“Sexy, witty and unabashedly peculiar, TRUE BLOOD is a blood-drenched Southern Gothic romantic parable set in a world where vampires are out and about and campaigning for equal rights. Part mystery, part fantasy, part comedy, and all wildly imaginative exaggeration, TRUE BLOOD proves that there's still vibrant life — or death — left in the "star-crossed lovers" paradigm. You just have to know where to stake your romantic claim.” –Robert Bianco, USA TODAY
TRUE BLOOD series creator Alan Ball knew where to turn to “stake” the look of the show, based on the popular novels by Charlaine Harris. He brought in his long-term design and decoration team from SIX FEET UNDER, Production Designer Suzuki Ingerslev and Set Decorator Rusty Lipscomb SDSA. Set Decorator Laura Richarz SDSA stepped in when Lipscomb retired after the first season, Set Decorator Robert Greenfield SDSA as well. Shortly after, Set Decorator Ron V. Franco SDSA took over and has remained the key set decorator for the last few seasons, including the one soon to unfold!
Ball describes the series as, “A big old-fashioned kind of satire on small town Southern life—a black comedy with vampires as metaphor, as rooted in reality as a show about vampires can be.” This is where Lipscomb, Ingerslev and their teams come in, providing the “reality”, though somewhat stretched at times, for the stories to play out.
If a telepathic roadhouse waitress falls in love with a courtly vampire 15 decades older…if a bisexual black chef sells both himself and the aphrodisiac V [vampire blood]…if a tavern owner exhibits a tendency towards animalistic shape-shifting…and if vampires party in the quiet rural Southern town of Bon Temps [“good times”], Louisiana…it helps ground the story if their surroundings are believable.
The sets often go beyond that task, revealing clues to character so thoroughly that some, Lipscomb points out, “…were as much a character as the scripted cast.” Each of the sets is densely layered, almost lovingly revealing of character and place.
The 150-year-old Stackhouse Farmhouse interiors were created completely on stage, as were all the main set interiors:
• Merlotte’s – The town’s roadhouse hangout
• Compton Home – Bill’s plantation home that has been in his family since he lived in it during the Civil War, before he became a vampire
• Sam’s Office & Trailer – These give hints to his unusual penchant for nature
• Jason’s – This house hasn’t changed since his parents’ death 20 years before
Several of the exteriors, while looking like location shoots in Louisiana, were actually transformations of a Malibu ranch—even the quintessential Southern Bon Temps Cemetery. “The cemetery was an amazing set,” says Lipscomb, “All done on an empty dirt field in California—from the moss, the tree roots and the grave sites’ fencing to the tombstones, benches and lampposts.”
Another location conversion resulted in the materialization of the vampire bar, called Fangtasia—naturally!
Lipscomb smiles, “Yes, the show is quirky and sexy, and full of hunky vampires with fangs. There is nothing serious about it.”
Seasons Two & Three
Richarz's wide experience ranging from DEEP SPACE NINE to EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS enabled her to leap into the small-town-yet-other-worldliness of the series. During her tenure, more of the Bon Temps inhabitants and their environs were revealed; and in the second season, we travel to the home of an ancient vampire living in Dallas and a huge church dedicated to the destruction of vampires. While Sookie is in Dallas, an evil maenad takes over her home, wreaking havoc throughout the town.
Bill [Stephen Moyer] proposes to Sookie [Anna Paquin], but is kidnapped and held hostage by a vampire monarch, the King of Mississippi in his bid to take over the realm of the vampire Queen of Louisiana.
Werewolves are introduced to the show's mythology in the third season, when Sookie enlists help in tracking down Bill. Set Decorator Robert Greenfield SDSA jumped in to assist with sets as Sookie discovers her fairy heritage.
Check back here for updates and new photos of fascinating sets!
Official True Blood Website