Monday, June 1, 2009

Vampire-infested ‘True Blood’ gains thrill-seeking followers

HBO series: Timing might be right for Emmy nod

DENISE MARTIN; Los Angeles Time

HOLLYWOOD – When it comes to HBO’s swampy Southern Goth horror story, “True Blood,” about a feisty, telepathic waitress who charms the fangs off a Southern gent cum vampire with excellent sideburns, Emmy voters might not want to cry “camp” too quickly. HBO series:

The Charlaine Harris book series, as re-imagined by “Six Feet Under” creator Alan Ball, is a political satire, romance and murder mystery set in a world where vampires don’t need to feed on humans – but sometimes do – and where the buxom Sookie Stackhouse is the literal center of the action.

During the first season, she is pursued by a killer and courted by both a 173-year-old vampire named Bill and her tender boss, Sam (not a werewolf but a shape-shifter), all while having to deal with dead bodies piling up around her, the vile thoughts of her vampire-hating human clientele and a brother addicted to sex and vampire blood, a potent hallucinogen.

“It’s powerful and moving and scary and completely crazy,” says Anna Paquin, who says she stalked Ball for the part of Sookie. “Our show is definitely not for everyone, but all of us who work on it are obsessed.”

he mix is an acquired taste, to be sure, but ratings indicate a growing group of thrill seekers. According to HBO, the “True Blood” audience started small but grew throughout the season.

Chasing after the role has paid off for Paquin. She won a Golden Globe for lead actress in January, and, unlike other Hollywood actors who feign indifference about award season, she doesn’t quickly dismiss it.

“Obviously, I’m really grateful for (award season) as a concept. If I hadn’t won an Oscar when I was, like, 11, I’m guessing I wouldn’t have a career right now,” the actress says.

In 1993, she became the second-youngest performer to win an Oscar for her portrayal of a child translating for her mute mother in Jane Campion’s “The Piano.”

It probably will be more of an uphill battle for “True Blood” when it comes to Emmy voters, a group long spooked by genre shows, snubbing critical favorites like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season after season.

But timing could be on its side. Season 2 premieres June 14, less than two weeks before nomination ballots are due, and the intensity hasn’t let up. Sookie and her vampire suitor are now the adoptive “parents” to Jessica, the teen Bill was forced to turn into a vampire as punishment for killing another vampire.

“Trouble, as usual,” Paquin says. “But if you already watch the show, you know that’s going to be the least of it.”