Interviews with Vampires – True Blood Series: What makes Stephen Moyer tick? Post Season 4, Minimal Spoilers
Stephen Moyer plays Southern vampire Bill Compton in HBO’s risqué supernatural dark comedy True Blood. Born in Essex, UK, the 41-year-old has a sterling CV – including playing Romeo with the Royal Shakespeare Company. His on-screen love interest Sookie, is played by his new bride Anna Paquin – the duo met on set. Leaving love aside for a moment, we asked – did you expect this to be as big a hit as it is?
Stephen Moyer: I knew it was going to work. I just knew. You gotta remember, we read 15-20 scripts a year, pilot scripts. And up until that point I was mostly doing film or TV in England and so I wasn’t even coming in for most of them. And that particular year, I wasn’t going in for any of them. I didn’t want to. And why I’m saying that is that when a script turns up like this, and you just say “holy fuck, this is fantastic!” It was beautifully written, it was funny -it was like dropping a stone into a pool. You immediately see the explosion but you see all these ripples of where it could go. Alan’s such a clever dude that all the subtext is there if you want to see it. A lot of people would call our show “bubble gum” but there’s a lot going on underneath if you want there to be.
- Q: This season doesn’t look great for Bill and Sookie’s relationship.
SM: No. I don’t know how many times I’ve said this but I think that [laughs] you can’t watch two people be happy together for too long. Our show is about conflict and drama. If you see me put this glass down like that, Alan is never gonna make me do that again – he wants to see what happens when it’s a cup or a broken glass. Now that’s fantastic because you are constantly being given stuff that you didn’t know. Like my character, I didn’t know he was going to be a 1920s nightclub entertainer, right? So in season two, suddenly I’m behind the piano and singing. I didn’t know that I’d been in London in the 80s, so episode two, I go back to London in the 80s so now I have to think – when I’m creating stuff or when there’s new stuff coming – “God I was in London in the 80s, I wonder where else I was?”
- Q: How was the accent on that? Did you do a British accent from the point of view of being an American?
SM: Yeah. I just went straight in and did [in strong accent] full fucking full Camden. It was awesome. Bucky – who wrote that episode – is a good friend of mine. It didn’t need to be in England in the 80s but he totally did it because that’s how he sees me: in Camden in the 80s. So yeah, Bill and Sookie have separated. At the end of season three he gets pushed away from her and he knows that he’s messed up. What’s interesting about their relationship is that Bill knows enough now not to tell her what to do. So when there are a couple of instances where she gives him an opening and he says “goodnight Sookie”. He’s reversing because he knows if there’s any hope for him with her, if there is any possibility that they have a future, he has to let her be – and that includes possibly what’s about to happen with Eric.
- Q: Which leads me to the obvious question – how is it having another man woo your wife at work?
SM: We’re friends. I went up to him at the beginning of the season and said – you’ve got loads of stuff coming up. You have to do your job and you have to be completely happy to do so. I’m not going to be around but I’ve got members of the crew reporting back to me, I’ve got little handy cams and cameras everywhere and I’ve got a little handy cam built into her snatch patch. It’s part of the job and she’s also had to deal with me having relationships with two people this year. What’s different really is that I know Alex really well but the two girls that were coming in to do that stuff were people that she’d never met before. In a way it’s harder. You’ve got to remember what it’s like from Anna’s point of view. HBO and the show have benefited from us being a couple because when we had to do the sex stuff we went for it, but now she’s having to do it with somebody else in front of all the crew who know us as a couple. People are talking about how difficult it must be for me to see her – but you gotta think what it’s like for them, because I’m Alex’s mate.
- Q: In that first scene together where you refuse to come in you’ve still got that brilliant screen chemistry.
SM: We love working together but we are very aware that… we’ve had a couple of offers where to do movies together, but we’re not gonna do that. I think people will be sick and tired of us. We certainly will work together, we’ve set up a production company and it’ll probably be me directing or her directing or something like that, but I don’t think we will act together because we’re just aware that… overkill.
- Q: Did you worry that after you were married it wouldn’t zing on screen?
SM: No, the truth is, when we get together on set, which isn’t as often as it has been, we’re so pleased to be working together. There’s a scene in episode four where Sookie lies to Bill and on the page, it was a very simple scene. I go to the door, I need to go in, I need to know if Eric’s there. She says he’s not there. And he knows that she’s lying, she knows he knows that she’s lying, but they look each other in the eye and it’s a really massive moment. He has to believe her because she’s never lied to him before. And that was so much fun to play and it was torture. Everybody came up afterwards and was like “oh it’s so good to see them together in this kind of pain.” I think there’s probably a truism in life that flirting is far far more sexy and risqué prior to a sexual encounter but Anna and I have taken the piss out of each other and been so horrible to each other in front of everybody for so long that I don’t think we could be anything else together.
- Q: The other big storyline is about you having a relationship with someone who turns out to be your great great great granddaughter.
SM: I knew that in the story he comes back to Bontemps because a distant relative had died. So he’s able to get the house because there’s no surviving relative. I’d known – because of the books – that Andy Bellefleur is his great great great grandson but Bill doesn’t know. And so I’ve been waiting for them to bring this to us and it’s good fun. The series takes off in such an explosive crazy way that we’re not going to be able to examine it this year. We won’t see Bill and Andy have this… kind of crazy sheriff dude thing. But hopefully that will be fuel for some funny subplots down the pipes.
- Q: I was just speaking to Joe, he said when he came on to the show, he was aware that this was a show with five alpha males in lead roles and he was trying to work out how he could become the sixth.
SM: He became the sixth by adding about fourteen stone in pure muscle. He’s a very big man. I think there are actors on our show who don’t get the kudos that they deserve. If this was a show that didn’t have vampires in it, our entire supporting male acting cast would be all Emmy nominated every year. Ryan, who plays Jason, is a fantastic actor. He’s a genius and so is Sam but because they’re not playing the vampires or the werewolves they don’t quite get the sort of showy press that they deserve. You’ve also got Nelsan who plays Lafayette, you’ve got people like Carrie Preston who plays Arlene who’s a very, very very respected film actress and New York theatre actress so it’s not just the men. It’s an incredible ensemble and I don’t think there’s an ensemble like it on TV.