By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood July 25, 2008 at 8:09AM
[Posted by Liz Shannon Miller]
At the standing-room-only panel for HBO's "True Blood," author Charlaine Harris admitted that she'd always thought her vampire fiction might work as a series for HBO. But Alan Ball had no idea of that when he found the first "True Blood" book while killing time in a Borders. Quickly becoming a fan of Harris's Southern Gothic vampire romance, Ball felt that to condense the books for a film would "do them a disservice," and instead approached Harris about adapting the books for television. "Several people had approached me about working with the material," Harris said, "But Alan's was definitely the most interesting artistically. I've felt very comfortable entrusting my babies to him."[Here's the True Blood website.]
Ball did his best to keep the series as true to the books as possible, with the first season covering the story of "I believe I understand from the books themselves what Charlaine was trying to do," Ball said, "And I'm extremely committed to bringing it out the screen. There's a point when you have to realize that a book and a TV series are two different things. However, I'm not going to change things just to change things. And I wouldn't be saying that if the series didn't already work. Charlaine's done all the heavy lifting."
"We're trying to keep the magic as mundane as possible and focus on the characters and relationships," Ball added. When it came to moving from drama to a genre series, Ball said "it wasn't difficult, and there are two reasons for that. One, Charlaine did such a good job that I was able to put myself inside the characters and [the world] didn't strike me as all that different. The other thing that made it simple was that after five years of 'Six Feet Under,' I was really tired of people talking about their problems. I wanted to do something
fun. And I've had more fun doing this series than I have doing anything else in my career." Ball promised to avoid vampire cliches-- which he cited as "blue light, contact lenses, and opera music."
While the series will feature erotic scenes of a rough nature, Ball specified that "there are some romantic sex scenes too. Just because you're having sex with a vampire doesn't mean it can't be romantic. Everyone knows that, right?"
Anna Paquin raved about getting to play the main character of Sookie, a role she enjoyed because "she's a good person with a strong value system. And I like being blonde." Ball promised that while the
relationship between Suki and her main love interest, a vampire named Bill, would have elements of a "will they or won't they" romance, he also didn't say how long the pair would hold out.
Promotion for "True Blood" is already in full force, and Alan Ball dropped mention of a few lesser-known campaigns. The beverage "True Blood" (not the show) will be sponsoring this Satuday's Masquerade
Ball, and websites for in-show elements such as the Church of the Fellowship of the Sun, a human/vampiredating site, and a vampire-friendly motel are currently online.
In response to a question about whether vampires in the series will represent the gay and lesbian community, Alan Ball admitted that while he sees vampires as having potential as symbols for gay/lesbians, he prefers to work with their larger potential as metaphors for disenfranchisement of any kind. Meanwhile, though, gay human and vampire characters do exist in the series -- an announcement that was met with scattered, but sincere, applause.
Series premieres September 9 on HBO.
[Originally appeared on Variety.com]