By LORIEN HAYNES
You expect Bill Compton (sorry Stephen Moyer) to speak in a soft 19th century Southern drawl. To be slightly stiff, pale, preoccupied. Instead, on meeting him, you find yourself in the presence of an East End Essex boy.
English in the Guy Ritchie sense of the word. With freckles and flirty chatter about his spaniel collie cross Splash and kids (from two different mothers) Billy, 9, and Lilac, 7.
He's so at ease, it's hard to believe he and co-star Anna Paquin, are the hottest television couple on TV.
It's not just the 200-ft. "True Blood" billboards on Sunset Boulevard, but the fact that the season two opener trumped all HBO's ratings, bar the finale of "The Sopranos." This is not only due to a strong marketing push, but down to the sexual chemistry between Compton and Sookie Stackhouse (Paquin).
Their chemistry has traveled off-screen, with Moyer, 39, and Paquin, 27, an item for the past two years and this month denying rumors of an engagement.
Truth be told, they are very much together, living in Venice, Los Angeles, committed to a mutual relationship with Stephen's children and a future that's filled with Season 3 and potential offspring of their own.
For Moyer, this success is a far cry from being a working British actor with relative renown in the America ("Quills," "The Starter Wife," "88 Minutes").
"True Blood" has shot him into popular consciousness, where many have compared him to his younger competitor, Robert Pattinson from "Twilight," who Moyer has called "the Slim-Fast, Diet Coke" version of his Compton self.
Sitting down over coffee (he says a good brew is "a work of art"), we bled him dry for a few more juicy morsels.
NYP: Female audiences and readers have embraced stories about vampires with a rabid passion. Are women mobbing you on the streets the way they are Robert Pattinson from "Twilight"?
SM: The interesting thing about "True Blood" is that it's appeal is not contained to teenage girls. I get stopped in the street and questioned by 70-year-old men whose wives and daughters are making Bloody Marys and throwing "True Blood" parties. Yes, I have teenage fans but nowhere near Pattinson's standards. I have no idea how I'd handle that. He was hit by a cab the other week in New York, trying to avoid a mob.
NYP: What is it about the sexual energy of Bill that women respond to most?
SM: I think it's the fact that he is obviously dark, but that he's also always trying to be a good man, so the tussle of decency is what appeals. Second, I think that women in the modern world are attracted to the courtly manners of the 19th century, a time where men from the upper classes charmed women, but at the same time, men had to be men. This combination of being treated with respect by the man who can overpower you physically, that's very sexy.
NYP: How do you prepare for the graphic love scenes on "True Blood"?
SM: I do some stretches (like a boxer coming into the ring) then I take off my clothes and put on my flesh coloured sock (which actors wear for sex scenes). What's great about the sex on the show is that it's real. We don't shy away. We show you what's not been seen before. You know, after sex, it's usually hot and the covers are off but never on TV. We've tried to do away with that.
NYP; What intrigues you about the storylines?
SM: What I love about Bill is that it's no accident our hero kills as many people in the first season as the murderer. He's a killer. He can't help himself. And I like the fact he's historical. As a Confederate soldier he doesn't like working on a computer and he keeps hearkening back to period.
He's also a man who has lost everything; from a war to his family, to his mortality and so he has pathos; his melancholy and yearning are attractive to play. Bill becomes a moral barometer for the show. The drug and sex addicts are human.
NYP: You work closely with Anna Paquin. What can you tell us about Anna that people don't know?
SM: She's rubbish without her coffee in the morning, she has never been blonde before this show and she would never go out in the street in Sookie's skin-tight T-shirts and short-shorts with her bust out.
NYP: How often do you see your children, Lilac and Billy? Do they know you are playing a vampire?
SM: I see them every day on Skype and as soon as this season finishes filming, I'm going back to London to take them both on holiday. Billy is very aware I'm playing a vampire and because he's called Bill, he thinks the character is named after him (so he finds it very upsetting that he doesn't get to see it.) Lilac, who hasn't seen it either, does a very good impression of Kirsten Dunst in "Interview with The Vampire." She pretends to cry, you say "what's wrong?" And then she comes at you with her fangs out.
NYP: Are you worried that playing a vampire will typecast you?
SM: No. Bill's pallor is white, he speaks with a Southern accent, he has dyed black hair -- he's very different from me. And one of the reasons you come to LA and sign on a series for seven years, a huge TV job, is that it opens doors for other projects. I look forward to playing Bill for years to come but I look forward to doing other jobs too. I have to say, though, I did write a thank you card to ("True Blood" creator) Alan Ball, after the pilot, saying I'd be happy to play Bill Compton for the rest of my life!