Within a week of the first episode being aired, HBO renewed the show for a second season.
Rachel Griffiths had read the script and had indicated to the production that she was very interested in playing Brenda. The producers' only real concern was whether she could pull off a convincing American accent. When Griffiths flew over from Australia to meet them, she arrived complete with perfect accent, and got the part.
According to Brett Martin's 2013 book Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad, HBO only gave Alan Ball one note (criticism) on the pilot episode, which was: "we love the characters. We love the story, but the whole thing feels a little safe, Can it be more fucked up?" In response, the episode three sequence in which Claire steals a foot from the morgue was written.
Michael C. Hall's first screen role. He had confined himself to the New York stage prior to "Six Feet Under". The first scene he shot was in the pilot episode when David goes to the morgue to collect his father's body.
The lone tree in the opening sequence does not actually stand on the hill shown. It was dug up from someone's back yard, and placed there for the purposes of capturing the shot.
Peter Krause (Nate Fisher) originally auditioned for the part of David, as he was impressed by the political/human rights message that the role had and he wanted to stand up for the character. However, the creator, Alan Ball had found the role of Nate Fisher impossible to cast, and was impressed by Krause and his tangible chemistry with Rachel Griffiths (Brenda Chenowith).
Nikolai's flower shop actually is a real flower shop at 14325 Ventura Blvd and was once a gas station. It was in fact the gas station that James Dean filled up at the day he left out of town on his way to the crash that would kill him (there is a color photo of him at the station about to get back behind the wheel in fact).
Set in Los Angeles because, according to series creator Alan Ball, LA is the "world capital of the denial of death".
Over the course of the series episode deaths, the Causes of death: 13 people have died from natural causes. 10 people have died from a car accident related fate. 11 people have been murdered. 8 people have committed suicide. 9 people have died from a head injury. 5 people have died of cancer. 22 people have died from other complications.
Fisher & Sons funeral home is actually the well-known Auguste R. Marquis residence that now houses the Filipino Federation of America in Los Angeles.
Peter Krause claimed that when he went to a real funeral home after his father died, the funeral director was star struck and enthusiastically told him what an honor it was to meet him. Krause just sat quietly until the director returned the conversation to business.
Anna Faris auditioned for the role of Claire Fisher, but according to Faris she was laughed off by the casting director.
The pilot episode features several spoof commercials for funeral homes and products. This was intended to be a recurring feature throughout the series but was dropped after the first episode.
In the credits of the pilot, you see a pallbearer who has a skeleton ring on his finger. The ring was digitally-erased from the credit opening thereafter.
Frances Conroy is not quite 12 years older than Peter Krause, whose mother she plays on the show.
Alan Ball had 13 days to shoot the pilot episode, something which caused him a degree of anxiety, seeing as he had never directed before.
In season one, David and Nate express concern over competition with a fictional company that specializes in cremation, the "Poseidon Society." This is a clever nod at the actual "Neptune Society," which is a nationwide chain of cremation companies.
Kathy Bates, who directed two episodes in Season 1, would appear in an acting capacity from Season 3 on as Ruth's friend Bettina.
Years after the series' wrapped Peter Krause happened to catch one of the episodes on demand, and admitted he was bashful of his sex scenes, reflecting that it didn't occur to him at the time that they would be randomly on the Internet forever.
Unusually, the title sequence was created after the theme music had been composed (generally, it's the other way round).
The initial inspiration for this show came from Carolyn Strauss, then the president of HBO's entertainment division, who, shortly before meeting with showrunner Alan Ball, had watched the 1965 film adaptation of the 1945 novel The Loved One, a satirical expose of the funeral industry. Ball's further inspirations for the show included Jessica Mitford's book The American Way of Death and Thomas Lynch's essay collection The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade.
Alan Ball when he originally envisioned the series - he saw Christopher Meloni and Justin Theroux as choices to play Nate and David Fisher, respectively.
Richard Jenkins and Frances Conroy previously played a married couple in Alex Haley's Queen.
Both of the main male leads in this show ('Peter Krause' and Michael C. Hall) subsequently starred on other TV shows during which they dated actresses playing their sisters. When Krause played Adam Braverman on Parenthood, he started dating his costar Lauren Graham, who played his sister Sarah Braverman. When Hall starred in Dexter, he started dating (and later married and divorced) his costar Jennifer Carpenter, who played his sister Debra Morgan.
Frances Conroy, James Cromwell and Kathy Bates would all go on to play characters on American Horror Story.
Michael C. Hall (David Fisher) and Tim Maculan (Father Jack) would go on to work together again on Dexter (2006).
The difference in ages among the Fisher siblings differs somewhat from that of the actors who portrayed them: Nate was born in 1965, like actor Peter Krause; but David was born in 1969 while Michael C. Hall was born in 1971; Claire was born in 1983, while Lauren Ambrose was born in 1978. So, while there's a 14/18-year hiatus between the births of the brothers and the sister as characters (and it's relevant to the story), the actors' actual birth dates are roughly equidistant.
Lauren Ambrose (Claire Fisher) and Freddy Rodriguez (Frederico 'Rico' Diaz) appeared together in Can't Hardly Wait (1998).
Dina Spybey-Waters, who plays David's wannabe girlfriend Tracy in the first season, tested for the part of Brenda.
Frances Conroy (Ruth), Ricardo Chavira (Ramon) and Justina Machado (Vanessa) all appeared in Desperate Housewives.
One possible source of inspiration for the series was the real life history of the Cassity mortuary family of Saint Louis, Missouri which had bought the Hollywood Memorial Cemetery, that had fallen into disrepair, in 1997.Tyler Cassity who had arranged the purchase was a 27 year old film buff at the time.
While Kathy Bates portrayed the friend of Frances Conroy's character in this show, they would later on go to star in the series American Horror Story together.