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Blood Bath: Televisionary Talks to "True Blood" Writer/Executive Producer Alan Ball

Still have some burning questions about last night's True Blood season finale? Or anxious to gather some clues about just what creator/executive producer Alan Ball has in store for the residents of Bon Temps when True Blood returns next summer? You've come to the right place.

I caught up with True Blood czar Alan Ball this morning to talk about last night's season finale, deconstruct the second season, and find out about what's coming up on Season Three of HBO's addictive vampire drama.

In this exclusive one-on-one interview, Ball hints at what's on the horizon for Sookie and Bill, new creatures, Sam Merlotte's quest, Jessica, a possible romance for Lafayette, the Vampire King of Mississippi, Sophie-Anne, and much, much more. Ball also told me that the writing staff had broken the fourth script for Season Three of True Blood already and that shooting is tentatively slated to begin December 3rd on the highly anticipated third season.

So what did Ball reveal about what's coming up on True Blood and what did he have to say about this season? Let's dive in, but beware: there are MAJOR SPOILERS below. (Note: Please do not reproduce this interview in full elsewhere. Quotes and excerpts are fine but please do not post the full text of this interview on message boards, websites, or elsewhere.)

Televisionary: What was the decision behind having the Maryann storyline finish out the season instead of the Dallas plot?

Alan Ball: We used the books as a template and that is sort of the way the second book is structured. Maryann is not as refined in the second book; she’s a maenad, she’s just a crazy woman running around in the woods. And we also felt like the first part of the season we had a lot of different storylines taking place in different places and then we wanted to bring them all together, bring all of our regulars together for one—something--where everyone was fighting the same fight for the last episode.

Televisionary: Was it difficult juggling the separate storylines in the first half of the season? We do have the cast split up more or less for most of the season.

Ball: You know, it wasn’t difficult. It was definitely different from the first season. But I sort of feel like, you want to do that, you want to shake the show up and do different things. You don’t want to just do the same things over and over and over again. I follow my instincts. To me, they were three really fun, interesting storylines. And then the fact that Jason sort of veered in with Bill and Sookie and then everyone came home and it all sort of came together, I actually thought it was really fun.

Televisionary: In speaking of Jason’s storyline, Anna Camp and Michael McMillian, who play the Newlins, became hugely popular with the audience. Is there a chance that the Newlins will be back?

Ball: They are so good. Of course, there’s a chance. They’re not dead. And I think they are both probably really pissed off.

Televisionary: Did you realize how much impact Godric’s death would have, despite Allan Hyde only appearing in a handful of episodes?

Ball: You know, I did because in the books, it’s really, really powerful and we tried hard to make it as powerful as it is in the books and that was a really tough role to cast because it was difficult to find an actor who looked so young but who could convey centuries of feeling and to be tired of life and tired of being alive and ready to move on. And I always thought that that was a great story and a great character. So I was not surprised; I was very moved myself. When I first saw the cut of that episode, I got a little teary, a little misted up.

Televisionary: In a season filled with heartrending and memorable moments, it definitely stands out as a powerful and profound sequence.

Ball: That whole episode is really wonderful. The episodes leading up to that one have been so filled with adventure and suspense and craziness and then I love that whole episode because there’s not only the scene with Godric and everything that’s going on with him but the Jessica stuff is really starting to heat up. And I love that scene with Jason and Sookie in the hotel, where they talk about Gran and he sort of drops his guard and you see how vulnerable he really is.

Televisionary: In that same episode, Godric’s death also enables us to see a different side of Eric. Was that a way for you and the writers to give Eric an added layer of vulnerability?

Ball: Yes, absolutely. One of the great, fun aspects of the books—and it’s become for the show as well—is the romantic tension between Bill, Sookie, and Eric. And we started off the season and we wanted to make Eric a bad-ass and I think we were very successful with that, by having him shred that guy in front of Lafayette’s face. (Laughs) And then in order to have him be a real, viable option for Sookie, you have to have some humanity there. She may be attracted to him physically, especially now that she’s had his blood, but she’s never going to go with somebody who she feels is evil or at the very least amoral. That was definitely what we were thinking of with Eric.

Televisionary: While Sookie and Bill are our romantic leads, Hoyt and Jessica offer us a very different take on vampire-human love. Did you anticipate such an incredible reaction to their storyline and specifically toward Jim Parrack and Deborah Ann Woll?

Ball: When I saw the scene [in "Scratches"] in the third episode where she walks into the bar and I saw that scene cut together, I did anticipate it. I went, wow! We really have something special here. They’ve just become a major couple on the show. I don’t think it’s going to be easy for them. Nothing is ever going to be easy for anybody on this show.

Televisionary: Season One saw Bill protecting Sookie on an almost weekly basis but in Season Two we see Sookie take a major step into adulthood and stand up for herself. How will their relationship continue to develop in Season Three, especially given with Eric’s influence over Sookie and Bill’s kidnapping?

Ball: I know exactly what’s going to happen in Season Three, because we’ve already started breaking the episodes and figuring the arc of the season. So I can’t really say without giving too much away what I think. But I’ll say this: the love between them is authentic and real, but that doesn’t mean that they will necessarily stay together. But it doesn’t mean that they won’t either, though.

Televisionary: Looking ahead to Season Three, are there are any themes or plots that you intend to employ next season? One of the more intriguing threads picked up in last night’s episode is both Sam and Sookie looking to find their roots.

Ball: Yeah, I think that whereas if we had any sort of major overarching theme for Season Two it was about the power of belief, both positive and negative. I think probably Season Three is going to be more about identity and characters really sort of coming to grips with who or what they are.

Televisionary: It seems almost like a red herring that Eric was behind Bill’s kidnapping last night. Should we be looking at any other potential suspects behind his disappearance?

Ball: I think you should always be considering all possibilities. (Laughs) That doesn’t mean that we’re not going to make the choice that is the one that’s being positioned to look like a red herring. But with this show, you never know what’s going to happen. I try to work with the writers in creating a show that when you buy the DVDs and you watch the season over again, knowing what’s going to happen, you’ll see moments where you’ll say, oh, of course. We tried to structure Season One with Rene’s identity as the killer that way, to never shine a light on it but Michael Raymond-James, who played Rene, knew from the very beginning that he was the killer. So he played it in a very subtle way so that if you watch those DVDs, now you’re like, oh, I see it. But we never want to give that away on the first go-around. I’d have to say it’s a similar situation with [Bill’s kidnapping].

Televisionary: When I interviewed Deborah Ann Woll a few months ago, she described Jason Stackhouse as “delightfully dim.” Does Jason’s killing of Eggs in the season finale reinforce that description?

Ball: (Laughs) Well, it certainly wasn’t a smart thing to do but he did it from a good place because he thought that Eggs was going to kill Andy. That’s certainly something that’s going to come back and haunt him.

Televisionary: Did you always intend Eggs to die at the end of the season? It obviously has huge repercussions for Tara.

Ball: Absolutely. We always knew that… Of course, I’m sad to loose Mehcad [Brooks], I’m sad to lose Michelle Forbes, I was very sad to lose Lois Smith but it’s a show about vampires and there’s a lot of violence. You can’t just have everybody you like just always get away because then it becomes a very different kind of a show and it loses its authenticity. Or as much authenticity as a show about vampires can have. (Laughs)

Televisionary: The body count will always be high.

Ball: Yes, there will always be a big body count on this show.

Televisionary: It’s intimated in the season finale that there’s a hidden force that’s supposedly watching over Sookie? Will we learn more about this and is this connected to that dangling plot thread about what happened to the Rattrays in the pilot?

Ball: Absolutely. Certainly, part of Sookie’s quest in Season Three, apart from trying to find Bill and find out who took him, is to figure out who and what she is. And by the end of the season, she certainly will be beginning to figure that out.

Televisionary: One of the most shocking revelations this season was the reveal that Jessica will forever be a virgin, which was incredibly upsetting. Where did this idea emanate from?

Ball: That came from a writer on staff, Raelle Tucker. It was one of those moments where it gets pitched and I sort of go, well, of course. What other show could you do that on? Well, I guess now there are several other shows you could do that on, but at that point… I had never worked on a show where that actually made perfect sense to do something like that. For me, that’s the best part of science fiction or fantasy or genre or whatever you want to call it in that you can put people in situations that most of us will not have to face in life and it’s just really, really interesting.

Televisionary: Jessica’s been through a hell of a lot this season but then she hunts and kills in the season finale. Is this normal teenage rebellion or are we seeing her go to a much darker place next season?

Ball: I don’t think you can say anything is normal teenage rebellion. Basically, all of the events of Season Two take place over eight days. So she’s still a fairly freshly-made vampire. Bill hasn’t been much of a maker and she just had a really emotional experience with Hoyt walking out on her. It’s part of her instincts as a vampire and her need to feed and her not liking Tru Blood because it’s a poor substitute and also she’s just got rage. And she’s got good reason to have rage. She got turned into a vampire against her will and then she thought she’d found a way to make that work and then all of the sudden, it’s been taken away from her. She’s only 17 or 18, so… I wouldn’t call it normal teenage acting out. (Laughs)

Televisionary: One of the more unexpected partnerships that developed this season was Jason Stackhouse and Andy Bellefleur, who offered a bit of comic relief but also a genuine, strange friendship that might be shattered by Jason’s actions in the season finale.

Ball: We’re definitely going to put some tension on them but they will continue to actually be a sort of – I don’t want to call them a team but their lives are definitely going to intersect in Season Three.

Televisionary: How many scripts have you broken for Season Three?

Ball: We’ve broken four scripts so far.

Televisionary: Are you ever surprised by anything in terms of breaking the stories that you didn’t anticipate?

Ball: This is different from Six Feet Under in that we’re working from source material and one of the reason is that Charlaine’s books are so successful is that they work. We’re starting Season Three with the third book and the books are basically Sookie’s stories because she narrates them and then we try to figure out how to bring the other characters in and keep everyone involved. In Season Two, we specifically decided to send everybody off on their own little thing and then have them reunite at the end but I don’t want to repeat that so I’m really trying to keep Season Three certainly a little more organic with the connection between the regulars.

But, no, we’re working with the source material. Like I said, a lot of Charlaine’s books just work so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. On Six Feet Under, there were always massive shifts in seasons. But again that was more of a blank slate because we weren’t basing them on any existing material.

Televisionary: Is Evan Rachel Wood a series regular next season?

Ball: No, she’s not a series regular but she definitely will appear. I know some fans thought that she wasn’t scary enough but all I can say to that is that I didn’t want to blow our wad at the top. She’s pretty scary and we’ll definitely see that. She’s crazy! I mean, that character is insane so I don’t think we’ve really seen an insane vampire yet.

Televisionary: So, we’ve seen telepaths, vampires, maenads, and shifters all turn up in Bon Temps. Any new creatures we can expect to see in Season Three?

Ball: Werewolves…

Televisionary: Are there any clues for what viewers can expect for next season?

Ball: I can tell you that we will meet the Vampire King of Mississippi and he will have an agenda with the Vampire Queen of Louisiana. We will meet werewolves, some other weres that aren’t wolves but they are not shifters either. (Laughs.) We are going to meet Sam’s blood relatives, we’re going to meet probably the nastiest vampire we’ve met yet and Lafayette might get some action, might have a little love story of his own.

True Blood's third season begins Summer 2010 on HBO.

Comments

wildhoney said…
Fantastic interview! I am already excited for season three!
Juliana said…
Thanks for the great interview! I'm very happy to hear that there is at least a possibility of the Newlins returning at some point and that Jessica will still be a prominent part of the story. I love her! And I can't wait to learn more about the Vampire King of Mississippi.
beadrbop said…
Thank you for the great interview! I was left with quite a few questions after watching the season finale and this interview helped quell my worries for season 3. You really got to the heart of what the fans have been asking on the fan forum sites. Thanks again for the interview.
Alicia said…
Great interview as always, Jace. And a hell of a lot better than the laughably bad dreck that Ausiello ran with today. Thanks for keeping us TB fans in the loop!
Anonymous said…
This was without question, the best post-season 2 write up out there.

Wonderful interview with Alan Ball.
Thank you so much for your efforts, Jace!
Therothbean- Jill said…
Excellent interview Jace - as I am almost done reading the stackhouse series- I have to agree with ball naturally- there is wonderful material to build on! I do wish he had addressed the topic of Eric and his little face time on the finale... Otherwise cheers to a great interview and to the second season of true blood-
enjoying the view said…
I'm not sure if it is the script or the actor but Sophie-ann's character was just annoying. Once the novelity of seeing her for the first time wore off I wanted her gone. I never bought into act that she is the queen. But she was very pretty and her costumes were great.

It must be a challenge to find a young person who can project an old powerful supernatural being.

I am looking forward to next year. Thanks so much.
applejul said…
Great interview...hope to see in season 3 more eric and Sookie!!!and please...Eric is the good guy....reread the books!!!
Anonymous said…
Too bad Alan Ball is missing the popularity of Alexander and Eric. Dont even care if it follows the books at all, just he is being ignored. Eric needs to be in it more.
Kent said…
That was a billiant interview. Just what I needed after watching season two end. And, now I am not so scared about Sookie thinking that Bill ran out on her. If she is searching for him in season three then all should be fine. At least I hope so.
4J said…
Now that is a great interview! Great questions and intriguing answers.
Eric is a provocative character but Bill(and Sookie) have my heart...and yes I have read the books!
All hail Alan Ball!!!
Unknown said…
I am trying to figure out how I am going to be patient enough for season 3 without going nuts!!
I loved this interview. I love reading about what to expect.What I do not love is Sookie's character. She is not as strong as she is in the books, and her character is a little too flighty and inconsistent for a man like Bill.I do hope she toughens up a little bit.
My only gripe!!! The rest is to die for!!!!!!!!
TrueBloodHolics said…
GREAT INTERVIEW...Can't wait!!!
theTVaddict said…
Great Interview,

One suggestion though for future interviews, please bold the questions as to more easily differentiate them from the answers!
Anonymous said…
Great interview. In the books Eric definitely is the good guy, he's actually the main love interest I believe, and Bill and everyone else, even Eric's own self interest, are all just roadblocks to keep that main romance between him and Sookie simmering. In many ways, the television series is better, but it is being a bit too cut and dried with Bill/Sookie being the main couple. They should have put more of Eric in from the start. Ball agrees that the books work, so he should stick with Eric as the main/elusive romance goal. While having Bill stake the vamp in Eric's bar (rather than Eric) in season 1 was great for setting up the Jessica storyline etc; they really should have started putting in hints at the beginning that Eric was interested enough in Sookie to protect her. No going back and fixing season 1, but the Godric storyline did help with Eric sympathy this year. Just PLEASE don't continue making Bill out to be the good guy--it's boring and one dimensional, and in the books [which WORK once again] he's anything but perfect.
Elianne23 said…
I wish readers would stop expecting the TV show to follow the books exactly. Alan Ball is going to have his own artistic vision and will make changes to both characters and storylines,
and people will be frustrated with this if they want slavish reinactment of the the books. That would be boring and probably wouldn't work very well in the medium. Let the man do his job, I say.
TaaDaa said…
This interview makes me question if he has TRULEY read the books or not. When asked about his opinion on the impact of Godric's death and if he realized how much impact it would have, his responce was " I did, because in the books, its really, really powerful and we tried hard to make it as powerful as in the books and that was a really tough role to cast".....umm, in the books Godric is NOT even Erics maker. Also, Godric is a child molester and all around bad guy. Hello. Also, He is making Eric out to be the 'bad guy' and Bill the "knight in shining armor" when in fact in the books Eric is the good guy and Bill, not so much. The way that he has made Sookie out to be so helpless and coe-dependent on Bill is pathetic. Queen Sofie was pretty to look at but the acting there was sub-par, as is Bill Comptons. I like that he has taken the story and made it his own but please, please, as he said himself "if its not broken, dont fix it" stay with the TRUE story lines!
tigereyes60 said…
Great interview. I do wish people would stop referring to the books, we already can see Allan has changed some things and will continue to do so. If he followed the books I think the show would be boring and we as viewers would know what to expect. I also think Stephen Moyer is doing a fantastic job as Bill Compton, as Allan wants him to be. I hate that others see Bill as boring, He would be the type i would most definitely be attracted to. I am still hoping for Bill and Sookie to be together for good.
Joanne said…
Thanks for the great interview! I too wish people would stop saying, "Read the books." They are two different entities. Eric has done more on the show that is evil - bringing Lorena in to stop Bill from saving Sookie, dealing the V, working with the Queen, tricking Sookie into taking his blood, and possibly being involved in kidnapping Bill. How can anyone think that he's right for Sookie when he has repeatedly lied over and over? The books don't matter because AB has clearly made Eric out to be the bad vamp. Sorry folks, that's just the way it is.
DESI said…
^^^ YES, WHAT JOANNE SAIS!
Anonymous said…
Personally, I am tired of the Bill-Sookie relationship and am firmly entrenched in the Eric camp. I hope that they really amp up the Eric-Sookie connection next season. And I also think it is unfair that everyone insists on separating the books from the show. I understand the show will not be a carbon copy of the book but it's really unrealistic to think of the two as separate entities. The books are the reason the show exists. Fans of the show will be drawn to the books and vice versa. They are linked and fans are forming relationships this universe and with these characters. Obviously the show will deviate from the book but when it does so in a way that changes a major character's personality, I think fans are justified in being pissed. I can only hope that in Season Three, Eric comes into is own and we get to see what a fascinating and entertaining guy he is... also, I really wish Hair and Makeup would get rid of Bill Compton's ugly bowl cut. What is that about?
Carolynp366 said…
I love the show. My only question is are we ever going to see Bubba a.k.a. Elvis? If so instead of have him be slow minded. Let him be a bit of a bad ass only showing now and then to help save the day and slip out. Have the vamps say "was that who I think it was?"
Anonymous said…
STop comparing the books and the TV!!! what;s the point of making a TV series that is so close to the boooks!!! isn't it too boring and predictable!!!! what the producers does is to make sure that the essences and the essentials of the books are capture!!! If u like the stories from the book!!!! go back and read the books!!! It is FAIR to seperate the books from the show!!! Be realistic!!!! let the experts do their MAGIC!!!
Anonymous said…
Whether you separate books from show it is obvious many people want to see more Eric in any capacity. The character of Eric is that good and deserves delving into no matter the outcome. Alexander Skarsgard is terrific in the role too.

My two humble suggestions: 1) To book purist Eric Lovers - be patient and let AB get there in his own way. 2) To Bill Lovers - calm down and let Eric happen. There is no guarantee in either medium Eric is the HEA. Enjoy the ride. It'll be fun.

@Carolyn. Sorry Alan Ball has said there will be no Bubba. He explains since the real Elvis cant be cast, it will always be an impersonator being Elvis and distracting. (paraphrasing)
Brittany said…
WARNING: Bit of a spoiler:
Season three will be awesome, just like that last two. The third and fourth book were my favorites, and I'm excited to see who they'll cast as Alcide and Debbie. I'm also wondering if Bill's betrayal in the book will be the case in the third season...
Brittany said…
Oh, yeah, i forgot to mention... I am very sad to hear that there will be no Bubba... He was an awesome character and part of a good twist in the book. A message to Alan: You are totally correct, the books work! Keep it up!
Anonymous said…
I love the show and yes, I have read all the books too. One of the main reasons for me to start watching the show was the Eric/Sookie relationship. Sorry AB but I think you went alittle to far with Bill/Sookie relationship. Bill really looks like a goody goody and Eric a monster, in Sookie's eyes and viewers eyes. Yes, I know, the books and TB series are not the same but come on. Give us our Eric back. Thank you!
Carolynp366 said…
I'm sorry there will be no Bubba but otherwise I love the show. Except that I have to wait so long for season three! I also know Eric and Sookie will be together sooner or later. Me thinks the lady doth protests too much!!!
chrysa said…
nice interview...
im really sad from what i read.. im in the bill's fan club!! you might be right ,it might be because i havent read the books and all i know about eric is that he s the bad guy.but the thing is i first watched the tv series and now im really confused what i should do.. should i read the books or wait and find out on tv so i dont spoil it for myself??
i wont have the strength to watch sookie making up with eric.. seriously! sookie and bill are such a nice couple together!
Anonymous said…
Yes Bill and Sookie are a great couple. In the books Eric starts out bad too. But Sookie helps him rediscover his humanity when he forgets who he is. He winds up very confused. I'm with you though I keep rooting for Bill and Sookie in the books and on TV!
carolyn payne said…
I forgot my user name and password I have no idea how else to do this You know my email but here it is again carolynp366@gmail.com I want to keep being a part of this though help!
Anonymous said…
I think that Alan Ball is doing an excellent job. He have his own great ideas and not too much with the book. storyline. I enjoyed reading the interview and can't wait for season 3. Love the TV series, love Bill and Sookie.
Anonymous said…
People need to stop comparing the TV series to the book. Just let Alan Ball work his magic!! Hope Bill and Sookie end up together! So far the storyline is awesome!!! If the series is exactly like the book it will be too boring and viewers will not be excited to find out what happen next. Keep up the good work Mr. Ball.
Katie said…
Darn, until the summer? Figures when I'll be traveling a lot, going to see U2 in 3 cities in June and July 2010. Will just have to set the VCR and cable box I guess.
Anonymous said…
I just love the passion btw Bill and Sookie! It is awesome. I think the role reversal was great! Yes, it keeps our wheels turning with the interference of Eric but in the end I hope they do get married (now that it's legalized):)
Anonymous said…
I read the books. I prefer the couple Bill&Sookie because their love is true. I hope that Alan Ball is going to leave them together. If I look at the series with so much envy it is for the relation Bill&Sookie. Without them, I shall not love so much True Blood. The series has to divert the books. So leave Bill and Sookie together, PLEASE. They are so beautiful together.

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