It’s one of those too-good-to-be-true sunny days in Los Angeles, and Alan Ball is sitting in a dark, chilly office, talking about death. Not just death, actually, but grief: the unbearable pain; the torment of knowing that we’ll all end up as wormfood. It’s the kind of thing that passes for everyday conversation with Ball, as you might expect from the man responsible for creating hit television shows entitled Six Feet Under and True Blood, which starts on Channel 4 next week. “As much as we pretend we don’t get old, that we don’t die, it’s something we all have to face,” Ball says. “That’s why we have this instinct to rubber-neck at car wrecks. Death is the ultimate mystery." Ball knows of what he speaks. When he was 13, he was a passenger in a car driven by his older sister — it was her 22nd birthday — when she was killed in an accident. “She drove off the highway, there was a blind spot, and she pulled out,” he recalls, still flinching slightly. “The impact broke her neck. It was very bloody. At that impressionable age, Death came and stuck its ugly old face in mine, and said: ‘Hello, here I am.’ ” Ball escaped without a scrape.
It was that terrible event perhaps more than any other that shaped Ball, who ultimately went on to become a playwright, sit-com producer and Oscar-winning screenplay writer — he was responsible for the 1999 Kevin Spacey masterpiece American Beauty — and at the age of 52 has emerged as one of the most unusual and unsettling creative forces in American television.Read on