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A scene from the fifth season of HBO's popular vampire drama True Blood.
A scene from the fifth season of HBO's popular vampire drama True Blood.

Mark Hudis ’90 Takes a Bite Out of True Blood

Fans of the sexy cable vampire soap True Blood will be happy to know that when HBO’s biggest hit since The Sopranos returns for its sixth season next summer, a Ford will be at the helm. Mark Hudis ’90, who has been co-executive producer of the show for the past two years, was chosen as the successor to “showrunner” Alan Ball, who created True Blood (as well as Six Feet Under) and stepped down after the recently finished fifth season.

“It’s impossible to fill Alan Ball’s shoes,” says Hudis of his new gig. “That’s not false modesty, that’s the truth. The guy’s created two massive hit shows for HBO and has an Oscar [for American Beauty]. Really, this plane is in the air, and I just want to land it safely.”

Ball’s “plane,” however, is in good hands. Hudis, who has also written for Nurse Jackie, That70s Show and Cybill, is part of a seven-person writing team that works democratically and by consensus to map out the best story lines to engage the fans and be true to the characters’ journeys. They are already hard at work in the show’s writers room, plotting out season six, despite the fact that, due to star Anna Paquin’s maternity leave, they won’t resume shooting until early next year.

As showrunner, Hudis is now the chief executive of the production, the head of the writers and the person responsible for the day-to-day operation of the show, including all of the creative decisions. “Ultimately, the tricky part is that now I have to be the arbiter of what ultimately gets on screen,” he says. “Last year, my suggestions would be heard, but this year, it is my call who gets cast, it’s my call how their hair looks, and it’s my call what kind of bullet wound they have.”

And on True Blood there’s always a bullet wound. (Or at least a bloody mess of some sort.) Season five ended with our normally human-friendly vampire hero Bill Compton drinking the blood of vampire savior Lilith, exploding and reconstituting into something evil.

“Certainly he’s not going to be the Bill we know and love,” says Hudis of the character’s evolution next season. “He’s going to have more bite, no pun intended.”

What else can we expect? Following a season that dealt with more global issues(such as national vampire politics), Hudis wants to bring the action back to Bon Temps, the small Louisiana town that is home to the show’s central characters, and focus on telling fewer stories with more characters.(True Blood-ophiles might also be interested to know that Sookie and Jason will spend the year searching for Warlow, the vampire that Sookie has been promised to.)

Hudis, a former English major, credits Haverford’s small size and broad extracurricular programs with preparing him for his eventual career in Hollywood. His first scripts were skits for Humtones shows and Class Nights, and his professional writing career inadvertently began when his work for Sensitive Mail, the humor magazine he founded with classmate John Cook, and Paul Pietrow and Mike Sisk, both ’88, helped him get published in MAD Magazine.

“Writing skits and shows and drama and comedy—I essentially do that for a living now, and that’s because I got to try it at Haverford constantly,” he says. “The opportunities that Haverford affords you—I’m talking about extracurriculars, though, yes, I learned a lot from books and professors—to try everything is stellar. There’s no place like it.”

—Rebecca Raber

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of Haverford magazine.

Students cross in front of Founders Hall.

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