a new season? For True Blood? Well we start with the book, with the source material. And when we come in for the season we’ve all read the book, we talk about what works, what we feel doesn’t necessarily work, and then we start going from there. The books are all Sookie’s story because Sookie is the narrator of the books, we have a lot of free reign anyway because of all the other characters that we have on the show. And then it’s me and five others and we just sort of very slowly map everything out. We spend a lot of time just talking about what we want the season to be about: Who’s the big villain? How is it going to engage our characters in a way that we haven’t seen before? We have two columns and we start giving little one line descriptions of what happens to each character in each of those episodes and then we start breaking those episodes more individually and we come up with two or three beats for each character or each collection of characters or whatever way they are combined at that point in the story and then we map those out chronologically and then we make an outline and somebody goes off and writes the first draft.

You mention mapping out the character beats and relationships and the different permutations that you can work with from season to season. Is it hard to unravel those threads then connect them again over a season arc? If it was just me by myself it would be incredibly hard. But because I have five other people thinking about it, and I have someone whose job is just merely to keep a Bible of everything we’ve done and he’s the same guy who sits there and transcribes our thoughts during the writer’s meetings. There’s a whole organization in place so that you can say, ‘did this ever happen?’ Or when such-and-such was made vampire, what exactly happened? and then within minutes he’ll have an answer because he has a database he goes into and pulls all this stuff.

So there’s a True Blood encyclopedia somewhere out there? We call it The Bible. The True Blood Bible [laughs].

Is there a logical end for you for True Blood? I’m sure there will be, I just don’t see it yet. I mean, everything ends. And I don’t want it to be one of those things that goes on for more seasons than it actually could. You know what I mean? But I do feel like there’s definitely a fifth season. I’ve signed my name on a piece of paper committing to it. And I would imagine that it could go beyond that. Whether or not I will be a part of that is another question because there’s only so much you can do and I’m not as young as I used to be…On the other side of that I’ve never had as much fun on a job and it just keeps being fun, so, who knows?

Are there any rules in the writer’s room with regard to the logic of the universe – stuff we will never do, stuff we should always do, stuff we should consider… I think we try not to repeat ourselves as much as we possibly can. I think sometimes you have to do that. If we were a presidential campaign, we would have a sign on the wall that said, ‘Emotions, Stupid’. We work really hard to keep everything grounded in characters’ emotions and desires, their loves, hates and revenge and all that stuff. If we don’t do that then we just run the risk of it being arbitrary weirdness. And I think what makes the show so watchable is that weirdness, definitely, but there’s an emotional component to it too. At least there’s one of these characters that you identify with, that you’re concerned about, and I think that if we didn’t make that the foundation of everything the show would just be ridiculous chaos. That’s certainly not what any of us want to do. We all take the show seriously and we definitely have a cast of actors who are actually very good at playing out these outlandish situations – in a way we have to treat it like it’s real. And I think I’m less interested in focusing on the mechanics of the supernatural stuff and more about what it does to a character’s emotions. I would say that’s sort of our rule of thumb.

Having said that, once a True Blood character dies, it seems as if they enter some other kind of pantheon in the audience’s mind. Godric comes to mind as an example of that. Oh yeah. And they can always come back in flashback. After season four, people will know there’s a different way for them to come back. I guess True Blood can exist in this world where nobody really dies, ever. [Laughs] You can blow them up and behead them and explode their guts across the screen but they’re not really dead.

I think the casting of the show is amazing and the audience is obviously very engaged with these characters and the actors who play them. When you are casting what kind of things do you look for in an actor? There are two kinds of actors in LA. There are people who are trained and who have technique and there are people who don’t but they happen to be really gorgeous and charismatic and you can’t take your eyes off of them. If I had a movie schedule and I was going to spend an entire day on one person’s coverage, I might lean towards casting people out of that second group. But I work in TV and I work on a TV schedule. I need people who can come in, know how to play a scene, and who know how to play the details of the scene as opposed to ‘I’m just standing in a line.’ It’s like, that’d be great if I had 90 takes of you and I could cut together a genius performance. I need someone who can give to me a very solid performance on take one. So I definitely lean towards people who are trained. I don’t even think you have to be trained, I just think you have to have craft. Some people are born with it, some people just have an innateness about it. A lot of people out here don’t have it. Then I look at it like, here are these words on a page, make them come alive for me and if you can do that then that’s fantastic but if you can do that in a way that surprises me, maybe shows me something I never saw in the material, you’ve got the job.

To read the entire interview go to:

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