My Favorite Scene: Alan Ball on Creating a 'Final' Ending to 'Six Feet Under'
By Stacy Lambe
No one loves a great scene more than the person who first
dreamed it up -- the writer. We're asking iconic shows' creators and writers to
tell ET all about the moment on
their series that they most cherished getting to see make it from
script to screen.
In honor of the 15th anniversary of Six Feet Under, which first premiered on
HBO on June 3, 2001, creator Alan Ball opens up about the series’ iconic finale.
For Ball, the final sequence -- Claire (Lauren Ambrose)
in her Toyota Prius, driving cross country from Los Angeles to New York City as Six Feet Under flashes forward
to show the finals days of the Fisher family ending with Claire’s own death --
still resonates with tons of emotion, even 11 years after the series went off the
Even after all these years when I watch it, I don't cry but I’m
on the verge of crying. It's the culmination of five years of my life and the culmination
of everybody’s who worked on the show.
When we convened for season five, we knew it was going to be
the last season. So, for the first time, we had to come up with the ending of
the season first. There were a lot of ideas going around and some of them
completely crazy like the discussion of Ruth developing Alzheimer’s disease and
talk of there being a terrorist nuclear attack on Los Angeles and the whole
season would be the Fishers working out a post-apocalyptic world. These didn't
make sense to me.
Then somebody at the table said, “We should kill everybody.”
Everybody laughed like it was a joke, but the more we talked about it, the more
we realized that's exactly what we should do. That is exactly the organic way
that the series needs to end. We should be with every character at the time of
their death. It started out that way with Nathaniel's (Peter Krause) death and
to end it that way seemed to feel like coming full circle.
We wanted Claire to be the last one because she's the
youngest one. She was the one going off into the future. It made sense for Ruth
(Frances Conroy) to be the first one because she's the oldest. But there wasn’t
any particular reason for the chronology. It was a mixture of things, where
they were age-wise in their lives and also what worked.
As we were shooting that final sequence in particular, something sort of “meta” happened. It had become like a family, we all working together on a thing. We had tremendous respect for each other. We liked each other. And it was fun to go to work, believe it or not, even though the subject matter was incredibly dark.
The last day of shooting was Claire and the Prius in the desert. I got to go up in a helicopter, which was really fun. (But everything else was actually shot throughout the episode by the time we got to the last day of filming.) When we wrapped, Lauren was emotional and she said, “It's so weird. It feels like I grew up on this show.”
My big emotional moment was when the family all gathered for dinner and toasted Nate. That certainly felt like you were saying goodbye to a big part of yourself. I started crying at the monitor.
I didn't watch it when it aired -- I had seen it probably 50 times at that point. There was no moment of, like, “Oh, wow,” but there certainly was an appreciation of how powerful the final scene was. I was relieved about that because it did seem to end in a way that felt satisfying and it’s so final. It also maintained a lot of what the show is about, life in the constant presence of death.