"True Blood" creator Alan Ball explains explains how Rick Santorum inspired this season’s storyline
Alan Ball, the creative genius behind HBO’s Southern gothic vampire drama “True Blood,” has decided that next season on the show will be his last. At the dawn of a new season in which a Vatican-style theocracy takes hold of Sookie’s world, Ball discusses his decision with Wrap editor Sharon Waxman, and explains how Rick Santorum inspired this season’s storyline.
I’m sad. This will be your last season doing "True Blood"?
It’s just a question of mental and physical health. Running a TV show is huge. There’s a reason people take a year off and stuff like that. I’m at the point where the show is very strong. All the writer-producers know what they’re doing. Everybody is operating at the executive producer level. I need a break to clear my brain. Clear the deck. Live as a human for a few months.
It’s not 12 months a year –
It’s close to 10-11 months a year. By the time I’m finishing post (-production) on episode 12 it’s August. And I go to every single spotting, casting session, editing. After five years of that, it’s self-preservation. I’m ready to move on and work on some different types of things.
Do you feel the show will be able to carry on your voice once you leave?
I believe I’m leaving it in very good hands. I’m OK with not being in control. I am a control freak, every show-runner is, but I’m happy to let go of this control.
I’m not one of those guys who writes every single word. I empower other writer-producers on staff, they do a better job that way. I don’t want to develop a drug habit to meet the output level. But the nature of horror genre means there is a heightened, visceral, Grand Guignol kind of aspect to it. The vampire idea is basically people feeding on other people. It’s a horrifying concept once you look at .
So let’s talk about sex.
The vampire metaphor as sex is built into the whole mystique of vampires. There is an exchange of bodily fluid, lust, hunger, passion. French refer to orgasm as "the little death." That’s one of the reasons vampires have been so popular as literary creatures, because they are sex.
But you’ve made it very explicit.
I have to nod to Charlene Harris, the writer of books. The sex is pretty graphic. That’s part of the appeal. She created a grab bag of horror, romance, humor, social satire, all in this little southern town.
But it is insane and fantastic and ridiculous. Even when we use the vampires as metaphors for the gay and lesbian community, for people of color.
When the show started, I remember your giving interviews talking about how “True Blood” was a kind of metaphor for the ostracizing of minorities. Has the show veered away from this?
Vampires are mostly crazy and vicious and amoral. I don’t say this is a metaphor for gays and lesbians and transgenders, it’s more about getting to explore the dynamic of ‘fear of the other’ in the way that isn’t really that serious because of the nature of the show.
You don’t need a show saying hating gays and lesbians is wrong. "True Blood" is mostly about entertainment and escape, that’s been the joy of five years, after another show (“Six Feet Under”) that looked at mortality.
How did you map out this season?
For me the jumping off point was watching the Republican primaries, watching Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and asking what would it be like to have a theocracy in America – which is way more terrifying than any fictional monster could ever be.
Our jumping off point was "OK, what is a vampire theocracy?" You don’t really see vampires being religious creatures. They are excluded from God. But what if there was a vampire bible? A religion? Theocracy? How would that impact our human characters, or vampire characters? I haven’t really seen that before.
Why Rick Santorum?
What’s terrifying is how many people agree with him.
Chris Meloni comes in, he is the guardian of the blood. Supposedly they have a vial of blood of the first vampire – like a Catholic icon. The governing body of vampires is like the Catholic church plus the Supreme Court for vampires. But it’s a very secret organization.
Does Sookie fall in love this season?
We didn’t set out to top ourselves, but we do try not to repeat.
People seem to be naked a lot on the show this season.
In beginning, people were like, "Really, you want me to be naked? I don’t know how I feel about that." Now everyone’s naked. Especially if you’re a shifter or a werewolf, you need to be naked. It doesn’t make sense otherwise.
It’s no coincidence that so many of the cast members are not American, are European or Australian. It’s less of big deal for them. Then the Americans went, "Oh. OK." Sam Trammel was making a joke, "I’m basically naked for the last 3 episodes." He’s totally cool with it. But I’ve never forced anybody to do something outside comfort zone.
The vampire thing – if anyone forced me into a corner and said: what is this show about? It’s about primal desire. Certainly primal desire, one of those is sex, and nakedness and animal nature. Not having the civilizing influence of clothes. Getting back to that primeval thing we all climbed out of.
What other projects do you have coming?
I have tons of things I want to write. I have a movie in development at Paramount – “The F Word.” Elan Mastai is the writer – I read his spec script. It’s a big commercial comedy.
This movie I wrote, “What the Matter with Margie?” is currently being financed. It stars Elizabeth Banks, directed by Dan Minahan, about a woman who has a bad day and starts fighting back. Dark comedy. I wrote it 11 years ago. We should be shooting in January.
So you want to go back to movies?
I’m a little old for the TV grind. I would like to play around in the feature world. It’s a little scary, it seems like it's impossible to do anything these days. But I don’t want to go from being a workaholic to being another workaholic. I need to create more psychic space.
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