Monday, November 19, 2018

Alan Ball looks back 10 years at True Blood's first episode

Last night I attended a discussion with True Blood's creator, Alan Ball during the Vulture Festival at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.


Now that so many years have passed since the airing of that very first and amazing episode of the show, it was nice to see Alan Ball come out and talk about his supernatural series 10 years after its debut during a screening of the very first pilot episode, "Strange Love," which aired on September 7, 2008. 

 During the screening, Alan shared lots of trivia pertaining to the creation of the series. However, what I want to write about here is my impressions of the evening.

I am a huge fan of Alan Ball and have been a long time before True Blood aired. I loved Six Feet Under and his film, American Beauty, so none of what I say below should be read as a reflection on his talent or creativity. I am probably one of the biggest fans on the planet of True Blood and I think it would be difficult for anyone to find anyone who embraced the show as much as I did.  I am a Co-owner of both The Vault - and here at And the show inspired me so much that I quit a well paying job in academics in Philadelphia to move to Los Angeles.

Alan Ball 

First off, let me say that any discussion of True Blood is always interesting to me, but this was not the event I had hoped for. 

Alan Ball did well talking about the show and it's first episode, but I had hoped to learn something new, and there was very little of that for me. However, the most disappointing aspect of the event for me was that I was not permitted to ask any questions or go up to him after and say "Hi!. Usually at the end of a screening like this there always is a Q&A. But last night, when the episode ended, there was a very abrupt goodbye and Alan Ball was whisked out of the room. What a disappointment. 

This is far different than the very first event I attended when I moved to Los Angeles in 2010. That too was an event with Alan Ball. KCRW scheduled a conversation with Mr. Ball at their headquarters in Santa Monica. The audience was small, just like at last night's screening, but it was all about answering questions and discussing True Blood as well as his other projects. And, as a result it was a much more interactive event. Also, after this screening, I was permitted to walk up to Alan and introduce myself. He was very cordial and I was nothing but thrilled about meeting this creator  and amazing talent who had created my favorite show. 

The Hollywood Reporter posted an article about last night's screening.  There article details well the insights Alan shared with the audience while we watched the episode. Below is a portion of their posting.

On Paquin's casting: "Anna wanted this role so bad. Poor thing, she read like five times and I was like oh, do we buy her as Southern? Do we buy her as Sookie Stackhouse?" 

On the casting that never was: "I read Benedict Cumberbatch. He came and read for Bill. ... Jessica Chastain read for Sookie. Jennifer Lawrence read for, in season 3 there's this werepanther girl, and she was great." (Ball wanted to cast her, but she was only 17 at the time and was supposed to be Jason's girlfriend so the age difference would have been weird.) 

On the late Nelsan Ellis: "He was so amazingly talented. I'm usually not a fan of actors ad-libbing, because usually it's not particularly better than the dialogue, it's just different. But he mostly ad-libbed [his introduction] scene. ... His character dies in the second book of the series and I was like, 'No we cannot kill this guy, he's too great.'" 

On Paquin and Stephen Moyer's chemistry (the two have been married for eight years): "They're falling in love [in their first scene together] because they hooked up on the second episode. The producer called me from the second episode and was like, 'I think you should know that Stephen and Anna are hooking up.' ... It was never an issue, they were total pros, and now they have two kids together. ... They thought they were keeping it secret from everybody. The whole first season everybody knew." 

On Paquin and Ryan Kwanten's familial resemblance: "They really seem like brother and sister to me. And they look like each other too. The noses and the brown eyes and the blonde hair."

Read the rest of this article by going to The Hollywood Reporter

So, what was my impressions of this Vulture appearance as a huge True Blood fan and what did I learn at last night's event that I didn't know before?  Not Much!

What did I learn that I didn't know before? 
  • I learned that Alan has many fond memories of the show still today and how he must have enjoyed making it.
  • One thing that did surprise me was when he talked about HBO and how they wanted him to shoot more of it in Louisiana. I thought that the network would have rather shot in LA where it could be filmed cheaper, not so.  Even though most of the show was filmed in LA, that says a lot about HBO and their dedication to "get it right."
  • I also enjoyed learning how much Alan really cared about so many members of the cast and that he truly recognized their talent. While I knew that Rutina Wesley and Nelsan Ellis had attended Julliard, I didn't know that other cast members had gone there. True Blood has made many of the cast members TRUE stars in their own rights and I think we have to thank Alan for that.
  • I was also glad to hear Alan express how he was still proud of that episode when he expressed after it ended,

"It's good! I would watch this show."

Let me say finally that I miss True Blood every day and wish that world could have continued.  I realize that it wasn't the same show at the end, but it's first few seasons, especially the first, were epic for me and I miss it every day.

One last side note that I thought I should mention about the event. I had to go through a "metal detector" to go into the small room where the event took place. Really? I have attended many events AND, at The Roosevelt Hotel where this event took place where I was able to get up close to stars and NEVER have I had to do this. I realize that our times are very turbulent right now, but honestly, I thought this was way overkill. Just my opinion, of course.

Monday, September 25, 2017

On September 14, I attended a screening in Los Angeles where we were shown the first episodes for three of Fox’s new series that premiere this Fall.

The main reason I went was to take advantage of the opportunity to see The Gifted, and I was not disappointed.

I would have been happy just seeing The Gifted, but it was shown last, therefore we sat through viewings of the pilot episodes for The Orville and Ghosted. I won’t comment too much about either of those shows as this post is about The Gifted, but I can say that neither of them generated any interest for me and I won’t be watching either show’s future episodes.

However, that was not the way I felt about episode 1 of The Gifted. What is already known about it is that it is about a family that includes mutant children who are forced to go on the run as, in their universe, those with powers are locked up.

The episode was fast paced including lots of action and special effects that was fun to watch. Stephen Moyer is always great to see as a “dad,” but here we really do see a bit of what I think the “real Steve” is like; a man who loves kids; especially when they are his own.

The show is very well written and I want to learn more about each of the mutants and their powers, but it’s the timely aspect of the story that intrigues me. Politics always play a part in our lives, and not more than now, so I predict (as have many other reviewers) that The Gifted will be a big hit for Fox. That makes me glad especially because it will mean week after week of Stephen Moyer on my TV screens.

However, the most frustrating thing about the episode for me was the “cliffhanger” ending. I won’t talk of that either as it would give a lot away. But, I will say that after watching this episode, the Starker family have certainly got my curiosity peeked insuring I’ll be anxiously awaiting to see episode 2 to learn what happens next.

Note to Fox: I almost lost my hearing last night during the event. The sound was so unbelievably loud that I thought my eardrums were going to burst. For future events like this, I strongly suggest that you TURN DOWN the sound, please!

Oh, and there’s a very interesting snippet interview by John Doyle, about The Gifted that you might want to read, where he says that The Gifted is much better than expected.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Attending Comic-con 2017 and what the Con is like

It's been just about two months since the Comic-Con Convention 2017 took place in San Diego and I finally feel like I have returned to the world of the living. I braved it out, but way overdid my time there which led to becoming sick as soon as I got home with Bronchitis. 

It took a week to discover that I didn't just have a cold and was much worse. After lots of codeine and antibiotics from the doctor, now I'm finally well and want to share my experience of this past year's Comic-Con representing I was there for one reason only, to see the panel for Fox's new show, The Gifted.

First, for those of you who don't know what the Con is like, watch this great video below which really shows a lot about it and how vast and amazingly big this convention is. Each year, over 130,000 people attend and it virtually takes over San Diego and it's the largest Con there is!

Let me start off by saying that San Diego is a great city that is very walkable, but when you are walking all day throughout the convention center, which in itself is probably about 4 blocks long, having the ease of taking their very convenient Trolley system from your hotel is just wonderful. My hotel was about 2 stops away from the convention center and taking the trolley saved my poor feet a good deal.

San Diego Trolley adorned with The Gifted promotional wrap.

I stayed in a "not so great, but OK" hotel in the Little Italy section which was good enough for me meeting my needs quite well since I didn't spend much time there.

I've been to Comic-Con four times now, always going for True Blood except in 2015 when I went with my sister for fun and to see the outside exhibits for The Bastard Executioner.

The best year for me was in 2014 when I got a special pass from HBO to see the True Blood panel. I always have had a regular press pass to comic con, but all that gives you is free admission to the Convention. This special pass from HBO meant I didn't have to stand in the daylong line to get into Ballroom 20 and then sit there all day just to see True Blood. Unfortunately, this year, I didn't have that access, so I had to wait with everyone else. The Gifted panel was scheduled for Ballroom 20 at 3:45pm Friday.

I arrived on Thursday, I checked into my hotel and then immediately took the trolley to the convention for the purpose of signing in. They sent us our ID's in the mail this year, but you had to pick up your lanyard and big bag in the Sails Pavillion to officially sign in. I did that and then scoped out where the outside area was for The Gifted. Then, I checked out where to get in line for ballroom 20 the next day. I was scheduled to have dinner with friends at about 5 pm, so until then, I went into the Exhibition hall to see where the autograph session for The Gifted would take place after their panel on Friday.

The crowds outside the Convention Center
Misty and me after dinner with her and her daughter
After dinner, I took the trolley back to my hotel as I planned to be in line by 6 am. Rumors were flying around saying that if you wanted to get into Ballroom 20 you had to sleep overnight in line, but I took the chance since I was alone to not do this. It turned out later that I could have shown up at 10 am and still gotten into the Ballroom, but who knew?

Lines from previous Comic-Con's to get into the events including Ballroom 20

Getting closer, in line outside Ballroom 20

Getting closer, in line at the door of Ballroom 20 waiting to be admitted
Ballroom 20

YEA, I MADE IT into the room!

Once I got in Ballroom 20, I was in there for the day. The way Comic-Con works is that they don't clear the rooms after each panel because it would take too long. People do leave, but as they do, everyone moves up the room to get closer to the stage as they let new people enter, so all day I slowly moved up to the second tier which was behind the "reserved seating" which is where I sat in 2014 for True Blood and didn't have to stay in line.

The panels all day were of no interest to me except for The Gifted. I sat through each of them. Finally, I asked someone I had paired with to watch my seat while I went out to take a restroom break and get something to eat. You are permitted to leave the room, but only with a pass and you have to return during the time of the same panel you left.

Big surprise for the last panel of the day.  I'm a big Outlander fan, and so I stayed for their panel after The Gifted was over.  Woo Hoo!  After the panel discussion, they showed us the first episode of Season 3.  As there were many Outlander fans in the room, you can imagine how thrilled the audience was; me included.

After leaving Ballroom 20, that evening I spent hours with a group of people outside the Convention center trying to find out where to get our special "The Gifted" prize. A ticket had been handed out during the event to use to redeem it but no one seemed to know where to do so. After walking around with a group of people looking, we finally found where the location was and we got our prize.  It was an 11" x 17" poster for The Gifted.

Actually, while I'm glad I have it, the walking all over to find it made it less exciting when I finally learned what the prize was.  And, I was sort of expecting something similar to what True Blood used to give out, backpacks full of stuff, see what I got in 2010 after the True Blood panel at Comic Con below:

I auctioned it off at a charity event in Venice, CA later that year.

Once my prize was redeemed, I decided that I was probably halfway to my hotel, so I decided to hike it back there since it was such a lovely night. BAD IDEA! It was much further than I thought and it started getting dark while I was walking. Then, I took a wrong turn and went south instead of north. UGH! By the time I finally found my hotel, I was utterly exhausted; too exhausted to even get dinner. I fell asleep immediately. When I woke up the next morning I realized that I had walked over 25,000 steps that day. When you couple that milestone with getting up at 5am to go stand in line, I was really tired.

I got up the next morning and walked to the local store to get coffee and some breakfast fruit and muffin. Then, I packed and drove out of San Diego for the three-hour trip back to LA.

Then, I got the awful bronchitis sickness which left me out of commission for about a month. Was it worth it? Yes because each time you go to Comic-Con you learn more about what not to do and where to be to get the best. I won't kid, it's an exhausting time, but it's also quite fun. Will I go back? Not Sure, we'll have to see how it goes. Still, I have now got 5 times under my belt, maybe that's enough. We'll see if Comic-Con can draw me back, yet again!