Article on IESB.net by Christina Radish
As Eric Northman, the 1,000-year-old Viking vampire who is also the owner of the local vampire bar, Fangtasia, on the acclaimed HBO television series True Blood, Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgard has quickly become a fan favorite.
Even though he called himself a “glorified extra” in Season 1, the actor/director is much more involved in Season 2, partaking in the action going on in Dallas with Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and her vampire boyfriend, Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer).
In this exclusive interview, Alexander Skarsgard talked about how fans will be getting to see much more of him this season.
IESB: What can viewers expect from Season 2 of True Blood?
Alex: They can expect a lot. A lot is going on. In Season 1, we had to create the world, invite the audience into that world, establish all the characters and tell the audience a little bit about that. Now, in Season 2, we can hit the ground running because the audience is already on board and is already a part of this world. It’s going to get pretty crazy, from the get-go. A bunch of us go to Dallas to find an old, missing friend of Eric’s. At the same time, crazy stuff is going on in Bon Temps. Major mayhem is going on there. It’s going to be a wild season. From Eric’s point of view, it’s much more personal than Season 1. In Season 1, Eric was the entrepreneur, doing his thing, and walking around and being the bad-ass vampire. In Season 2, you’ll hopefully understand him a little bit better and see more than just the evil vampire that people sometimes think he is.
IESB: Do you think he enjoys the mayhem and craziness?
Alex: He enjoys it. He enjoys the attention and he enjoys being in the midst of it because he’s very confident and he knows how skillful and strong he is. He likes adventure, for sure, but he’s not thrilled about what he has to do in Dallas. It is very personal and it’s something that means very much to him. So, it’s not a vacation, where he’s just going out to play. It’s definitely a matter of life and death for him.
IESB: Are you enjoying the fact that Eric has a much bigger role this season? Will viewers get to learn more about what his motivations are?
Alex: Absolutely! After Season 1, people came up to me and were like, “Oh, you’re the evil vampire leader on True Blood.” I understand why people would think that, but I would always have to defend Eric because I think there’s so much more to the character than that. There is actually a more sensitive, vulnerable and loyal side to him as well.
IESB: This season has more gore and is more gruesome than Season 1 was. Do you enjoy doing those scenes?
Alex: Yeah, I love it. Eric didn’t do anything in Season 1. You can sense that he is violent, strong and powerful, but he didn’t have to show it, at all, in Season 1. I think the audience wants to see a little example of that, and we give it to them.
IESB: Can you talk about the relationship between Eric and Bill, and how that will be developing this season? And, what has it been like to work with Stephen Moyer?
Alex: I love Stephen. He’s a fantastic guy and we’re having a lot of fun on set, which is good because we spend a lot of time on set, just hanging out. Eric sees Bill as pathetic. He’s a kid. He’s not even 200 years old, and he’s naive. Eric is much more jaded and he’s seen so much more than Bill has. Bill is old school and he believes in humanity, in a way that Eric doesn’t anymore.
IESB: Were you at all surprised by the huge acclaim that the show has received, and the devoted fan following that it has? Could you have ever expected your character to get such a huge following, even though he wasn’t featured much, in the first season?
Alex: Yeah, I was shocked. I’m pretty much a glorified extra in Season 1. I didn’t do much. I didn’t expect anything, and I was overwhelmed when it started airing and I got all the reactions. It was very flattering, of course.
IESB: Because Eric can be so brutal, do you worry about also making him likeable? Or, does he even need to be a likeable character?
Alex: No, I want people to like him and understand him, but at the same time, know that he’s super-aggressive, ruthless and a killer. I think it’s that duality, with both sides of him, that makes him very interesting, as a character.
IESB: Why do you think Eric is so interested in Sookie?
Alex: Eric doesn’t really know what it is that intrigues him. He’s been around for a thousand years and he’s quite jaded. He doesn’t think much of humanity anymore. And then, she comes along and there’s something there, but he can’t really put his finger on what it is. He can’t really read her, and that definitely intrigues him.
IESB: How has it been to work with Anna Paquin?
Alex: It sounds so cheesy and people always say it, but I have a blast on set with Anna and Stephen. I really, really love the cast. It is a pleasure going to work, every morning. Hopefully, people will see that we actually really do enjoy being on set and working together, in the dynamics of the relationships between us.
IESB: What’s been the most enjoyable thing about working on the show, and what’s been the most challenging thing about it for you?
Alex: I enjoy everything. Every single part of it is great — just going to work, every day, and working on this show. It’s HBO and it’s Alan Ball. Just look at the cast, and the writing is phenomenal. I couldn’t ask for a better job. I’m so happy to have the job. And, it was challenging, definitely in the beginning, when I was trying to find the character. I was reading the books and trying to figure out who this guy was, and also trying to find that balance of making him likeable, but menacing. I wanted people to be intimidated by him, but intrigued, at the same time.
IESB: Did you find it difficult to get used to talking with the fangs, or did that come naturally for you?
Alex: In the beginning, it was definitely tricky. It was really hard. They come out when you’re aroused or aggressive, and it doesn’t really fit, if you can’t talk with them. It definitely took some practice.
IESB: Now that you’ve been on the show for a little while, do you feel that you have more of an understanding for why people are so intrigued by vampires and the whole genre?
Alex: Yeah. First of all, sex and violence are always something that attracts an audience, and vampire stories usually have a lot of both. And, vampires symbolize consistency and something that’s permanent, in a world where everything is constantly changing — humans, animals, nature and even mountains will change over time. To have something that will just stand the test of time is attractive. Eric has been around for a thousand years, and he hasn’t changed one bit. That intrigues people. What makes good drama is that people are intrigued by that and drawn towards it, but at the same time, that comfort they feel in something that is consistent, is also lethal and can kill them in a second. That creates a good platform for drama.
IESB: Are there any characteristics of Eric’s that you wish that you had or could apply to your own life?
Alex: Yeah, all of them. As an actor, I believe the character has to be born within you, and come from within you. It has to be that organic. Obviously, you have to dig deeper to find some things than others. Some things just come naturally, and some things you really have to dig within you to find. But, as human beings, we have all those characteristics within us. I don’t believe in good people and evil people. I think we’re all a combination of both.
IESB: How did you get involved with doing the Lady Gaga music video for “Paparazzi”? What was that experience like?
Alex: The director, Jonas Akerlund, is a very good friend of mine. He called me and told me about the project and said, “Does that sound like a fun thing?” And, it did. I liked the story and his pitch of it. I just thought it was a fun thing to do.
IESB: Are you hoping to continue working in both Sweden and America, or is your career focused solely in America now?
Alex: I live in the States and my career is based here, but I’m going back in August, for a week or two, to complete a movie that I started last year. Even though I don’t live there, Stockholm will always be my home. My friends and my family are there, and I grew up there. I hope to be able to go back regularly and work on Swedish projects as well.
IESB: Are there types of roles or specific genres that you’re hoping to do, that you haven’t gotten the chance to do yet?
Alex: I’d like to jump from one character to another, that are different, and from one genre to another, that are quite different. What keeps me motivation and going and on my toes is to find new challenges and find projects that are different from what I’ve just done. Going from Generation Kill, two years ago, to True Blood was a completely different project and a completely different character. That triggers my creativity. Hopefully, after Season 2, I’ll do a movie or two, where I can find characters that are different from Eric.
Photo Credit HBO / Jaimie Trueblood