Alan Ball is not a vampire connoisseur or enthusiast. He admits he has not seen shows like Buffy or read the Anne Rice books. But he is producing HBO's new series, True Blood, because the concept of Charlaine Harris's books spoke to him regardless of its genre influences.
Alan Ball Talks True Blood
"I found the first book totally by accident," said Ball. "I was early for a dentist appointment. I was wasting time at Barnes & Noble, waiting for the time for me to go sit in the lobby. I saw a book, the first book in the series, Dead Until Dark. The tagline was, 'Maybe having a vampire for a boyfriend wasn't such a good idea.' I thought it was really funny. I bought the book, I started reading it and I couldn't put it down. 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. About midway through the second book, I thought, 'I think this might make a good television show because you just want more.' You just want more of this world and these characters."
In True Blood, a synthetic blood drink allows vampires to live without feasting on people. Some try to join human society, with mixed tensions and conflicts, and some just stay evil. Local waitress Sookie Stackhouse braves the species gap and starts dating vampire Bill Compton.
"It is very important to me to be true to the spirit of Charlaine's world," said Ball. "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 and all the other characters were really interesting. I wanted to just flesh that out a little but it is very important to me to remain true to Charlaine's world because I think it works."
The first season follows events from that first novel that Ball picked up on his way to the dentist. "We don't really take any incidents from later books in the first season. The first book really works well as a framework for a season. We are, however, creating some events that don't really exist in the books."
Embellishing the story was necessary to the weekly TV format, but Ball has the author's blessings. "I've gotten to know Charlaine and I sent her the first two scripts at the beginning of the process. She's seen the first two episodes. When we were shooting in Louisiana, she came down. She was a part of it. I think it's really important to include her because none of us would be here if it weren't for her. I really, really want her fans to be fans of the show and I really want the show to sell a lot more books for her. But at a certain point, you have to make a separation and make the show that you believe is the best show and hope for the best.