[07/24/08 - 04:30 PM]
Live at the San Diego Comic-Con: "True Blood"
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

HBO's True Blood

The panel's description: "Based on the popular Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris, True Blood is created by Alan Ball, creator of HBO�s Emmy-winning series Six Feet Under. The series takes place in the not-too-distant future, when, thanks to the invention of synthetic blood, vampires no longer need humans for their fix and can walk freely, if not yet comfortably, among their living counterparts. With their integration into a small Louisiana town causing a stir, a love story ensues between Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin, the X-Men films; Academy Award winner for The Piano), an innocent waitress with the unusual ability to read minds, and vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer, The Starter Wife). The series also features Ryan Kwanten (Summerland), Rutina Wesley (How She Move), Sam Trammell (Judging Amy), and Nelsan Ellis (The Inside). True Blood debuts September 7 exclusively on HBO. Room 6CDEF"

4:31 PM: And we're back! Although as is typical, the panel itself is running behind. I assume they'll be starting shortly.

4:32 PM: Hey it's Lynette Rice from Entertainment Weekly. She's here to intro our panel - Nelsan Ellis, Sam Trammell, Rutina Wesley, Ryan Kwanten, Stephen Moyer, Anna Paquin, Alan Ball and Charlaine Harris.

4:35 PM: Alan says he's brought a trailer prepared specifically for Comic-Con.

4:39 PM: Alan reveals he stumbled upon Charlaine's books by accident at a Barnes & Noble and couldn't put them down.

4:41 PM: Charlaine notes that others approached her prior to Alan to adapt the book series, which at one point was developed as a feature. She was "apalled" by what producers wanted to do with it until Alan came along.

4:43 PM: Alan says the biggest challenge in adapting the books is that they are all narrated by Sookie so they had to open up the world of the other characters. Overall though he feels a responsibility to remain true to the spirit of the books.

4:44 PM: The cliches about vampires that Alan wants to avoid: blue light, contact lenses and opera music.

4:45 PM: Alan notes he was attracted to how the supernatural in Charlaine's books is rather mundance and just accepted as part of the world.

4:46 PM: Anna reveals episode two will include a flashback to her dating foibles where she unfortunately knew exactly what her suitors were thinking.

4:49 PM: Alan confirms that the Sookie/Bill relationship will be a centerpiece of the show. But they will touch on all aspects of vampire life - including the presence of "fangbangers," those humans that are drawn to sex with vampires.

4:53 PM: Lynette and Alan reveal that Sam's character's "special powers" from the books will indeed by integrated into the show.

4:55 PM: I'll come out and say what everyone's thinking - Lynette seems particularly obsessed with asking questions about vampire sex.

4:57 PM: Rutina on her character's relationship with Sookie: "She's my girl." She's also hopelessly in love with Sookie's brother.

4:58 PM: Nelsan says his character has a gay porn website and works as an escort, a facet that wasn't in the books. "But I'm okay with it," Charlaine adds.

5:00 PM: Alan notes that humans use vampire blood as a drug, the effects of which vary from person to person.

5:02 PM: Audience Q&A time. Someone asks who their ideal casting is for Quinn (Charlaine's personal homage to Vin Disel, she notes), a character who appears later in the books. Alan says he doesn't think about casting until it comes up in actual production.

5:04 PM: Alan says there's various ancillary web sites about the show (all of which apparently can be found on HBO.com) in addition to the faux commericals currently airing.

5:06 PM: A fan asks if/when we'll see a character named Bubba. Alan says he doesn't want to give that detail away.

5:07 PM: Alan on what a real "Tru Blood" beverage might contain: V-8, valium, vicodin and viagra. He adds that a company named Campfire is behind all the ancillary material, the founders of which were behind "The Blair Witch Project."

5:09 PM: Someone asks if the show will speak to the gay community as much as "Six Feet Under" did. Alan confesses vampires are metaphors for all types of disenfranchised groups, including gays. However there won't be a Keith/David-esque couple that's directly pointed to the gay community.

5:11 PM: As far as any "Six Feet Under" carryovers on the creative side, "there's more fresh than old blood," Alan says so to speak. In terms of production, there's just a few days left until they've wrapped the first season.

5:12 PM: A fan asks how the books and TV show will diverge going forward. Charlaine diplomatically notes that she has more time and latitude than someone who runs a TV show with very real constraints. "They're both really good experiences," she adds.

5:13 PM: When asked about genre fandom, Alan says he finds he's more successful when doing things he responds to rather than catering to the whims of the fans. That being said, he feels an enormous amount of respect and gratitude towards Charlaine and the fans of the books. "I'm not going to make changes just to make changes," he adds. "She's done all the heavy lifting and I'm very fortunate in that."

5:15 PM: Alan notes that season one will more or less tell the story of book one. He also adds that Eric, a sheriff from one of the "areas," will be introduced later on this season as part of planting seeds for season two/book two. Not having read the books, I have no idea what this means. But the applause seems to suggest it's a good thing.

5:18 PM: Anna on what she loves about her character: "She's really tough... and I really like being blonde."

5:19 PM: Stephen says he tries to make Bill very still in his performance since he doesn't have a heartbeat. There's no ticks and extraneous movements, he only moves when he has to.

5:20 PM: Ryan adds that he's lost all his inhibitions since playing Jason.

5:21 PM: Sam notes he's attracted to the role because not only is his character's name Sam but he/his family's from Louisiana as well.

5:22 PM: Nelsan says he loves playing a character with no definable boundaries.

5:23 PM: Lynette asks how having the vampire film "Twilight" roll out when "True Blood" is airing hurts/helps the show. Alan notes there's room for both while Charlaine says they could take 'em.

5:24 PM: Alan notes the show is set post-Katrina (it's mentioned in the pilot) but it won't be a centerpiece of the show. But since the books take place before and after said event - "when we get to book five, we'll address that," Alan adds.

5:26 PM: Anna says she's read some but not all of the books. Alan says each actor has their own process so he doesn't forbid or encourage them from reading ahead.

5:27 PM: Will werewolves and the "meanades" (sp?) appear in the show? The latter does turn up towards the end of season one Alan confirms but the former won't until season two at the earliest.

5:29 PM: "After 'Six Feet Under' I was tired of people talking about their problems," Alan says about how he came to do "True Blood." "I wanted to do something fun."

5:31 PM: And that's all folks, see you in a few for "Dexter."

  [july 2008]  


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