Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Alan Ball Interview Excerpts

Yes, I don't have a life. I decided to transcribe parts of Terry Gross's August 23, 2005, Fresh Air interview(1) with Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball. I basically transcribed his statements about the character and story. MONTAGE'S HIDDEN STORYLINES TERRY GROSS: "...Why did you want to resolve things with reasonably happy endings for everybody?" ALAN BALL: "Well because I feel like the final stage of grief -- and if anything I've sort of looked at the show as a meditation on grief -- the final stage of grief is coming out of it and sort of reconnecting with life. "I don't for a minute believe that these people moved forward and their lives were without drama and without conflict and without pain and without struggle. We just didn't see that. But certainly you look at what happens and certainly you know ... David is devasted by the death of Nate. It wasn't as clear in the final montage but Brenda had two husbands after Nate. I mean I don't think those relationships were easy. I don't necessarily think Ruth and George lived happily ever after. And Claire, you know, came back to her mother's funeral when she was in her mid-forties and got[?] reconnected with Ted. Who knows what happened in those years up to then. ... Were there marriages? ... "...But I feel like at the moment Claire leaves to go off into her new life that's where those people are at that time. But ... I never felt like, 'okay, everythings tied up in a nice little package'. .. I just felt like, well, ... they've started to come out of the tunnel of Nate's death and she's leaving and something new is starting and that's the end of this show." KILLING NATE GROSS: "...Can you talk a little about the process of sitting down alone or with the other members of the writing staff to figure out what the final fate of the characters was going to be and to even write lives past the end of the series for them?" BALL: "Well, we reconveyned back in August, I guess about a year ago, to start figuring out what the final season was going to be. And within the first week somebody had pitched -- I wish I could remember because I felt like it was such a great idea -- that we actually see the deaths of all the characters. And so, it just felt so organically appropriate to the show. "And there was a lot of conflict in the room about whether Nate should or shouldn't die. And I was open to him not dying, but I -- I'm very instinctive -- and I just went, 'pitch me something that is as effective or as, you know, works as organically and fits within -- and is what would be the final chapter of this if it were a big long novel. Pitch it to me.' And nobody was able to. ...We didn't want to kill Nate in the very last episode. We wanted to see the family deal with the grief and the loss. And see how Nate's life -- now that is was actually finished at least in this plane -- how it would affect those who loved him and those whom he loved." NATE'S MORALLY MESSY ENDING GROSS: "...Why did you and the writers want him to die at such a morally messy moment?" BALL: "Well, personally -- I can't speak for the other writers -- but I think one of the things that appealed to us throughout the production of the show is things that are morally messy. Because to me that seems to be so much more of what life is about than this facsimile of life that we see depicted on television which is always about these very clear-cut moral choices and these very clearly defined heroes and villins and this world in which people really do sort of figure things out and live these really manageable lives. Now, I don't know if I'm so far out of the mainstream that...that just doesn't make sense to me or if it doesn't actually make sense to most people." NATE'S HYPOTHETICAL LIFE WITH MAGGIE OR BRENDA GROSS: "In your mind, if Nate had lived, would he and Maggie had become lovers? Would that have been the true love in his life or do think that would have ended too?" BALL: "In my mind, I'm not sure that had he lived, he and Brenda really would have split up. I think he was feeling something very deeply and passionately at that moment and then he expressed and then he died. And there is something really deeply tragic in that which I'm drawn towards in terms of drama, in terms of telling a story. ... I think had he left Brenda and gone with Maggie I think should would have had a really hard living up to what he saw in her. ".. I think, possibly, had he stayed with Brenda, it might have been the thing that really brought them together and they were able to move forward and into a new and different place. It may have just been a placeholder and later something else would have happened -- on both their parts. I mean, Brenda was in sort of a better place at the time when the series ended, but she certainly had her own streak of confusion that could have led her to different places." BRENDA & BILLY'S SIBLING SEXUAL ATTRACTION GROSS: "...In the, I think it is the next to the last episode, there is a sequence in which they [Brenda and Billy] actually start to physically touch in a sexual way. And I was so relieved when Brenda wakes up and it's just a dream. And everyone I spoke to about that scene said exactly the same thing, 'I'm so glad it is just a dream'. Can you talk a little about what went on in the writers' room about that scene and about whether to do it and so on?" BALL: "Well there were actually people in the writers' room saying, 'Brenda and Billy ... we just need to get them together and just let them be together'. -- And, of course there were people in the writers' room who were pitching at the end of season four that there actually was a nuclear holocaust and season five take place in a nuclear wasteland. -- So I said, 'no, I don't think that is going to as satisfying experience for our audience and I also don't think it is right for the show'. These two, who saved each others' lives growing up with these kind of mythically horrible, greek tragedy monsters of parents that they had... "And so, Craig Wright, a very talented writer, was the writer who that episode was assigned to. And we knew we wanted it to it go on so long that you actually got really physically uncomfortable and you thought, 'Oh, my god, this is really happening', before she woke up from the dream. "And Craig went off to write his first episode and he brought it back and I remember I read the episode and the line where Billy goes, 'This is what your penis would look life if you were a boy'. And I had this moment of revulsion. And I thought, 'I'm not sure we can go there'. But every other writer at that table said, 'We have to go there. That's what so exciting about this moment is because you really do see the truth of what is there on some subconscious level about their .. you know part of that weird attraction between them that was formed when they were children with this wildly sexually inapproriate parents and friends acting out all around them .. is that they felt like they were each other.' "And I said, 'okay, I'll trust you, I'll trust you guys on this'" INTENDED MYSTERIES: MAYA'S BIOLOGICAL FATHER; HOYT AND LISA GROSS: "...Do you, as the creator of the series, know for sure who Maya's father is? Was it Nate? ...Or was it Lisa's brother-in-law?" BALL: "Do I know for sure who her biological father is?" GROSS: "Yes, biological father, yes." BALL: "No, no I don't. "And I also don't really know what happened between Hoyt and Lisa when she died. I don't really know exactly what went on there. And that's part of what we wanted to dramatize. What about those things you never really know. "... you know part of what consciousness and society and certainly our modern consumer, media-driven society has done is, it's given us the idea that there are answers to everything and that you can know everything. And what gets ironed out by that kind of concept is mystery. ... I think, at the risk of sounding really stupid, ...there is so much that we will never be able to comprehend that we don't even have the senses to comprehend. And I think part of living a spiritual life is being okay with not knowing answers that you can't get. "'Was Maya Nate's biological daughter?' We don't really know. 'Was she his daugher?' Yes. He was her father. Ultimately, whether or not his DNA is in that child is not as important as, 'Did he love her to the best of his ability and see her as his child and make her welfare something more important than his own?'" (1)

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