Forget the vampire clan in Twilight, the hard-core species is to be found in True Blood, the wildly popular HBO series which stars 35-year-old Swedish-born actor Alexander Skarsgård as Eric Northman, the 1000-year-old Viking vampire feasting in the Louisiana Bayou. As presumptive leader of his bloodsucking brethren, Eric is a charismatic pansexual sadist who runs the most decadent and depraved nightclub you could ever imagine. Now entering its 5th season, True Blood owes much of its following to Skarsgård 's electric aura. And everywhere the 6'4" Swedish actor goes, his avid female fans are sure to follow, although an autograph is often not their only request. "Women are constantly asking me to bite them, but I have to say no or it would start a weird trend," smiles Skarsgård . "Because of the internet, if I would do that once or twice it would suddenly be all over the web and I'll end up having to bite people for the next 40 years. Fans, mainly women I suppose, would be coming up to me and say, I saw online that you bit another fan, so now you have to bite me, please! So I'm forced to decline such offers." Skarsgård, whose actor father Stellan Skarsgard (Ronin, Mamma Mia!, Angels & Demons) is even more famous in their native Sweden, originally trained in the Swedish army as an anti-terrorist soldier and credits that gruelling physical regime with endowing him with a heightened physical presence. Skarsgard trains hard for two months prior to each new season of True Blood episodes so that he maintains the ultra-fit physique that adds maximum impact to his numerous nude sex scenes. Skarsgård was recently seen in Battleship and last year's Melancholia. Later this year, he will be appearing in What Maisie Knew opposite Julianne Moore, Disconnect with Jason Bateman, and The East, co-starring Ellen Page. Skarsgård and Page were seen last week attending an L.A. Kings' hockey game during the NHL Stanley Cup Finals. Skarsgård recently signed a multi-million dollar endorsement contract to be the spokesmodel for Calvin Klein men's fragrance.
Q: Alexander, what can you tell us about the upcoming 5th season of True Blood?
Skarsgård: Oh, I don't want to spoil to much of the fun, but this year will probably be an epic year in the series. More blood, more thrills! Eric will be meeting a very special new member of his circle - my vampire sister Nora (British actress Lucy Griffiths) will be appearing on the show. She's also Godric's child and a very important part of his life.
Q: At the end of the 4th season, Sookie breaks up with both your character, Eric, and with Bill. Is this the end of the menage a trois?
Skarsgård: (Laughs) Eric and Bill are going to be working on their bromance a bit now. We team up against a natural enemy. They have no choice but to set aside their disputes and form an alliance of sorts. It's going to be a bit like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Q: In addition to True Blood, your film career is also taking off. Are you at all anxious to end your vampire duties?
Skarsgård: No, no. I love my work in the series. This is a great character and Eric is tremendously popular all over the world. It would be insane if I wanted to leave the series voluntarily. Right now I'm enjoying getting to do movies in between seasons and I'm trying to find good projects and see where that takes me. I remember what it's like to spend years not getting any phone calls and not having any scripts sent my way. So I'm very happy to have True Blood to look forward to every year and I'm enjoying seeing my character and the series unfold. I don't think it's an accident that we have a very big following.
Q: Do you ever worry that playing such a popular character like Eric will create too strong an identification with audiences and overshadow your film roles in the coming years?
Skarsgård: No. Audiences are able to separate you from your other characters quite easily as long as you don't play similar roles and of course no vampires! So I've been playing different kinds of characters in movies like Melancholia, where I play a passive man, a much weaker man than Eric, who is very much an alpha male. Also my role in Battleship was very different. As long as I avoid playing vampires or similar roles in films, I don't think audiences will have much difficulty separating me from Eric. I actually think the identification works in your favour because people think they know what you will be doing and then your character in a movie does something to surprise you.
Q: You've also worked on several other films that will be coming out soon. What can you tell us about What Maisie Knew?
Skarsgård: I wanted to do that film mainly because it gave me the chance to work with Julianne
Moore, whom I've always thought is one of the best actresses in the business. The film is a modern updating of the 1897 Henry James novel, and it's about a custody battle between Julianne's character and Steve Coogan's character. I play the stepfather caught in between and I really loved working with the little girl Onata Aprile who plays Maisie.
Q: Did that experience make you want to start your own family?
Skarsgård: (Laughs) Maybe not yet. But it was interesting for me to see how much I enjoyed being on the set with a young child actor and spending time getting to know her. I think I might actually make a good father one day!
Q: You've become something of a sex symbol in recent years thanks to True Blood. How do you deal with the attention?
Skarsgård: I'm glad the series is receiving so much recognition. There are a lot of very talented actors working with me and we all share the success. Obviously it's very gratifying personally but I like to live as quietly as possible. I'm Swedish, and we're not known for flaunting ourselves although I know people might question that because of True Blood's sexual content.
Q: You do a fair amount of nude sex scenes. Is that an interesting aspect of your work?
Skarsgård: There's a certain amount of pleasure in being naked and knowing that your body is fit and toned. I always enjoyed working out and this is the kind of role where vampire sexuality takes on a
menacing quality, so your body becomes an asset to your acting and your work takes on a much greater erotic intensity. But the nude scenes themselves aren't that sexy, because there are too many technicians standing around and there's a director telling you where to place your hands, which takes some of the spontaneity away and so none of us are getting turned on in front of the cameras.
Q: There's something of a menage a trois going on between your character and Anna Paquin's Sookie and Stephen Moyer's Bill. Are the sex scenes between you and Paquin odd considering she and Bill are married to each other in real life?
Skarsgård: We're actors so we understand the requirements. Anna is like a sister to me and it makes erotic scenes somewhat odd but with the camera a few feet from your face and technicians standing around you're not getting turned on or coming anywhere close to feeling that it's real. It's just part of the job.
Q: Is it important for you to have achieved this measure of success with True Blood given your actor father Stellan's remarkable acting career?
Skarsgård: I've always wanted to prove myself and make my own way in the world without people
saying I'm just the son of a famous father. I've never thought that I was competing with my father or
trying to match his success. His work stands on its own. But I think acting may have been my attempt to prove to him that I have some talent and impress him a little bit. I think most sons want their fathers to be proud of them.
Q: Do you and your father get along?
Skarsgård: Dad is one of my best friends. He is such a good guy and I love him so much. So many kids complain or have problems with their father, but I have been very lucky to have had a father who is very cool, very supportive, and just someone I have admired all my life and felt so good to grow up and always know that he cared about me even though he works a lot. My dad always made it a point to be very present in our family. We first worked together in 1983 on my first movie (Ake och hans varld) back in Sweden and then we had the chance to do Melancholia with Lars von Trier. I hope we're going to get the chance to work again.
Q: You were a child star in Sweden. You've said in the past that you didn't like the constant attention …
Skarsgård: No. I hated that. I enjoyed acting and being on a set but I didn't like girls hanging outside my house. It was embarrassing. I didn't want that kind of attention at school because you it affects your relationships with the other kids. I wanted to hang out and play football and do regular kinds of things but if everyone knows you it makes that complicated. So after high school I told my father I wanted to quit acting and do something else with my life. He was very supportive.
Q: What did you do then?
Skarsgård: I went to England so that I could study English because I wanted to learn the language. I
didn't want to study in London because there are a lot of Swedes living in London so I chose to study at Leeds. I had a friend who wanted to go to England and we decided to go to Leeds because we knew they had a football team there. It was one of the best times of my life. We had a lot of fun even though we lived in this terrible basement apartment that was cold and damp and had no windows. But we loved the women and the beer.
Q: How do you find living in Los Angeles compared to Sweden?
Skarsgård: It's very different. First there's the climate in California which is mainly sunny and
warm. In Sweden, we have only two warm months in the summer and the winter is very long and very cold. The only negative aspect of living in California is that because I play a vampire I can't really spend too much time in the sun or I need to use lots of sunscreen. Otherwise if you try to put makeup on to hide a tan it tends to make your skin look grey when you're shooting in HD.
Q: Do you still find time to go back to Sweden and visit?
Skarsgård: Yes. We usually have five months' hiatus every year when we're not shooting True Blood so that gives me the chance to spend a few months in Stockholm or on the islands in Sweden. That time helps me retain my sense of being Swedish and my identity. That's important to me.
Q: Is there a lot of culture shock for a Swede living in California?
Skarsgård: The mentality is very different. Swedes are much more reserved and interior-looking than Americans, or at least Californians. Americans are not afraid to talk about their lives to you even if they only know you for a short period of time. I love how waitresses will smile and greet you in a café and ask you how you are even if it's not meant in a deeper sense. There's a sense that you can get to know Americans much more quickly. In Sweden, it takes much more time to really become close to someone but once you do become friends with a Swede that friendship will last a long time.
Q: You're starting to get recognised in L.A. How do you feel about that?
Skarsgård: Oh, it's not so bad, at least not so far. Of course the amount of attention you receive from people coming up to you in a restaurant or if you're shopping is a function of your popularity. Every actor in Hollywood is aware that if become successful your private life is not so private anymore. I accept that. I'm also used to that attention because my father was always recognised wherever he went in Sweden although most Swedes will not approach politicians or celebrities on the street. We're very respectful of privacy.
Q: You had a chance to work with Rihanna on Battleship. What was she like?
Skarsgård: I loved the fact that she was so normal and natural and didn't bring a big entourage with her or anything like that. She just wanted to be considered one of the actors and not have her fame as a singer follow her. But what truly impressed me was how organized and hard-working she is. She would keep flying back and forth from the set, perform on a big MTV award show, and show up ready to work on time the next morning. Rihanna has a lot of energy.
Q: You're also the new face of Calvin Klein men's fragrance. What made you interested in doing that?
Skarsgård: I like the way they wanted to shoot the campaign. Their idea for their concept was very
intriguing to me - it was almost like a short film, and very film noir. It felt interesting to me. wanted to be involved with something where you tell a story - even though it's a short story.
Q: As a vampire, is your sense of smell heightened?
Skarsgård: As a vampire, everything is more exciting! (Laughs) /Viva Press