EXCLUSIVE Interview with Raelle Tucker
As much as we enjoy talking to the actors who embody the characters on True Blood, the opportunity to chat with writer Raelle Tucker filled us with more excitement than we’ve had since Alan Ball agreed to an interview. Raelle wrote season 1’s “Cold Ground” and the season finale, “You’ll Be The Death of Me”. For season 2, she wrote last week’s “Scratches” and the upcoming “Release Me”. We had the opportunity to spend more than an hour with Raelle talking about all things True Blood, plus how she became an 11-years-in-the-making overnight success, her unusual childhood, and writing for Supernatural.
How It All Began
Raelle started writing as a child, running theater companies and writing plays. She moved to Los Angeles and spent 11 years working as a waitress – at a strip club no less – and working on her “great American screenplay”, before a friend suggested that she looking into writing for television. Her friend recommended that she watch Six Feet Under as an example of great television writing, and to her surprise she was hooked.
“I kind of had this film snob side to me that said, TV cannot be art! And I’m an artist! Then I saw an episode of [Six Feet Under] and my entire life changed.” It’s an amazingly circular story. Alan Ball is the reason that Raelle changed her focus to writing for television, and now she writes for him. She then entered HBO’s Project Greenlight where she and her writing partner were runners up to the winners in season 2. This led to gaining an agent and finally Supernatural.
Raelle brings a unique perspective to television, thanks to a very unusual childhood. She grew up on an island off the coast of Spain with her hippie parents, riding a pony to school. She didn’t have electricity for most of her childhood, so she’s still catching up on technology, including Twitter. “I’m so uncool, I don’t use Twitter. Who’s actually reading it? Who wants to know that you’re getting a pedicure? How is there that much to talk about?” Amazing, isn’t it?
This interesting upbringing does make its way into Raelle’s writing. The scene where Maryann rolls the enormous joint to share with Tara over the breakfast table is not unlike mornings Raelle enjoyed with her bohemian, f ashion designer, commune leader mother as a teenager. Now that she’s a successful television writer, Raelle is something of the black sheep in her family, she tells us jokingly.
Writing For The Genre
Raelle landed in the supernatural writing genre by accident. She and her writing partner had been offered several jobs and after looking at all of them, they decided that Supernatural was the one “with legs”, so they accepted that. Raelle recalls that she had to do a lot of catching up to write for the show.
“It did not come naturally, at all. We’d sit in the writer’s room and Eric Kripke would reference all these things that were foreign to me. It was like he was speaking Chinese!” She realized that it was not a good fit for her, so ultimately she decided to leave Supernatural and pursue something that she could “put more of my life into”. Raelle remembers that the decision was very difficult, especially with no other jobs lined up, but she knew “it was absolutely the right thing to do. ”
Working For Alan Ball
She wrote a spec script called Special Geniuses, about a father and daughter drug smuggling duo, as a sample of what she could do. After taking several meetings, Raelle had a couple of offers, but she knew True Blood was in the works and really wanted to go after that job. She’d already bought the Sookie books a couple of years earlier, when she heard that Alan Ball was working on a television series based on the books.
“Alan doesn’t have very many writers, so the chances were really slim that I would even have the opportunity [to meet with him]. I was one of the few who did get to meet with him, and I got the job! It has been the greatest two years of my life. It’s the fulfillment of my dreams. Now I don’t know what to do, because me dreams kind of stopped here. I’m ruined! In every way!” Raelle can’t say enough good things about working with Alan Ball, despite his discomfort with all the praise.
“He’s an exceptional person. There’s nobody in this industry who’s so gracious to every person he works with. I could go on for hours, but really should stop. He hates it when I go on like this. My first week of work, he’s like, ‘Raelle, you have to stop with the gratitude. It makes me really nervous.'”
Writing A TV Show Based On Books
“I think we’re unbelievably lucky. It’s like we have a cheat sheet.” Writing within the universe that Charlaine Harris has already created is freeing for Raelle. She relates that Alan Ball is clear that nothing in the books is absolute when it comes to the television series. She understands when readers are upset about a storyline that is different, but there’s always a reason why the changes are made.
“It’s really important, when something is so beloved, to take that into account. We really, really want everyone who loves the books to love the show, and maybe be able to love them in a little different way. It’s like the dirty step-brother of the books,” says Raelle.
Raelle On Nelsan Ellis
Raelle is as happy as we are that Lafayette survived the first season, and she agrees that Nelsan Ellis should be on Supernatural. “He’s incredible. What’s most amazing to me about him is that if you meet him in person, he’s very quiet, and shy, and nothing like Lafayette. You can’t even recognize him. It’s truly shocking, it’s one of the greatest transformations I’ve seen in acting.”
Although she can’t choose a favorite character or storyline, Raelle did confess that she particularly enjoyed writing the Hoyt/Jessica scenes in “Scratches”.
“I think they’re both such incredible actors and such lovely, lovely people. So much of that loveliness transcends to the screen and you see what sweet people they are. The process of working with them and getting to write such painful, bittersweet teenage love was a really wonderful moment for me as a writer and an artist. If it were up to me, I’d love to see a Hoyt and Jessica spin off show!”
What Is The Worst Thing You Can Do To Pam?
“I think getting dirty, for Pam, is probably the equivalent of throwing a cat in the swimming pool. It’s the worst thing EVER. Pam is so much fun when she’s miserable!”
“If I was Sookie? I’d pick Sam. He’s the perfect guy! He gets her. He’s stable. He’s got a good job. He’s a nice guy. He’s got those fabulous little sideburns.” It’s not a popular pairing, but given complete freedom, Raelle would put Sam and Sookie together. If this were real life, then Sam would absolutely be perfect for Sookie. But this is TV and we need the drama, so Sookie continues to overlook Sam.
“I think fans forget how slowly that starts out. It takes a while for that to happen, with Sookie and Eric. It’s not an immediate thing, spread over several books. We’re getting there.” Still, while Raelle understands how eager fans are to see Eric and Sookie get together, but cautions that “there’s no guarantee to anyone that we’re gonna go that route.” That’s right, Eric/Sookie is not a given just because it’s in the books. (And this paragraph is what will garner the most comments, hands down.)
Humor And Pathos On True Blood
Raelle feels that she is better at the “big, sweeping emotions” than the humor that pervades the series. She loved writing last season’s “Cold Blood” because it was “one of the most serious, sad episodes the show has ever done”. She was able to put something of herself and her life into the episode, which excited her about writing that episode. Still, the lighter moments, being able to derive humor out of the death and gore, are what make her a huge fan of the show.
The Surprise That Is Jessica
Jessica was originally only supposed to be in two episodes last season, and then possibly brought back “some day in the future,” but Deborah Ann Woll impressed everyone so much that the writers knew they had an amazing opportunity to tell more of Bill’s story by watching this new vampire. Plus the chance to watch Bill and Sookie try to be “parents” to Jessica was “too good to pass up.” Raelle predicts that Deborah has a very successful career ahead of her and is excited that True Blood is launching that career.
Raelle’s next episode is 207, “Release Me”. She can’t tell us anything specific, but the theme of the episode is “about all of our characters being trapped.” This season is going to be “crazy” as they push the stories as far as they can. She is also writing a pilot script called Bad Girls for HBO. The show is based on a British series, telling the story of women in prison. We hope to see that go to series as Raelle’s star continues to rise!
Thanks again to Raelle Tucker for joining us to talk about True Blood. Listen to the full interview, including her advice for writers, the pitfalls of listening to the buzz about True Blood, and more on True-Blood.net Radio.