Staying True25 Jul, 2009 By: Kyra Kudick
With the second season of the HBO series “True Blood” well underway, fans of the popular Sookie Stackhouse book series by Charlaine Harris can relax and enjoy it — her world has made a marvelous transition from the page to the screen.
This is largely thanks to the genius of show creator Alan Ball (“Six Feet Under”), who is an admitted fan of Harris’ novels.
“I picked up her book [Dead Until Dark], and I started reading, and I couldn’t stop reading it,” Ball says in commentary on the DVD. “I loved the world. I loved the characters. It was just so much fun.”
“True Blood” explores a brave new world in which vampires have made their existence known because, thanks to the Japanese invention of synthetic blood, they no longer need to feed off humans for survival. The challenges of the vampire integration into society are told through the lives of colorful characters in a small Northern Louisiana town, particularly through Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a telepathic bar waitress, and her vampire boyfriend, Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer).
“It seemed to me it would be funnier if it were anchored in the modern world,” Harris says of her departure from dark, mysterious vampire lore. “I had read Dracula a couple of times in the past and had delved into a few of the world myths about vampires. But none of these I adopted completely because I think it is important to make up your own.”
Ball says he feels a responsibility to be true to the world Harris has created, and according to her, he has succeeded.
“Alan is a great talent,” Harris says. “And I’m very fond of him.”
She says since her novels are written from Sookie’s first-person perspective, it made a literal translation of the books to the screen virtually impossible.
“[But] I think Alan invented backstories for all the other characters that are perfectly in line with the characters as they are revealed in the books,” Harris says. “It’s just that he follows them places that I don’t go because my intention is telling Sookie’s story.”
The superb casting of the characters doesn’t hurt, either.
“I think that is Alan’s genius — picking the right person for the right role,” Harris says. “Whether they look exactly like the characters as I describe them in the book or not, that is the right actor for the right role. I really think that is one of his strongest points.
“Anna is absolutely brilliant as Sookie, and Nelsan Ellis (who plays Lafayette Reynolds) is such a fantastic actor. I mean he just took that role between his teeth and ran with it. I just thought it was fascinating.”
Ball’s goal is to keep that fan fascination alive with some hidden nods to the book fans. For example, the panther baseball cap Jason (Ryan Kwanten) wears in the first episode foreshadows a major plot twist for the character, something fans of the books will recognize. But he also says the backstories will provide new fodder.
“Even if you do know the books, there will be constant surprises along the way,” he says.
True Blood: Season One is available as a five-disc set on DVD ($59.99) and Blu-ray ($79.98) from HBO Home Entertainment.