AS A YOUNG BOY in Georgia, Alan Ball knew he had something to share about himself. He just wasn’t ready. At the age of thirteen, he experienced a devastating family tragedy that would change him forever. He began to write, and found that he could express himself and his emotions through writing.
You may recognize Alan Ball’s name from his association with the film American Beauty and the HBO series Six Feet Under and True Blood, all of which he both wrote and produced. American Beauty, which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2000, weaves together a number of subplots, one of which concerns the central character’s next-door neighbor Frank, a tyrannical ex-Marine, and his handsomely mysterious son Ricky. It is Frank who harbors a deeply repressed homosexual secret that erupts in tragedy in the end. Six Feet Under (2001–2005) features a gay character named David Fisher, who evolves over time from outdoor cruising to moving in with his longtime partner Keith. True Blood (2008–2014) is a horror-fantasy drama one of whose main characters, Lafayette (played by the late Nelsan Ellis), is flamboyant to a fault; and he is far from the only gay character.
Ball’s latest film, which he both wrote and directed, is a comedy-drama called Uncle Frank (Amazon Studios). The film is about a gay professor living with his partner in New York City who returns to his roots in South Carolina, and it’s scattered with bits and pieces from Ball’s own biography. In the film, Frank’s partner is played by Peter Macdissi, Ball’s partner in real life.
This interview was conducted on-line in April.
Ilana Rapp: Growing up in a small town in Georgia in the ’60s and ’70s must’ve been tough for a gay kid. What made you decide to publicly come out when you were 33 years old?
Alan Ball: I never thought of it as “publicly” coming out. I was not any sort of “public” person at the time. I was coming out to my mother, as a first step in coming out to my family. All of my friends and colleagues knew already.
Ilana Rapp, a Gen-X’er based in New Jersey, writes entertainment pieces for Casting Networks, Casting Frontier, NYCastings, Mupo Entertainment, and New Jersey Stage.