If there’s such a thing as a mainstream cult, then the furorsurrounding True Blood, the HBO series nominally about a group of very good looking but nonetheless marginalized vampires living—or maybe not quite, since they are undead—in the swampy backwoods of Louisiana, certainly has all the earmarks. Based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries books by CharlaineHarris, True Blood was developed for television by Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball, and since debuting in 2008, has amassed an audience as ritualistic and rabid as the blood-sucking inhabitants of Bon Temps, the fictional town where much of the show’s supernatural happenings occur. The attraction? True Blood is gothy, frothy, sexy, and soap-operatic. It’s filled with thriller-like twists and turns and plenty of camp-horror violence and elaborately photographed nudity. But it’s also smart, self-aware, and novelistic in its storytelling, and watching the action unfold, one gets the sense that the fangoria might in fact be more than it seems, which it very well might be—vampiric even, as it bites from and nips at a variety of B-movie tropes and American historical themes. But the great strength of True Blood as a piece of work is while it encourages such second-level analysis, it is never overwhelmed by it; there’s always enough adrenaline, drama, skin, and blood to keep even the most demonic of beings who’ve been roaming various astral plains for centuries grounded in the graphic glory of the moment.
As Eric Northman, a millennium-old Viking vampire who favors silk robes and keeps busy with his work as both area sheriff and as a budding nightlife impresario, 34-year-old Swedish-born actor Alexander Skarsgård has been thrust to the center of the True Blood maelstrom. Skarsgård’s Northman is by turns complex and mercurial, a pansexual opportunist—humans, vampires, men, women, one Estonian cardiologist-turned-pole dancer, and a fairy have each whet his appetite in turn—whose club, Fangtasia (complete with its underground restraint chamber), is a popular local pickup spot for interspecies trysts, and has become a metaphorical safe space for the fanged-and-forever-not-so-young.
Though Skarsgård appeared briefly as a male model undone by an errant cigarette in Zoolander (2001), his big break in America came in 2008, when he co-starred in the critically acclaimed HBO miniseries Generation Kill as a U.S. Marine sergeant heading up a battalion during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. (In a more zeitgeisty moment, he also appeared in Lady Gaga’s video for “Paparazzi,” a meditation on the destructive nature of fame, in which he played a hulking blonde lover who hurls her over a balcony.)
In addition to the fourth season of True Blood, which premieres on June 26, Skarsgård joins Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Kiefer Sutherland in Lars von Trier’s latest film, Melancholia, which just debuted at Cannes. He has two other high-profile films coming within the next year. In the first, Rod Lurie’s remake of Sam Peckinpah’s seminal 1971 psychodrama Straw Dogs, he stars alongside his real-life girlfriend, Kate Bosworth. The second, Peter Berg’s Battleship, is a big-budget summer action flick based on the Hasbro board game (“You sunk my battleship!”). He is also set to begin work on Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s new adaptation of the Henry James novel What Maisie Knew, in which he will star alongside Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan. (Straw Dogs is due out in September; Battleship, next summer.)
Win Butler, lead singer for the band Arcade Fire, is no stranger to the peculiar and rarified realm of the mainstream cult. He is also a big True Blood fan, and graciously agreed to speak to Skarsgård, who was in Los Angeles, from a tour stop in Austin, Texas.
WIN BUTLER: This will be like a phone date.
ALEXANDER SKARSGÅRD: It feels like a blind date. Speed dating.
BUTLER: What’s your sign?
SKARSGÅRD: I’m a Virgo. What are you?
BUTLER: I’m an Aries.
SKARSGÅRD: Oh, are you? But I don’t really believe in signs.
BUTLER: Me neither, but our bass player can predict people’s signs just by meeting them for the first time. It’s pretty impressive.
SKARSGÅRD: Really? My mother can predict your birth date just from an e-mail.
BUTLER: Wow. I want to do the interview with her. Are you in L.A. right now?
SKARSGÅRD: I’m outside of L.A. We’re shooting True Blood. We’re in the middle of season four.
BUTLER: Have you actually been down to Louisiana, where the show takes place, or is it all shot on a set?
SKARSGÅRD: We shoot it in Hollywood, about 60 percent on stage and about 40 percent out on location, but the locations are all around L.A. We shoot up in Malibu or down in Long Beach sometimes. I’ve shot movies out in Louisiana, but, ironically, I’ve never been there with the show.
BUTLER: Did you ever have to go to Louisiana to research vampires and how they live and stuff like that?
SKARSGÅRD: Obviously, because they all live in Louisiana. [both laugh] But no, I didn’t. I got the job on True Blood when I was working in Africa on a miniseries for HBO called Generation Kill, so I really didn’t have time to do a lot of background. I basically went straight from the Kalahari Desert to L.A. to start the show four years ago.
Source: Interview Magazine