Alan Ball admits he stumbled across his latest project by accident. Meandering through a Barnes and Noble, killing time before a dentist appointment, he spotted Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris. The tagline, “Maybe having a vampire for a boyfriend wasn’t such a good idea” was just too much fun for the creator of Six Feet Under.
“I started reading it and I couldn’t put it down,” Ball confesses.” It’s the kind of book that you think, ‘I’m going to read one chapter before I go to bed,’ and you read seven.”
Ball did more than that, he went on to create his own HBO show based on the series about Louisiana’s bloodsucking population and their integration into normal society–thanks to synthetic blood.
He might be the macabre but, Ball sure had a ball telling us all about True Blood, premiering Sept. 7 on HBO.
Hollywood.com: What are some of the differences between your version and Charlaine’s?
It is very important to me to be true to the spirit of Charlaine’s world. Now, the books are basically Sookie’s story, Sookie basically narrates everything. All the other characters exist only when they’re in the same room with her. I felt like that would be a production impossibility because then Anna [Paquin] would be working 12 hours a day, five days a week. All the other characters were really interesting, and I wanted to just flesh that out a little.
HW: What drew you to Sookie?
She’s fearless…she’s been through a lot. She lost both her parents at a very young age. She’s dealt with this–as likes to refer to it–her disability of hearing people’s thoughts. She’s generally a good person with a good energy. She’s very open minded.
HW: Do you view the vampires as a metaphor for gay people in this country?
Well, that was certainly in the books…I really don’t look at the vampires as a metaphor for gays in a very specific way. Part of the joy of this whole series is that it’s about vampires, and so we don’t have to be that serious about it.
HW: You’ve definitely picked up on the sensuality of the books. What made you decide to go in that direction?
That was an instinctive choice. It felt like it was a part of the world. Also, one of my main characters is totally sexually compulsive, so it sort of feels like you have to go there.
HW: Are vampires better lovers than humans in this story?
Yeah, they’ve had hundreds of years to like figure things out and to learn things.
HW: We’ve seen vampire shows and movies before. Can you tell us how the mythology might be different?
I personally have never seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Angel. I’m not really a big vampire fanatic. I can tell you some specific ways the mythology differs. A lot of the myths about vampires were created by vampires themselves over history so that they could pass because, if you could convince everybody that, you know, you couldn’t be seen in a mirror or that you would freak out if somebody shoved a crucifix in your face, then you could prove you weren’t a vampire pretty easily. The vampires in our world know that.
HW: And the physicality of the vampires?
We went to great pains to sort of depict a certain kind of physiology for the fangs in which they actually are retracted like rattlesnake fangs and then they click forward. I wanted to approach the supernatural not as being something that exists outside of nature, but something that is more deeply rooted in nature.