He was able to come up with this frothy concoction because the idea of celibate vampires is ridiculous. "To me, vampires are sex," he says. "I don't get a vampire story about abstinence. I'm 53. I don't care about high school students. I find them irritating and uninformed." On his show, every available orifice is used for intercourse: gay, straight, between humans and supernatural beings, and supernatural being on supernatural being, whether he be werewolf, dog or an enormous Minotaur-looking being called a maenad. None of the sex is quite as good as vampire sex, though, which can happen at the astonishing rhythm of 120 bpm while simultaneously devouring one's neck and making your eyes roll back into your head. Says Moyer, "If we go from a base level, vampires create a hole in the neck where there wasn't one before. It's a de-virginization—breaking the hymen, creating blood and then drinking the virginal blood. And there's something sharp, the fang, which is probing and penetrating and moving into it. So that's pretty sexy. I think that makes vampires attractive." He laughs a little. "Plus, Robert Pattinson is just hot, right?"
Sex, in fact, is what makes True Blood, gives it cultural relevance. It's a fitting metaphor for the new sexual revolution: With AIDS no longer perceived by most young people as a threat, a hookup culture has taken hold in the country, both on- and offline, in a way that would have been unthinkable in the fearful days of the Eighties and Nineties. "I was in college at the beginning of AIDS, and I've spent my life being scared of blood because it's the carrier of HIV," says Denis O'Hare, who plays the vampire king of Mississippi on the show. "And now, suddenly, our culture seems to be bathing in blood." Vampires can kill you on True Blood, that's true, but their blood itself is a vehicle of transcendence, of ecstasy—on the show, it's sold on the street as the drug "V," and even enhances the act of intercourse when you drink it.
But sex isn't anything without violence in the world of True Blood, so there's lots of gore too. On a recent day on set, Eric Northman—played by Alexander Skarsgård—the 1,000-year-old vampire who hailed from the Nordic lands before he became a bar owner in Louisiana, is drenched in blood, along with his raspy-voiced lesbian sidekick, whom he turned into a vampire a century ago. Another vamp sits in a corner, tied up with silver chains, his face burned off. One more has been reduced to liquid and poured into a gigantic glass goblet, which rests on the bar. Even Paquin has a bit of blood on her wrist. "My God," drawls Ball, stomping around the set and looking at the carnage. "It's the battle of the incredibly hot vampires."
Today, the work goes by quickly, with various promises of vengeance and retribution. Paquin tells a few vampires to "go back in the hole you came from, you creepy cold freaks!" Fangs are taken out of small turquoise boxes and set into teeth. Vampires grunt as they nurse their wounds. And eventually, the actors start clowning around with each other during takes. "You know how on Glee they all have to do a nationwide tour?" says Paquin, turning to Moyer. "Imagine if we had to do that?"
"Where are we this week?" responds Moyer, loving the joke. "The Arkansas Pavilion!"
"We'd have to do four weeks of rehearsals, and someone would do a tap dance with a silver choker," says Paquin. "We could put on some sort of freak show."
"No," says Moyer, grinning broadly. "I've got it: It would be a county-fair sex show. Live sex, two dollars!"
True Blood uses a great joke to set up its drama: The Japanese have developed a synthetic drink called Tru Blood for vampires, so now they can live—well, maybe not live, but at least exist—without feeding on humans. Now that they don't have to hide who they are anymore, they can "come out of the coffin" to mix with humans. Ball lays on the persecution-of-gays metaphor really thick here, with talk of vampires fighting for equal rights, and religious fundamentalists trying to drive stakes into their hearts, but he says that's not what the show is really about. "I have a hard time seeing the vampires as a metaphor for gays and lesbians," he says, "just because the vampires on our show are, for the most part, vicious murderers and predators, and I'm gay myself, so I don't really want to say, 'Hey, gays and lesbians are basically viciously amoral murderers.'"
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