Out writer-director Alan Ball continues to win over the hearts of LGBT audiences, first with his Academy Award-winning screenplay for American Beauty, then with HBO's critically acclaimed and Emmy-winning drama Six Feet Under. Now, with two seasons of his intoxicating vampire drama True Blood under his belt, the writer and executive producer of the HBO fanger, based on Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse novels, paused ahead of the October 28 Paley Center for Media writers roundtable to discuss staying true to the source material, why gay audiences love their vampires, and the slate of gay characters set to join the drama's third season next year.
Advocate.com: What initially attracted you to the Sookie Stackhouse novels?
Alan Ball: It was an impulse purchase and it was just so much fun. The minute I finished the first book, I wanted the second one; it was like crack. I got addicted. I guess it was somewhere around the third or fourth book where I thought, This just really holds up, I think this could be a great TV show.
Were the gay metaphors something you envisioned immediately as you read the books?
All that is in the books. Also, there are a lot of gay characters in the books as you get further and further into them. We'll be introducing some of those gay characters this new season.
What other gay characters will be introduced in season 3?
We'll be meeting the vampire king of Mississippi and his long, long-term companion -- and by long-term I mean really long-term -- Talbot. I think Lafayette may meet a love interest, and certainly Pam, who works with Eric, she's certainly got a lesbian vibe -- I don't know that that's all she is, but she certainly does seem to appreciate the women.
What do you think it is about the vampire genre that's so appealing to LGBT fans?
I think it's certainly not a huge step for LGBT people to identify with any group of characters that are, as a group, outsiders, that mainstream society feels threatened by; that are fabulous and powerful and sexy and all of that stuff.
Lesbian vampire queen Sophie-Anne is romantically linked to Sookie's cousin, Hadley. Is there a possibility that the queen will also fall for Sookie?
I think Sophie-Anne is definitely interested in Sookie; I don't believe it's for sexual or romantic reasons but she is definitely interested in Sookie and whatever it is about Sookie that is special beyond the realm of what is human, and that's something that we definitely will learn more about in the upcoming season.
Denis O'Hare has just been cast as a regular for season 3. His character Russell Edgington, the vampire king of Mississippi, is gay in the books, so is this something we can expect to see in season 3?
I think the kings and queens of the various states are aware of each other, and yes, he definitely knows who she is. Whether or not they end up in a scene together I can't really say; it depends on actors' availability and scheduling and those kinds of things. But they definitely are aware of each other.
How much as writers do you stay true to the book series?
I think we try to stay very true to the spirit of the book series. We have made changes. The books are all narrated by Sookie, so the books are basically all Sookie's story. We definitely have -- in fleshing out the other characters -- been creative. I think where we may not stay true to the books entirely, we do try to stay very true to the spirit of them.
Do you and Charlaine discuss changes you have in mind for the character and story development on the show?
No. Charlaine put it very succinctly at Comic-Con -- she said, "I don't tell Alan how to write his show and he doesn't tell me how to write my books." We have a very, very good relationship; a mutual respect and admiration relationship, and I think the books have certainly been good for the show and the show has certainly been good for the books, but they are two completely different mediums and I think we both respect the boundaries of that.
You've said recently that a character will die in season 3. Will this story line follow the third book?
I'm a little leery to answer these questions because if I say yes it just gives it away. For people who read the books, some things will not come as a surprise. But for people who don't read the books, it will be a surprise.
Will we see Jason Stackhouse scantily clad again in season 3, considering how modest he was in season 2?
Well, he was at church camp! [Laughs] There's no shortage of man candy on the show and Jason is back in Bon Temps and he may be up to his old ways. I can tell you that you'll definitely get to see a lot of Jason in the first few episodes, and by a lot, I mean a lot physically. [Laughs]
For more information, visit paleycenter.org/fall-2009-inside-the-writers-room-true-blood