Alan Ball

Writer / Producer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his two-hour Archive interview, writer Alan Ball describes his career writing for the stage, film, and television. He discusses growing up in Georgia and developing an interest in playwriting in college, which he took a step further by creating a theater company in New York City years later. He speaks of his first job in television, writing for the sitcom Grace Under Fire, and his subsequent job as a writer and later producer on Cybill. He shares how he got the idea for the script for the Oscar-winning film "American Beauty" while working on Cybill, and recalls how he got involved with HBO's Six Feet Under. Ball details the production process, casting, and writing for the successful series, and then outlines the same for his second HBO show, True Blood. He comments on why he believes vampire culture has become such a phenomenon, how the TV series differs from the books, and how the show deals with mortality. He also discusses other projects his production company is involved with and offers advice to aspiring television writers. Nancy Harrington conducted the interview on August 25, 2011 in West Hollywood, CA.

"I always say that if 'True Blood' were a presidential campaign, we would have a sign in the writer's room that said, 'It's the emotions, stupid.' You can come up with as many outlandish vampires, werewolves, and pyrotechnics as you can, but unless you care about these people then it's just going to be meaningless."

Highlights
Alan Ball on the title sequence of True Blood
00:59
Alan Ball on filming and directing the pilot of Six Feet Under
01:25
Alan Ball on writing American Beauty
00:43
Alan Ball on his view of death and how it influences his projects
00:34
Alan Ball on how he got involved with True Blood
01:29
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on growing up in Georgia; on movies and TV shows he loved as a kid; on attending Florida State University and studying theater; on developing his interest in playwriting; on starting a theater company in New York City; on writing American Beauty
09:22
On being a graphic designer for Adweek magazine; on getting his first TV gig, writing for Grace Under Fire
04:39
On writing for Cybill; on being disheartened and writing American Beauty; on trouble on the set of Cybill; on channeling his anger from working on Cybill into writing American Beauty; on censorship and tensions on Grace Under Fire and Cybill; on memorable episodes of Cybill
11:12
On working for Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner
01:41
On how he got the idea for American Beauty; on writing for different media
05:05
On returning to TV with Oh, Grow Up; on how disappointment when the show flopped got channeled into Six Feet Under; on the premise of Six Feet Under; on storylines based on his life; on his view of death and how it influences his projects; on the title and premise of Six Feet Under; on working with HBO; on avoiding writing about necrophilia; on story ideas and research for the show
12:38
On homosexuality, morality and religion on Six Feet Under; on filming and directing the pilot episode; on the opening and title theme; on being the showrunner for Six Feet Under; on writing and staffing writers for Six Feet Under
13:04

Chapter 2

On writing sitcoms and dramas and his preference for single-camera shows; on the dark humor on Six Feet Under; on working for HBO; on a typical production week; on casting Six Feet Under; on making the characters likable
09:13
On the main characters on Six Feet Under; on how 9/11 affected the show; on the series finale of Six Feet Under; on his Emmy win for directing Six Feet Under; on the legacy of the show
12:56
On how he got involved with True Blood; on the premise of the show and the main characters; on writing about the supernatural; on how the TV show differs from the books; on why vampire culture is such a phenomenon
09:49
On the writing process on True Blood; on the rumor that vampires are a metaphor for gay people on True Blood; on what the show says about the South and primal urges; on dealing with mortality on the show and censorship issues; on enjoying writing for certain characters on True Blood; on casting the show
07:13
On the lead characters on True Blood; on his favorite episodes of the show; on mini-episode teasers for the show and the importance of the internet to the series; on season five
07:32
On then-current projects; on Banshee and other projects in production; on creating a successful TV series; on advice to someone starting out in television; on the highlight of his career so far; on where he sees himself in ten years
05:45
Shows

As the World Turns

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Alan Ball on homosexuality on As the World Turns
00:26

Cybill

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Alan Ball on writing for and tensions on Cybill; on the stars of and censorship on Cybill
10:17

Dynasty

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Alan Ball on loving Dynasty and Knots Landing
00:19

Grace Under Fire

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Alan Ball on getting his first TV gig, writing for Grace Under Fire
03:58
Alan Ball on censorship on Grace Under Fire
00:21

Knots Landing

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Alan Ball on loving Dynasty and Knots Landing
00:19

Six Feet Under

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Alan Ball on how on how disappointment when Oh, Grow Up flopped got channeled into Six Feet Under
02:36
Alan Ball on the premise of Six Feet Under; on storylines based on his life; on his philosophy on death
03:21
Alan Ball on the title and premise of Six Feet Under; on working with HBO; on avoiding writing on necrophilia; on story ideas and research for the show
05:25
Alan Ball on homosexuality, religion, morality on Six Feet Under; on filming the pilot; on the theme song and title sequence; on being showrunner
13:04
Alan Ball on writing sitcoms and dramas and his preference for single-camera shows; on the dark humor on Six Feet Under and working for HBO
05:05
Alan Ball on writing for characters on Six Feet Under; on a typical production week, casting, and making the characters likable
04:08
Alan Ball on the main characters on Six Feet Under
08:15
Alan Ball on 9/11 and how it affected Six Feet Under; on the series finale and his Emmy wins for the show; on the legacy of the show
04:41

Sopranos, The

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Alan Ball on learning about tone from The Sopranos
00:19

True Blood

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Alan Ball on the title sequence of True Blood
00:59
Alan Ball on working for HBO on Six Feet Under and True Blood
01:05
Alan Ball on his involvement with True Blood; on the premise of the show and the popularity of vampire culture; on the characters and casting
20:50
Alan Ball on his favorite episodes of True Blood; on mini-episode teasers for the show and the importance of the internet to the series; on season five
03:44
Topics

9/11

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Alan Ball on 9/11 and how it affected Six Feet Under
01:06

Censorship / Standards & Practices

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Alan Ball on censorship on Cybill and Grace Under Fire
01:23
Alan Ball on censorship issues on True Blood
01:31

Emmy Awards

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Alan Ball on his Emmy win for directing Six Feet Under
01:42

LGBTQ

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Alan Ball on homosexuality on Six Feet Unde r
02:54
Alan Ball on the rumor that vampires are a metaphor for gay people on True Blood
01:23

TV Theme Songs

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Alan Ball on the opening and title theme for Six Feet Under
01:06

Women

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Alan Ball on feminism on Cybill
01:17
Professions

Show Creators

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Alan Ball on his role as showrunner on True Blood
00:22
Alan Ball on the writing process on True Blood
01:03

Writers

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Alan Ball on writing for and becoming co-executive producer on Cybill, being disheartened, and writing American Beauty
04:49
Alan Ball on channeling his anger from working on Cybill into writing American Beauty
00:42
Alan Ball on how he got the idea for American Beauty; on not having to have a "moment of shit" in it; on the joy of writing for different media
05:05
Alan Ball on writing and staffing writers for Six Feet Unde
03:13
Genres

Comedy Series

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Alan Ball on getting his first TV gig, writing for Grace Under Fire
03:58
Alan Ball on writing for and tensions on Cybill; on the stars of and censorship on Cybill
10:17

Drama Series

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Alan Ball on the premise of, storylines, and writing for Six Feet Under
22:00
Alan Ball on writing for and the characters of Six Feet Under
22:09
Alan Ball on the writing, characters, and storylines of True Blood
24:34
People

Christine Baranski

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Alan Ball on writing for and becoming co-executive producer on Cybill
03:55

Brett Butler

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Alan Ball on difficulty working for Grace Under Fire
01:23
Alan Ball on tensions on the set of Grace Under Fire
01:49

Marcy Carsey

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Alan Ball on working for producers Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner
01:33
Alan Ball on getting his first TV gig, writing for Grace Under Fire, produced by Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner
01:43

Rachel Griffiths

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Alan Ball on "Brenda Chenowith" on Six Feet Under, played by Rachel Griffiths
01:13

Michael C. Hall

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Alan Ball on "David Fisher" on Six Feet Under, played by Michael C. Hall
00:47

Peter Krause

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Alan Ball on "Nate Fisher" on Six Feet Under, played by Peter Krause
01:27

Chuck Lorre

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Alan Ball on getting his first TV gig, writing for Grace Under Fire (after Chuck Lorre left)
00:22
Alan Ball on writing for Cybill
00:38

Stephen Moyer

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Alan Ball on "Bill Compton" on True Blood, played by Stephen Moyer
00:41

Anna Paquin

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Alan Ball on "Sookie Stackhouse" on True Blood, played by Anna Paquin
01:13

Debbie Reynolds

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Alan Ball on the first movie he remembers seeing: My Six Loves starring Debbie Reynolds
00:30

Cybill Shepherd

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Alan Ball on writing for and becoming co-executive producer on Cybill
03:55
Alan Ball on tensions on the set of Cybill
01:49

Alexander Skarsgard

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Alan Ball on "Eric Northman" on True Blood, played by Alexander Skarsgard
01:09

Aaron Sorkin

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Alan Ball on his Emmy win for directing Six Feet Under
01:42

Tom Werner

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Alan Ball on working for producers Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner
01:33
Alan Ball on getting his first TV gig, writing for Grace Under Fire, produced by Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner
01:43

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