Last summer HBO struck watercooler gold with its latest series True Blood. Starring Anna Paquin (X-Men) as rural Louisiana barmaid Sookie Stackhouse, the series was a disarmingly outrageous Gothic mélange of sex, violence, and vampirism that both attracted and repelled titillated viewers. Based on Charlaine Harris’ bestselling series of books, Alan Ball (Six Feet Under) is the man behind the adaptation of her universe to the small screen. Set in a contemporary world where vampires have come out of their coffins to live amongst humans, they now just want to mainstream by giving up the vein instead surviving on a Japanese synthetic blood drink called…True Blood.But after millennium lurking in the shadows preying on humans, let’s just says it’s a lot easier said than done for some of the vampire brethren. Yet there are some that want to coexist peacefully, including the century old Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), a talk, dark, brooder that wanders into Merlotte’s, Sookie’s place of business. The pair locks eyes and a smoldering passion ensues. Season one documented their lusty, and at times bizarre courtship, while exposing the seamy side of Bill’s world. And along the way audiences came to know Sookie’s slutty, himbo brother Jason (Ryan Kwaten), her troubled best friend Tara (Rutina Wesley), smitten boss Sam (Sam Trammell) and Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), the flamboyant pleasure dealer whose life was in jeopardy by season’s end. True Blood’s season two literally picks up seconds after season one left off, solving a lingering cliffhanger and then setting the stage for twelve more episodes of darkness, passion and supernatural surprises. Loosely based on Harris’ “Living Dead on Dallas,” Ball says the sophomore season will be familiar to the book fans, yet also branch out to introduce brand new characters and conflicts. “I fell in love with these books,” Ball admits. “I thought this is a great tale and a great universe. I think one of the reasons the books are so successful is because they work. But honestly, probably as the series progresses we’ll be forced to not…you are walking a fine line and you want to be as faithful to the books as possible but at the same time you don’t want to transcribe because then there will be no surprises for the audience. But I intend to be very faithful to the source material because it’s really good and it works.” By the fourth episode, one of those familiar storylines will revolve around Bill and Sookie’s trip to Dallas. They work out a deal with Louisiana vampire sheriff Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgård) to get reconnaissance on an errant vampire lurking in that city. Ball says the field trip is the first of many broader set pieces for the season. “A part of the show takes place in Dallas but not most of it,” Ball explains. “There is a lot that goes on in Bon Temps. But we chose to show a very different side of vampire culture and that’s in the big city. A lot of the show takes place in a hotel that caters to vampires which is very upscale. But while we are in the city, there is also a leadership conference at the [anti-vampire church] Fellowship of the Sun in a campground and that’s nature based and rural.” Jason Stackhouse will find himself embroiled with the Fellowship since they supported the aimless young man when he was accused of murder last season. “In the books, Jason is very much the hot guy in town who is the womanizer,” Ball explains. “Once we started to flesh him out, no pun intended, we saw that he is sexually compulsive. What is that about and what is that from? Ultimately, Jason is a scared little boy that has been abandoned by everyone he has ever loved. It was fun playing the lothario, horn dog aspect of Jason last season along with an addiction storyline. In the second season, he is very much aware of the deep hole in his soul and he’s looking to fill that. As many people do, he latches onto religion and becomes part of an organization that makes him feel special. But of course, as time goes on…let’s just say Jason can’t leave his clothes on too long.” There’s also plenty of evil afoot with many morally questionable characters weaving in and out of the storylines including Fangtasia vamp bar owner Eric being portrayed as a much scarier vampire than first glimpsed in season one. “I’m thrilled with the way the season starts,” Skarsgård says about Eric’s bolder approach. “Season one is an introduction to Eric and he doesn’t do much. We don’t get much of a sense of who he is except that he’s quiet and intimidating. [The open of season two] is fun way to show he’s a man of action.” There’s also the mysterious, bohemian character of Maryann introduced in the last episodes of season one where she introduced herself as a social worker to the emotionally spent Tara. She quickly swept the damaged woman away to her mansion where she continues to “nurse” her back to health. Played by Michelle Forbes (Star Trek: TNG, Battlestar Galactica: Razor), audiences already know there’s more to Maryann than meets the eye due to her first appearance naked with a pig by the side of a road displaying some weird, vibrating mojo. Forbes assures that Maryann only gets weirder and worse in season two. “I’ve played a lot of people that do bad things and it’s always an interesting journey as an actor because you can never approach it that way,” Forbes explains about the ambiguous nature of her character. “For me with Maryann, I think that she is a character about perception. She does not perceive her quest as bad. She perceives it as being beautiful and she doesn’t understand why people don’t get it and come along for the ride.” This season that ride will include some confrontations with Sam and some decidedly carnal parties that involve much of Bon Temps. “She’s not a nefarious person in her mind at all,” the actress continues. “She just wants everyone to be free like she is free. She doesn’t understand why everyone is mucking about in pain and suffering. So she’s not a Hitler-type villain nor a serial killer villain out for control. But she’s after something though.” All of that and more will play out over the twelve day time span of season two in the same jaw-dropping tone that Ball established in the first year. But the creator says the show is even more grounded in solid storytelling this time around so they’ve earned their forays into boundary pushing. “This season, I did not feel like we needed to up the ante just to up the ante,” Ball ponders. “I did feel like it was important to make Eric more frightening and see more of his monstrous side because as we progress we see more of his more human side. Personally, there is a scene where Sookie and Bill make love in the first episode that basically on the page it said “Sookie and Bill make love.” Then I saw the dailies cut together, and I wasn’t there when they shot it, and I was like ‘Oh, wow! Ok.’ I love it and I think that’s part of the appeal of the show. I don’t think we do anything gratuitously. But it’s important to show that between Sookie and Bill, there is this incredible, erotic chemistry. "These are two people who never thought they had any chance at a love affair and they found each other. There is something fantastic and mind-blowing about that. And for example the violence in the first few episodes, it’s important to see that these people are monsters or capable of being monsters and violent. It was also important that a character that will remain nameless suffers from PTSD over the course of the season. You don’t want to have all of that horrible gore and the awful psychological experience just be okay for him the next day. That’s not how it happens in life.” With the fandom from the show growing, Ball confirms that True Blood will be hosting a San Diego Comic-Con Q&A panel featuring himself, Anna Paquin, Steven Moyer, Ryan Kwaten, Rutina Wesley, Sam Trammell, Alexander Skarsgård, Deborah Ann Woll (Jessica) and Michelle Forbes. [Date, room and time TBD] Meanwhile, Ball and his team are shooting the last two episodes of season with hopes of returning to arc out the third season in the fall with production starting back up in December. “I’m really, really happy with season two,” Ball enthuses. “I watch these episodes probably 40 or 50 times given the amount of time I spend in editing. I just love the show. And that’s a huge luxury for me because I’ve worked on shows before, not Six Feet Under, but others where I’ve thought, ‘Do I have to watch it again?’ That’s not the case with True Blood.” True Blood Season Two premieres Sunday, June 14th at 9pm on HBO.
Alan Ball & Cast on TRUE BLOOD Season 2
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