Alan Ball and Anna Paquin Take “True Blood” Way Beyond the Books

The lifeblood that will keep “True Blood” pumping for seasons to come? Creative fluidity and plenty of fun, according to the creator and stars of the series. And, oh yes, Season Five is definitely a go.

“I just closed a deal to do another season, and I don't have any desire to leave, because I'm having more fun than I've ever had in my life,” says executive producer Alan Ball of his future at the helm of the HBO horror show that’s as addictive as vampire blood in Bon Temps. Ball says that while the series derives plot direction and inspiration from author Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels, it’s finding new twists, turns and tweaks to Harris’ framework that keeps the show feeling fresh.

“My rule of thumb for working with a source material is that the books are Sookie's story, told by Sookie,” says Ball. “Everybody else in the books exists when they're in the same room with Sookie. So since the show is more of an ensemble show, I think we generally have more freedom coming up with, say, Lafayette's story. Lafayette's a great example, because he gets killed in the books, and after the first season of working with Nelsan, I just went ‘There's no way we can kill this character.’”

“Ultimately there's no formula – it's just kind of an organic process,” explains Ball. “I work with five really, really good, smart writers and it's a very democratic process in the room, and if I hear five people saying to me ‘I think we should do this instead of the way it is in the books,’ then I'm going to listen to that argument because I trust them.”

Star Anna Paquin said the producers also welcome her voice when it comes to charting the fate of Sookie, especially in some of her tarter retorts to vampire in-fighting over her. “I don't think I've ever really come in with "I think this should definitely happen...” but sometimes I pitch things that are kind of a joke,” says Paquin. “Also our show kind of beats you to the punch as far as ‘Wouldn't it be really crazy if we did blah-blah-blah...’ It's not a show where you feel like there's a lack of imagination.”

Paquin says she especially relishes the mordant humor of many of her whip-sharp lines. “I love my messed‑up mixed with my funny as much as the next gal,” she says. “I think that the more you can bring humor into darkness, I think in real life one of the things I always find is that if you can laugh through a situation, even if it's incredibly sad or really hard, it's kind of the way through, and I think that our show uses that in a really great way. "

"Also it's just kind of really fun for someone to write you in a way that makes you sound incredibly funny.”

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