First Look: Alan Ball's True Blood

August 27, 2008
Alan Ball, the creator of the GLAAD Media Award-winning drama Six Feet Under, has reunited with HBO to present True Blood, a vampire drama based on the popular series of Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris. In a conversation with Ball today, he admitted that he rented and watched many vampire films before setting out to write and direct the show’s first episode, which premieres Sunday, Sept. 7 at 9/8c on HBO. There are three things he promises will never be part of True Blood: No crazy contact lenses when the fangs come out, no opera music, and no cold icy blue light. But what there will be is lots of blood sucking, gay metaphors, some gay characters, and even pansexual vampires. Why pansexual? "Well," Ball explains, "for vampires, feeding and sexuality are combined. It goes hand in hand." This means we can look forward to seeing vamps of both sexes feeding on male and female humans. But Ball tells us that some of his vampires lean in certain directions, attracted to one sex over another -- just like many humans. In Ball’s world, pansexual is the new bi, while the British series Torchwood considers its characters omnisexual. Are these all new labels for the same thing, or a generational rejection of terminology?
"I think, in my limited awareness of teenagers and people in their twenties, I think [labeling your sexuality is] just not that big a deal anymore, and that’s pretty healthy,” he says. “Kids are less inclined to be judgmental. That’s not to say there aren’t tons of judgmental kids, but it certainly seems to be less of a stigma attached to experimentation than when I was in high school. I think that certainly in the younger echelons of society, it’s just not a big deal anymore."
The openly gay writer/directer gained acclaim following his Oscar-winning American Beauty and Emmy-winning Six Feet Under. Both featured gay characters weaved into the fabric of the stories. “I have a more organic affinity with characters who may be gay,” he says, but admits he doesn’t go out of his way to shoehorn gay characters into his projects, such as his new film Towelhead. "I live in a dream world where being gay is about as interesting as having brown hair." He jokes that he certainly doesn't proclaim, "We have to have a gay character, because goddammit, we’re people too!" Ball says he has two screenplays in the works: one with a gay character, one without. We got a sneak peek at the first two episodes of True Blood, and LGBT fans should expect plenty of metaphors about the fight for minority equality ("God Hates Fangs" protest signs), a supporting gay character (wittily played by Nelson Elas) and plenty of onscreen sex and nudity. "I’m not sure that 'porn' is the word," Ball tells us, laughing. "I would say 'hot.'" We've also been promised a lesbian character in future episodes and gay romances to come. He assures us, "There's a little something for everybody in this show."