Though True Blood creator Alan Ball says he'll step away from HBO’s supernatural potboiler after overseeing season five, star Stephen Moyer says he does not "fear for the show" and "neither does anybody else at work" in Bon Temps.
Aug 22 2012
Story By Amy Dawes • Photos: Scott Council As published in Emmy® magazine
They’ve become TV’s most notorious ménage à trois, especially after all three posed naked, (fake) bloodied and entwined on the cover of Rolling Stone.
Anna Paquin’s Sookie Stackhouse, a mind-reading, vampire-attracting backwoods waitress, has evolved from a damsel in frequent distress to a feisty fighting machine. Stephen Moyer’s Bill Compton is the scowling, fang-baring gentleman of the Old, undead South who gallantly protects her whether she needs him or not. And Alexander Skarsgard is vampire Eric Northman, the bad boy and (literally) bloodthirsty scoundrel whose long-simmering attraction for Sookie boiled over in recent episodes.
True Blood creator Alan Ball has announced plans to step away from HBO’s scary supernatural potboiler after overseeing production of season five, but cast members say that development is not quite a stake through the heart. “I don’t fear for the show, and neither does anybody else at work,” Moyer declares.
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Considering the 6 million–plus viewers for last season’s finale, it’s a bloody good bet that the current season will keep a crush of acolytes hungry for more.
Given her remarkable success at picking roles, it's tempting to imagine that Anna Paquin shares telepathic powers with Sookie Stackhouse, the spunky Southern waitress she plays on True Blood.
But the New Zealander, whose first ever film performance in The Piano brought her a supporting-actress Oscar at age eleven, laughs off that possibility, saying "I have a lot of projects on my resume that no one ever saw, just like anyone else."
She credits her work in off-Broadway plays with shaping her approach to her craft: "On the stage, you have to figure out how to keep it fresh. Theater directors have said to me, 'You're not trying to re-create the performance - you're trying to re-create the intention that shaped the performance. So I spend a lot of time analyzing why a character does something. It's about having a good jumping-off point."
Her on-camera romance with vampire Bill found a real-life basis as soon as the pair met. "They did a chemistry read with the two of us before we were cast, and obviously, it went well," Paquin says, giggling.
She and Moyer married in 2010 and are expecting a baby this fall. But, she says, the tensions and rivalry in the show between vampires Bill and Eric - with whom Sookie has fantasized sexy threesomes - remain pure fiction. When cameras aren't rolling, she says, "the two boys together are about as goofy as you could possibly imagine."
Stephen Moyer remembers how he very nearly turned away his shot at life-changing role. Tired of flitting from his native Britain to the U.S., he'd planted his feet firmly in London and refused to so much as read another American pilot. But his agent insisted he make one exception.
When he read True Blood, he says, "I was blown away by it. I said to my mum, 'This is the one.' I did." What he likes best about Alan Ball's creation, Moyer says, is that "you can watch it as purely fun, escapist bubble gum. But it also holds a mirror up to society in a clever way, and for my personally, that's when our show is at its best."
So convincingly has he etched the glowering, fang-bearing intensity viewers associate with Bill that it can come as a surprise that his real-life temperament is cheerful and loving - almost bouncy. He calls out, 'Bye, baby!' to his wife and costar Anna Paquin as she leaves their home near the beach in Venice and burbles sweetly to their two dogs, Banjo and Splash.
"I do enjoy Bill's brooding menace," Moyer says. "But I wouldn't mind if they gave me a tap dance to do every now and again."
The spell that was cast on vampire Eric last season put him "more in touch with his feelings that he'd been in centuries," says Alexander Skarsgard. That's part of the reason Eric and Sookie finally made good on their long-simmering attraction, he notes. "Up till then, he'd been very good at putting a lid on his feelings and not letting anyone in."
Fans can look for another breakthrough in season five: after years of antagonism, Bill and Eric form a strong bond. "We actually team up against a mutual enemy," says Skarsgard, who despite his upbringing in Stockholm (he's the son of Swedish actor-director Stellan Skarsgard), speaks without a trace of accent. He credits the months of work he did with a dialect coach during his breakthrough American role in HBO's Generation Kill. "I didn't want to be limited in the roles I could get, so I was determined and motivated."
And even though he recently shared the screen with his famous father in Lars von Trier's film Melancholia, he says he goes his own way when it comes to career choices. "I've always been very stubborn, and if I'm going to make mistakes, I want them to be my own so I can learn and grow."
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