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True Blood Behind the Scenes: The Fangtasia Dungeon and the wheel

True Blood Behind the Scenes: The Fangtasia Dungeon and the wheel

True Blood’s second season showed us an interesting variety of sets. The most sinister of them all is without a doubt the eerie Fangtasia dungeon where Eric locks up his human prisoners.

I asked True Blood Production Designer Suzuki Ingerslev, about this set that she designed. “It was definitely the writers who inspired the design of the Fangtasia basement with their grisly depiction of what they called the “Saw” room”, Suzuki answered.

The writer of the episode Alexander Woo explains how they came up with the idea of the dungeon: “Since we decided that Lafayette was going to survive into season two, we obviously needed to address where he had been during the two weeks after his abduction. Alan Ball came up with the idea of having him in a sort of horror-movie room where he would be suffering the consequences of dealing vampire blood. From there it was a matter of coming up with the bleakest, darkest place we could imagine. Suzuki Ingerslev and our Art Director Cat Smith were the ones who brought it to life.”

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According to Woo the dungeon he created represents “the secrets that all of us prefer to keep hidden and buried. The vampires in our world have come out of the coffin, but that room is a concrete representation of the darker side of vampire-human relations.”

Suzuki explains how the oppressing atmosphere of the Fangtasia basement was created on set: “Ordinarily it would have been any kind of basement or storage room but in the hands of Eric it became a grisly prison where the worst kind of atrocity is practiced. It was built entirely on stage. All the blood, rust, gore and decrepitude were created by our fantastic painters and plasterers. The wheel itself was built by our prop makers and is actually all made out of wood to look like metal. The wheel was dreamed up by Alexander Woo, as a device Eric rigged to torture people. It is a complete view into his utter lack of compassion. “

The significance and purpose of the wheel to which the prisoners are chained were discussed and speculated upon to great length on the True Blood message boards. Sometimes we try so hard to see symbolism in every scene that we overlook the obvious and simple explanation. Alexander Woo explains that the purpose of the wheel is surprisingly connected to one of the primary human bodily functions.

I thought it would be funny to find a very complicated solution to a very simple problem, namely how do you let the prisoners go to the bathroom while still keeping them far enough apart so they don’t kill each other? I suppose you could chain them all to the wall and give everyone their own bucket, but that’s a lot of buckets to empty. Why not have a single bucket that only one prisoner can reach at a time? That’s where the idea for the wheel began. I also thought it was funny that any time one prisoner needed to use the bucket, it would inconvenience everyone else. In the end, the wheel became a great visual representation of the hopelessness of everyone’s fate in the dungeon, but it all started as a way for the prisoners to use the toilet.”

In the show it was Eric who came up with both the concept of the vampire bar Fangtasia and the torture dungeon that lies beneath it. What does this tell us about Eric’s character according to Woo?

Eric has no insecurities about who he is. He understands that there’s a side to vampires that would make humans very uncomfortable, so he’s shrewd in keeping that side hidden away. The upstairs of Fangtasia is Eric’s public face. The downstairs is the darker side that humans don’t need to know about – unless they’ve crossed him. I think the bar and the dungeon are both equally Fangtasia, just as the roles of club owner and vampire sheriff are both equally Eric.”

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The True Blood vampires obviously all have a very dark side to them, but so do many human inhabitants of Bon Temps. The dungeon shows us the cruelty of vampire nature, I asked Alex Woo if this is really so different from the cruelty Eddie suffered in Jason’s basement?

Woo: “You’re right – they’re very much the same. Jason’s basement in season one was a place for two of our humans to indulge their savage side, much to Jason’s disgust, eventually. The Fangtasia dungeon was one of our first glimpses into the parallel underside in the vampire world. Basements are never pretty, are they?”

Finally I asked if he thinks that humans and vampires will ever be able to live in a somewhat peaceful coexistence.

“Probably not for the life of the show. What fun would it be to watch then?” answers Woo. And I think we can all agree with that. Keep the drama coming!

Photos courtesy of Suzuki Ingerslev.
Video property of HBO.

Shadaliza
Written by Shadaliza

Shadaliza loves the Internet, film and TV shows, writing, running websites and charity fundraising; she has found the perfect combo in the fansites to express her creativity and passion. Shadaliza is Dutch, but has lived in Italy for many years and works as Marketing Executive for an Internet hosting company.

18 Comment responses

  1. Avatar
    February 09, 2010

    I love reading about the sets and how they came up with the story. Great article Shad!

    Reply

  2. Avatar
    February 09, 2010

    Well, thanks for settling the question of the purpose of the wheel. I thought it had something to do with Lost’s island disappearing. It must be a blast to bring these concepts to life. Good article.

    Reply

  3. Avatar
    February 09, 2010

    excellent, excellent scene. thank you for the vid. it was great to see it all again. great interview Shad.

    Reply

  4. Avatar
    February 09, 2010

    It is so interesting how they come up with these concepts and designs.
    Poor Lafayette endured such psychological and physical torture in that scary enviroment they designed so well. Cringe worthy.

    Reply

  5. Avatar
    February 09, 2010

    Thanks for this, Shad. Most interesting how the wheel and the dungeon setting came into being. It took me more than one viewing before I caught on to the significance of the bucket. The dungeon was a terrifying place, filled with horror and hopelessness.

    Reply

  6. Avatar
    February 09, 2010

    Great stuff! That dungeon gave me the heebie-jeebies, which is a total compliment to the writers for imagining it and the set decorators for bringing it to life. I could almost smell the stench through my TV.

    Kudos all around. I love all of the sets used for the show, whether they were created from scratch or filmed on location. I’m always impressed that they can make LA seem like the Louisiana swamp.

    Reply

  7. Avatar
    February 09, 2010

    Another great article ! Loved reading it ! I cannot wait to see what elaborate sets they will have for Season 3 .

    Thanks for a great interview Shad ! and putting together a great article.

    Reply

  8. Avatar
    February 09, 2010

    Kudos to the creators of this amazing set. Meant to add that to my post above. I’ll do so now.

    Reply

  9. Avatar
    February 09, 2010

    is amazing, good for the article Shandaliza, and i luv the new makeover of this site, my h♥me!!!

    Reply

  10. Avatar
    February 09, 2010

    thanks shad. i loved the dungeon scenes and the set made it real.

    Reply

  11. Avatar
    February 09, 2010

    Fascinating article, Shad. I love learning about all the ideas and the set designs. It’s great to read about the perspectives and opinions of the designers, writers, etc.

    Thank you!

    Reply

  12. Avatar
    February 09, 2010

    Fantastic article! In the beginning I was like yay Lafayette is alive, then I was like wtf he’s in a dunegon in Fangtasia!!!!DAM

    Reply

  13. Avatar
    February 09, 2010

    Look at everything that came about because Nelsan is such a kick*ss actor! LOL!

    “Eric has no insecurities about who he is” D*MN straight! That’s why we love him!

    I love background stories about how sets are done,costuming all,details like that are totally cool. good stuff

    Reply

  14. Avatar
    February 10, 2010

    This article really says alot and gives us some insight into Eric’s character, and it isn’t very pretty. That took a twisted mind to think up that.

    Reply

    • Avatar
      February 10, 2010

      yep.

      Very cool article though….love behind the scene stuff.

      Reply

  15. Avatar
    February 10, 2010

    Let’s not forget that Lafayette is a V dealer(tho we love him) at this point,(before the intro of the queen) and Royce was a vampire killing arsonist.
    “There are sheriff’s who would have done far worse and you know it.”

    Reply

    • Avatar
      February 21, 2010

      I understand what they have done. But, no one deserves that kind of torture. I’m sure that there are Sherriff’s who would have done far worse. But, what was going on in that basement was still cruel, inhuman, and took a bit of a twisted mind to think up. Eric has his good, progressive, side. That’s what the upstairs represents. But, he also has a very dark and twisted side that he keeps hidden. That’s what the basement represents. But this is a good example of what makes the characters of TB fun and interesting. I’m not Eric bashing here. I think that Bill is the same in that he has a good side that he presents to the world and a bad side that he keeps hidden from the world. The difference between Bill and Eric is that Eric seems to embrace his bad side, whereas, Bill doesn’t. Bill seems to want to cleanse himself of the evil that exists in him. He wants to clean out his basement. Whether he can, remains to be seen.

      Reply

  16. Avatar
    February 11, 2010

    Oh give me a break, as if AB hasnt screwed Eric over enough as it is.
    Maybe Beehl will spend some time in the dungeon for being the queens lackey.

    Reply

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