Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Stephen Moyer: True Blood's Vampire Hunk

A Stephen interview from TeenTelevision from last September

Mystery, horror, romance and humor combine in HBO's new vampire series "True Blood" based upon the Sookie Stackhouse novels. Sookie, played by Anna Paquin, is a telepathic waitress who is fascinated by vampires. In Sookie's world, they live among us and most drink a blood-like concoction called Tru-Blood rather than chowing down on humans. Sookie has her eye on Bill Compton. Almost 200 years old, the handsome "vamp" was roaming the South when there were plantations and Scarlett O'Hara belles.
Handsome, of course, brooding Bill is played by Brit born Stephen Moyer who co-starred with Debra Messing in "The Starter Wife". Picture tall, dark and, yeah, cute.

TeenTelevision: How did you get this job? Was it just a normal audition that your agent sent you to?
Stephen: I had come back from Australia, where I had been doing 'The Starter Wife', and, at the time, I was tan and blonde.

TeenTelevision: Whoa, not a good look for a vampire.
Stephen: I'd been away for a long time and I didn't want to come to America, straight away. But then, I saw 'True Blood'. I read it and I put myself on tape the next morning. They'd had trouble finding Bill. They'd been looking for about five months. Alan [Ball, series creator] saw it that afternoon, and I flew in the next morning. When Anna and I met and first had those initial meetings with Alan, I was tan and blonde, and she was white with black hair. We've kind of reversed [looks] completely.

TeenTelevision: Weird! Did you know the books?
Stephen: I hadn't heard of it ever before. But, as soon as I got the job, I started doing the research and reading the books. My character is from the American Civil War, so I went back to the Civil War and started reading about that.

TeenTelevision: Had you been a fan of the vampire genre before this?
Stephen: It's not the genre that I would have jumped at, to be honest. I'd read Anne Rice, but that is about it. I did play a vampire in '98, in a series called 'Ultraviolet'. I have these sharp canines [naturally], so we decided, in that show, not to even give me vampire teeth. But, in this, we have different teeth. I read the book and I could totally understand what Alan saw in it. Sookie is amazing, Bill is a fantastic character, and the world that [author] Charlaine [Harris] sets up is just unbelievable.

TeenTelevision: Can you talk about wearing the vampire teeth and how that works for you?
Stephen: As a kid, I had to wear a retainer to push my teeth straight, and it's kind of like having a retainer. You have to learn to talk with them in.

TeenTelevision: Ah, lisping vampires.
Stephen: [laughing] There's this hilarious thing where there's four vampires [actors] and we're all sitting around, chatting, and then there's a moment where we all have to have our teeth in, so everybody reaches down and sticks their teeth in and they start talking funny, and it's really not very cool at all. It's quite difficult, but we've all gotten much, much better at talking with them in. And, we've reduced the back plate on the teeth a little bit, so people have gotten better at talking with them.

TeenTelevision: Bill has a rival for Sookie, Eric played by Alexander Skarsgard. What is that relationship like?
Stephen: The relationship is one of respect, but mutual dislike. His character is 1,000 years old and my character is 170 years old and, in our story, the older you are, the stronger you are. So, Eric is very strong. Even though Bill can stand up to Eric and fight him, he ultimately has to kow-tow to what Eric wants him to do but, when a vampire has a partner, another vampire is not allowed to encroach on that turf. So, as much as Eric would like to, perhaps, he can't because it's against vampire law. That, of course, is a great lure to Eric and he wants to fight that.

TeenTelevision: Sounds juicy! Are you going to be doing any flashbacks through Bill's life?
Stephen: Yes. We go back to the American Civil War. It's in the books, so I'm not revealing anything. But, we go back to Bill, when he was turned. So, 140 years ago, in 1862, he went off to fight in the American Civil War and, three years later, he came back and that's when his life changed. He had a family, he had a wife, and we see him revisit that in his mind. And, that was a beautiful thing to do. It was very moving. And, it was amazing for me, doing the research into that period of time. I didn't really know that much about it. It's obviously not something that's taught in British schools. So, for me, coming here, it was great to use that as a reason to go and do research.

TeenTelevision: What about more flashbacks, to show other time periods?
Stephen: Not in the first season, but it's something that we're talking about.

TeenTelevision: What about the backstory of Bill since he became a vampire? Did anybody give you any info on that?
Stephen: I've got ideas. I know that the character who turns him is somebody that he's attached to. In our world, when you're turned from a human into a vampire, the person who turns you has power over you. You're linked to them and they're linked to you. There's nothing you can do about it. I know that my history totally goes with that character, all the way through until just recently, where I broke away from her.

TeenTelevision: Oooo, her, huh? Interesting. How hard was it to learn the Louisiana accent?
Stephen: It's one of the best things about the job. We went for something that was a very specific sound, that's different from everybody else's, and I hope that comes across. I wanted to make him 100 years different from everybody else. But, instead of being a very Reese Witherspoon sound, that is very modern Southern, he's the only one who's got a different sound. It's Scarlett O'Hara-ish.

TeenTelevision: Perfect. Did you do much vampire research, like watching movies or reading
Stephen: No. I knew of stuff. I read the books. Bill is such a complex character and he's so unlike any other vampire because he's got morals. He's a very ethical man and he wants to be a decent undead being. I think that's a fantastic thing, and so, I didn't feel like I needed to do the research. I wanted to make him precise and still and slow and different from how you would ordinarily perceive a vampire.

TeenTelevision: Other than the fact that she's hot, what is Bill's attraction to Sookie?
Stephen: She's naive, yet she's spunky, she's courageous, she's so open-minded, she's intelligent, she's funny. She is other. There is something about her that is different from everybody else that he's ever met. That's why he likes her. He can't work out what it is that's different about her, and he's just compelled by her 'otherness'.
Lynn Barker is a Hollywood-based entertainment journalist and produced screenwriter.