The Star Online spoke with Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Alexander Skarsgård and Alan Ball about True Blood Season 5.
“The set designer (Suzuki Ingerslev) thought of everything when she made this. What makes this place come alive is the details,” he says pointing to some pictures on the wall of the show’s characters, namely bar owner Sam Merlotte (played by Sam Trammell), fooling around with “customers”. One of those pictures is of Ball and Charlaine Harris, author of The Southern Vampire Mysteries novels, on which the show is loosely based.
For a fake bar, Merlotte’s was pretty well-stocked with all kinds of beverages, food, utensils, cutlery, appliances, a jukebox, and even a condom-dispensing machine.
“The toilet doesn’t work, though,” says Ball, 55.
Back at his office, Ball talks to us about the fate of True Blood, now that he’s made it official that he will not be coming back for the sixth season. “It is for mental and physical well being – it is such a demanding job. I’m very close to being seriously burned out,” he explains of his departure from the show after five years.
The writer/director goes on to assure us that he is leaving the series in good spirits, and in good hands. “I have been working with a lot of the same writers since the beginning, so the show kind of runs itself now and I feel very confident that it will maintain a level of whatever it is that makes True Blood, True Blood.” Some of the cast members feel the same way, too.
“I have huge abandonment issues so I will be sending him letters weekly to make him feel guilty,” says Anna Paquin half-jokingly, a day later in Beverly Hills, during an interview with the show’s three lead actors. Paquin, 30, plays Sookie Stackhouse, the precocious protagonist in True Blood.
“Honestly though, he wouldn’t leave if he felt that we weren’t in amazing hands. I think we’re all sort of in denial with the fact that he’s moving on to other things but in all fairness, I’m not sure that man has slept since the show started prepping six years ago. That concerns me a little,” she says.
The first thing you notice about Paquin as she walks into the interview room wearing a knee-length black Moschino dress, is her baby bump. She is pregnant – with twins, as co-star Trammell, who is a new dad to twin boys himself, revealed a few weeks back – and their father is her husband Stephen Moyer, who also stars in the show as Sookie’s former vampire lover Bill Compton.
“It was always in our minds to plan for this in a way that wouldn’t affect the schedule … oh I’ve gone all American! I said ‘shed-ule’ instead of ‘sked-ule’, I’ve sold out,” says Moyer, 43, who hails from Essex in Britain.
“Seriously, though, it was just important to the both of us to make sure that (if we were to get pregnant) it wouldn’t affect our gang. The show is people’s bread and butter, you know, and you don’t want to mess it up for them,” he explains.
Although Paquin’s pregnancy does not affect the show’s filming schedule much, some adjustments still need to be done, especially where Sookie’s wardrobe is concerned.
“A few weeks ago, the costumer came to me and said ‘Sookie cannot wear her Merlotte’s uniform from this point forward’. So, we thought okay, that’s fine because Sookie is hardly in her uniform anyway as she’s almost always out getting killed or killing people!” reveals Ball, adding that a body double has been hired to play the character in wider shots.
He also says that since it is already November in Bon Temps – the fictional town where the story is set – and it’s getting colder, the characters will be covering up a lot more towards the middle of the fifth season. That doesn’t mean that we won’t be seeing much skin on the show, though. Some characters will still be taking their clothes off, and doing the nasty. Says Paquin: “I have never had a problem with that (nudity and doing intimate scenes). I certainly don’t care about it.
“The first time I had to do it, the problem was not so much about being naked but more about wanting the moment to feel real. Sookie’s grandmother had just died and she sought comfort in the arms of this age-old vampire. How do you create that emotion? The naked bits, ehh. They’re just bodies.”
Even though Ball will not be working on the show in the next season, he has already come up with ideas on which direction the story should best take, and which characters would be given more – or less – prominence. “Somebody that we always thought was very good is going to be very bad,” he shares after much thought, careful not to divulge any more than that.
“Oooh… really? Like ‘Dark Sookie’? Well, how many times can a person get kicked around before she kicks back, right? But then again, Sookie may or may not even be who Alan was talking about,” says Paquin, cheekily.
“There’s a sweetness and a sort of hopefulness about Sookie even after everything she’s been through, which I find really endearing about her,” she continues.
Perhaps as a way of learning how to fill in the void of Ball’s absence in the future, Moyer has started to take on directing duties. So far, he has done one episode (Somebody That I Used To Know – yes, exactly like the now-famous Gotye song) but he’s excited to do more.
“I got the chance to direct a film when I was in my mid-20s but at the time, taking the job would have meant that I would have to stop working in a sitcom (Conjugal Rites), which I got paid handsomely for. I took the coward’s route and went with the money.
“But really, I just thought to myself that acting was what I’ve always wanted to do; directing was just a sideline at that point. I thought that maybe if I continued acting first, one day I would be in a position where it makes more sense to move on to directing. I didn’t think it would take 15 years though,” Moyer says.
His foray into directing was warmly received by everyone, including Ball and Paquin. In a quiet, thoughtful tone, she says, “I love working with him. He’s a wonderful director and it is something that he’s really passionate about – I think he’s going to get to do more of it. He’s only been asking since Season One or Two!”
Paquin herself reveals a desire to put on the director’s hat, although she has no interest at all to work on True Blood. “It’s too big, too scary. Our show, on a production level, is so massive. I take my hat off to him (Moyer) for doing it, but that’s not how I want to direct for the first time,” she admits.
In Season Five, fans of True Blood will see different sides to some of the characters that have never been revealed before. For one thing, Bill and Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard) have become buddies. The word “bromance” has been used in many articles and reviews on the show to describe the two old vampires’ new-found relationship.
“It’s weird for Eric to be saving Bill. Or for Bill to save Eric. It’s like, ‘Why am I doing this? I hate him!’ But at the same time, it’s good to see something new like this happening on the show,” says Skarsgard, 36.
Moyer agrees. “It was nice to give our characters a different dynamic. Instead of the usual animosity between them, Bill and Eric are actually having fun with one another.”
In fact, the duo had a little too much fun that Ball actually had to put a stop to it. Skarsgard lets out a laugh remembering the incident. “Yeah, Alan called us into his office and told us that we needed to keep the stakes up on the show so we had better stop fooling around so much.”
Moyer reveals what really happened on set. “It’s kind of hard to be locked in the trunk of a car with somebody and having to say lines like ‘reach around’. I mean, how do you not laugh and make obscene jokes at that? It got to the point that we couldn’t even look at each other’s face because we would just burst out laughing. But I’m much worse than Alex, he’s a lot more professional.”
While the two main male characters are off on their bromance adventure, Sookie will supposedly remain single in this new season. Ball says that while she will still be “thinking” about her relationships and having fun with some of them – the werewolf Alcide (Joe Manganiello) comes to mind – Sookie’s plate these days is filled with other problems, including having to deal with the “loss” of her best friend Tara (Rutina Wesley).
“I think there’s a chance for Bill and Sookie like there’s a chance for Sookie and Eric, or Sookie and Alcide, or even Sookie and Sam. The way this season goes, it’s very complex,” says Moyer.
Also, fans will also meet new characters, among them Roman, the guardian of the Vampire Authority, played by Law & Order: Special Victims Unit actor Christopher Meloni, and Iraq war veteran Patrick Devins (Scott Foley) who is in Bon Temps to visit his former army buddy, Terry Bellefleur (Todd Lowe), only to stir up things.
Introducing new characters and elements has always been one of the reasons why people keep tuning in to the show after all these years. That, and of course, the ever-changing plotlines and the really hot actors.
“I love plot-driven shows where there’s a lot of going on, a lot of cliffhangers. It’s hard not to want to watch what happens next when you’re being cleverly manipulated that way. Honestly, it’s a soap opera. It’s a really, really, really cool, violent soap opera.
“But what’s good about the show also has to do with getting to know how things work in those worlds and communities. There’s always more than meets the eye, it’s not all snazzy black clothes for vampires and Disney princesses for fairies,” says Paquin.
Ball figures that True Blood’s popularity lies in its fantasy factor. “I think because they (vampires) are so fictional and the stories are so far from reality, one can fantasise about being taken by these supernatural creatures. Nobody wants to get taken in real life but there is a certain romantic element to being ravaged by a brute. But that is just a fantasy, and should always remain one,” he stresses.
He credits the dedicated cast and crew for their continued support in making the show exceptional, too. “I work with five other really good writers who are spontaneous. The actors continue to approach the material with what I feel is exactly the right tone for the show. They take it seriously, they play it as if they are emotionally invested in it, which makes audiences care about them. If they didn’t have that, and if you didn’t care about these characters, they would just be camp.”
Working together closely for so many years has mostly been a blessing for many of the cast and crew. Moyer and Paquin got married and are now expecting twins. “I love playing Sookie and I also love working with the people I get to work with. It’s a family. You get to explore so much more of who they are, and see the different aspects. That can be challenging,” says Paquin.
Moyer is proud of his character and how much he has progressed over the years. In real life, he claims that he has improved a lot, too, especially since becoming a father (he has two children from former relationships). “I sing in a school band. We’ve got this sort of ‘parent’ band in my daughter’s school, which has Ewan MacGregor, Ben Harper and Chris Shiflett of the Foo Fighters. It’s nuts, right? And you’re asking me why I sing in this band? It’s Chris Shiflett!”
Meanwhile, Skarsgard feels a lot less homesick whenever he’s around his colleagues, some of whom he considers his good friends.
“It’s such a big part of my life. I came here (Hollywood) eight years ago and have been with this show for five. It has become my family away from home,” says the tall blonde Swedish actor in his flawless American accent. Skarsgard, if you don’t already know, is the son of famous Swedish actor, Stellan Skarsgard. He talks about his family and friends a lot during the interview.
“I come from a big social family and I’m still close to my friends whom I grew up with. I don’t get to see them all the time though because they live in Stockholm.
“I have a lot of friends here now, too, but most of them I met through work so they are all in the (movie) industry. My friends back home are not – my best friend is a carpenter, one friend is unemployed right now and another one is still in university. It’s just nice to have people around you who are from all walks of life,” he shares.
Someone asks if Skarsgard’s friends and family have seen him in the buff on the show. “My grandmother has seen me naked on TV. She’s Swedish so she doesn’t give a (expletive). She just goes, ‘ehhh’,” he says, with a “whatever” expression on his face.
With Ball leaving the show soon – the cast and crew are almost done with shooting all the season’s 12 episodes – one wonders how the remaining True Blood family will cope. “I live 15 minutes away from here so I will definitely be dropping by whenever I can, just to hang out with the guys, fiddle with the script… just kidding!
“I truly believe that the show will go on well enough without me. But boy, am I going to miss Bon Temps.”
n True Blood Season Five plays every Saturday on HBO (Astro Ch 411) and HBO HD (Astro Ch 431) at 9pm, with repeats throughout the week.
Source: The Star Online
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