The True Blood star reveals all about the second series...
How has Bill changed since season one? He’s met [Anna Paquin’s psychic waitress character] Sookie, a girl that has rekindled a fire inside him that he thought was gone forever. At the start of this season he’s also dealing with the fact he now has a ‘daughter’, Jessica, a teenager he had to turn [into a vampire] and raise, which is another thing he hasn’t had for almost 140 years and which is an echo of his previous life. So it’s like he’s almost been made human again and he’s getting closer to humanity.’
So what can we expect for Bill this season? Just as he’s starting to feel these things and his relationship is getting back on track with Sookie, [head vampire] Eric comes in and tries to use her abilities for his own means. Bill is a vampire who kills, but he is kind of the moral centre on the show, which is quite interesting. And then there’s Eric, who is the antithesis, which is great because there’s a percentage of the audience that loves Eric and there’s a large percentage of the audience that loves Bill and they’re kind of tussling.
Why is the show so successful? I think the reason the show works – apart from being funny and sexy and dark and twisted and odd – is because [showrunner] Alan Ball is holding a mirror up to society. It’s not just bubblegum; it’s really clever, intellectual bubblegum. And the series’ scope now is much bigger. We have many characters who started out with a few lines per episode, like [Iraq war veteran] Terry Bellefleur, who are now rounded characters. Just to give you some idea, shows like Mad Men, 24 and House all shoot seven days for one episode. In the first season, we were shooting 10 days for an hour of TV and some of the episodes this season are 18 days long! It’s so big, it’s become like Ben Hur. The show is like this great big snowball with arms and legs hanging out of it, growing as its world gets richer and richer.
How hard is it to film at night? It’s not quite as simple as that. What tends to happen is we do days during the week, and by Friday we’re doing nights. And then you go back to normal time on a Monday, so there’s this kind of flowing weird chart. We’ve now got a dark room in our house so we can sleep through the day.
You’ve gone from being an unknown to the star of a hit show. How are you handling that? I hesitate to say that I’m rather enjoying it… but I’m rather enjoying it! I love our show. I’m really proud and grateful to say that I’m being able to publicise something that I think is really good. And it is opening doors. There are other offers coming in. There were before, but they are certainly more interesting now. I’m in a really privileged spot and it’s been a great year for me; I’ve loved it.
What’s your audience like? It’s wide. There are octogenarians who get together and watch it in old people’s homes. When we were shooting in New Orleans, we were in a restaurant and this lovely guy came up and he was about 55 with this great big hair and he said, ‘I’m so excited to see you. I didn’t know about your show, but my friend Michael calls me every Monday from prison and he got me into it.’ So every Sunday night all the prisoners go congregate to watch True Blood.
True Blood season two begins on Friday November 6 on America Plus at midnight.
On the Ball
Show creator Alan Ball talks shop
On the show’s growth: ‘The big challenge in season two was that the show wanted to be bigger. There were lots of sets and new characters. I’m a real believer in not wasting money, but at the same time I don’t want to keep the show from being what it wants to be. But [True Blood’s network] HBO stepped up and increased the budget, because they knew they would see it on screen.’
On keeping a balance: ‘I’m not a control freak. I don’t need every single decision to be mine. What I do is assemble the best elements I can in the hope they will coalesce into something special. When I see that happening, my job is to get out of its way. And when I see it veering off, my job is to nudge it back into what I believe it wants to be.’
On the second season: ‘Season one was mostly about being an outsider; being afraid, being uncomfortable with who you are. Season two is more about our need for meaning and guidance, and the places we look for that. We see how people really need a sense of purpose and how easy it is for more cynical entities to prey on that need.’
On crazy effects: ‘Depending on what you watch, [vampires] get crazy contact lenses or pointed ears or go demonic. I never got why you need anything more than fangs coming out. I was adamant that I wanted to just give them fangs and let the actors act it. You don’t need special effects.’