If you combine small-town drama and sexy vampires, the result would be True Blood, the forthcoming HBO series from Alan Ball, the man behind Six Feet Under. The show's cast and creator — along with Charlaine Harris, who wrote the Southern Vampire book series on which the show is based — showed up at Comic-Con on Thursday to explain to a cheering crowd what makes their show different from other vampire stories.
True Blood, which premieres Sept. 7, is the story of Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a telepathic waitress in a Louisiana town who meets a vampire when he walks into the bar where she works and she discovers she can't read his mind. The trailer we watched showed a mix of vampire effects (spiky teeth, bite marks) and small scenes of family life that would look familiar to any SFU fan — I could have sworn one dinner scene was shot in the Fisher family kitchen.
Ball promised the show would be free of "vampire cliches," which he defined as "blue light, contact lenses, and opera music." Instead, "we're trying to keep the magic as mundane as possible," he said, showing how it's just a regular part of the universe where the characters live. In this world, vampires have come back to live among humans now that a synthetic blood substance can keep them satiated, but (as Sookie learns) that doesn't mean there's no danger.
To meet the main characters, and to hear about some of the viral marketing HBO is doing for the show (including setting up a vampire/human dating service),
- Sookie — played by Anna Paquin, she's the telepathic waitress who gets wrapped up in the vampire underworld (not without some sarcasm — I loved the tone of her voice in the trailer when she found out the big vampire hangout was called Fangtasia).
- Bill — played by Stephen Moyer, he's a vampire who's returned to town to try to live a normal life but is instantly attracted to Sookie because he wants to know why she's different.
- Jason — "It is fun to be Jason," said Ryan Kwanten, who plays Sookie's womanizing brother.
- Lafayette — one of the more colorful characters, Lafayette sells contraband blood, has a gay-porn website, and escorts. "So he's an entrepreneur," said actor Nelsan Ellis.
- Tara — "On the inside, she's a very sensitive, very delicate flower," said actress Rutina Wesley, who plays Sookie's best friend — but Tara's also had a tough past.
While I've gotten wary of viral marketing of late, I kind of love the way True Blood is going about it. Posters are everywhere for Tru Blood, the synthetic blood supplement that makes vampires able to live in society (on the site, you can figure out which blood type would most appeal to you; if the product were real, Ball said, it would be a mixture of "V8, Valium, Vicodin, and Viagra"). There's also a Dateline-style news show explaining the return of vampires to the modern world and — my favorite – LoveBitten, a human/vampire online dating site. Here's one of the LoveBitten ads:
And here's part of the Blood Copy news report:
Photo courtesy of HBO