Twilight has nothing on these vampires. They hang out at their local bar Fangtasia, want equal rights as Vampire-Americans, drink a Japanese synthetic called True Blood and love to mingle with humans for a bit of fang-banging. And they’ll laugh if you raise a cross or throw garlic in their face.
Welcome to True Blood, a riveting, twisted new HBO series by Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball. “I was browsing in a bookstore one day and saw this book called Dead Until Dark which had the tagline “Maybe having a vampire for a boyfriend isn’t such a bright idea,” says Boll, relishing to the theme.
“I bought the book, the first in Charlaine Harris’ series, and I could not put it down. I loved the way it was funny and scary and sexy and romantic, and it had a lot of interesting things to say about what it’s like to be other than mainstream.”
At the forefront of the show is a very grown up Anna Paquin who stars as Sookie Stackhouse, an extremely self aware woman who lives with her grandmother and sexually voracious brother in a small Louisiana town.
She works at the local bar and has never had a serious romantic entanglement, in large part due to the fact that she is telepathic and can read everyone else’s mind instantly.
“She is telepathic, which is not actually a good thing,” gushes Paquin about the role that rightfully garnered her a Golden Globe award in the US this year.
“It’s been very isolating because unfortunately, she can hear absolutely everything that people are saying around her. She believes in love, and believes that it’s actually possible, even in circumstances that seem completely impossible.”
While she can read the impure thoughts of most men who enter the bar, Bill Compton’s private musings are a complete mystery to her. Of course, that’s most likely because he’s a 173 year old vampire.
“He’s a pariah in terms of the humans that he comes across because he’s a vampire and that means he’s hated and feared by most of them,” says 37 year old British actor Stephen Moyer, “But also in the eyes of the other vampires he’s ‘mainstreaming’- he’s mixing with humans – and they ostracise him too from his own community.”
Yes, the vampires mainstream. They also ‘fang bang’ which means hook up with humans. And humans out for a thrill also drink or snort “V”, which is short for pure vampire blood. In other words, the rulebook has been thrown out for how the townspeople interact with vampires and vice versa.
In fact, the show offers so many twists, turns and variables combined with everyday real situations that the closest comparison may just be David Lynch’s classic late 80s series Twin Peaks.
“I’m trying to avoid the vampire clichés,” says Ball in response. “I watched just about every vampire movie, and most of them told me what I don’t want to do. I wanted to avoid the crazy contact lenses, the opera music, the blue light. I wanted it to be rooted in the characters and seem like it could really be happening, and not be some fantasy world.”
That real world means that one of Stackhouse’s best friends has a mother who is a severe alcoholic. Her own brother is a kind of deranged sex addict who is always in the wrong place at the wrong time. And the tough but virginal Stackhouse falls in love for the first time with a man whose last true breath of life was during the Civil War.
Even so, she has real feelings of emotion, compounded by the fact that she’s never sure if Compton wants to suck her blood-or worse. “It’s like any two people – they meet, they connect and despite the obstacles, they try to make it work,” says Paquin, who at 26 retains all of the intensity of the young actress who won an Academy Award for The Piano, as well as head turning good looks.
“But it’s dangerous because he’s a vampire and there’s a lot of controversy surrounding that particular issue in their society. She instantly connects with him in a way that she’s never been able to do with anyone else, and I think that’s what everyone’s looking for, to meet that person who makes you feel like you can just be yourself.”
That chemistry has reportedly carried on off-screen as well, as Moyer reportedly recently admitted that he and Paquin are a couple. One wonders whether Moyer jokingly goes out on dates with the three sets of sharp vampire teeth that are used to good effect on the show, but he’s not giving anything away.
He will admit though, that in terms of sexiness, vampires are super high on the scale. “You have the whole thing of ‘Why are vampires exciting?’ What does it represent? Why are people obsessed with it?”
And you’ve got immortality, you’ve got blood and you’ve got sharp pointed teeth making a hole and sucking from it…” laughs Moyer. “That’s sexy man, and there ain’t no getting away from that.” There’s no getting away from True Blood either once it gets its fangs into you.