It’s a long night on the set of TRUE BLOOD, which marks its season finale this Sunday on HBO. This evening, a mob of angry Texas vampires is squaring off against a cult of anti-vamp Fellowship of the Sun humans in a church. Despite the conflict for the camera, the cast and crew seem like they couldn’t be happier.
It’s a personally non-violent night for psychic heroine Sookie Stackhouse. Actress Anna Paquin doesn’t mind, but says she wouldn’t be opposed to having to mix it up for the camera, either. “On this show, I get beat up all the time. I mean, I’ve always been really active and I’ve done a decent amount of that [physical action] before. Not a lot, but that’s fun to me. I love that stuff.”
Paquin is likewise pleased about TRUE BLOOD’s following. “You never really know how people are going to react, but even just from people who enjoyed the books and were fanatical about that, there was a pretty good indication that people might be pretty into the show and they were, and that was awesome.”
Stephen Moyer, who plays Sookie’s vampire boyfriend Bill Compton (and is Paquin’s real-life fiancé), is marveling over the diversity in the vamp crowd. “They look fantastic, the Dallas vampires. We’ve got amazing tattoos, we’ve got big bad guys, we’ve got small Asian guys, we’ve got a 6-foot-6 blonde woman, we’ve got everything. We’ve got every kind of vampire you can imagine.”
Actually, there’s one kind of vampire not on view—the almost burnt-up type that Moyer embodied last season when Bill ventured into the sun to save Sookie. This required a full body makeup. “When you first have to have a head mask cast,” Moyer says, “I’ve done that a few times, and that’s quite claustrophobic. All you’ve got is a nose hole and everything else is covered—literally, 360 degrees, everything goes, and sometimes they’ll leave it on for too long and they can’t get it off, and they’re literally manhandling you to try to get the thing off, and because you can’t hear anything, everything’s inside your head, and it’s very odd.” Worse, sometimes an actor can get stuck in there. “My sister was with me the last time I did it, and she videoed it. And they couldn’t get it undone and they had to go and get like a tire iron to get into the thing to pull it apart.”
Moyer says he feels Bill is evolving as a character. “Every week, it changes—I think I add to it. The more that Alan [Ball, series creator and show runner] gives me—all of us—to do—it might be a twist on a character that you haven’t thought of, so you end up adding layers, rather than changing. It’s like, ‘Oh, right, here’s another facet of Bill’s character that we’ve only ever hinted at before.’ So in this season, we see him go back to the ’20s—we see a different Bill in the ’20s—and then we see a different Bill again in the ’30s. I think one of the great joys of playing a vampire is that you can flash back to any point in that person’s history and see things that they’ve done, which obviously people now will never see. So we’ll get to know more about him than perhaps Sookie ever will.”
There’s also vampire-style parenthood, courtesy of Bill’s siring of teenager Jessica, played by Deborah Ann Woll. “I’ve ended up with a teenage vampire daughter who’s a nightmare,” Moyer laughs. “Not even Eric can handle this little thing. Sookie and Bill become these kind of odd surrogate parents for this girl, Jessica. [Woll] is amazing. She is just phenomenal to work with. And her first episode [after Jessica is turned], she was [playing Jessica as] an obstreperous and nasty little mouthy chick, and then the director said, ‘Let’s just do one where you’re less spunky and play it more as an innocent.’ So she played it as an innocent, and I suddenly went, ‘Oh my God. I suddenly have this paternal yearning to look after her.’ Which is quite interesting as Bill, because he has lost his kids a 150 years before. It’s like it suddenly peaks, this element inside him, which he had forgotten existed. So that’s not to say that the relationship is not without its problems, but it’s very interesting.”
Ed Quinn, who plays anti-human vampire deputy Stan, finds his vamp fangs interesting. “Last night, Anna and Stephen are so mean,” he laughs, albeit with affection. “We were at video village and it was a big crowd of about 20 people and Anna said, ‘So have you tried talking with your teeth yet?’ And Stephen looked over, and I went, ‘Oh, no’ and they’re like, ‘Oh, no, oh, no,’ and Brigette [Myrhe-Ellis], who does the makeup, brought my teeth over, and I hadn’t actually had them fitted. And it’s very interesting how you can go from being very articulate and sounding like I do to having the biggest lisp like that,” he says, snapping his fingers.
“So they basically had 15 minutes of fun at my expense as I tried to learn to talk with my teeth. Not to mention bruising my lip. The first scene I actually shot, [Alexander] Skarsgard did, so I got to watch him [talk with fangs in his mouth]. They’re kind of tough to get in, but once you get them in, they’re amazing. They’re kind of scary. They feel dangerous. My lips are really bruised today, because I’m such a rookie with them, but yeah, last night, I had to do the whole, ‘Stop, fangs!’ ”
This is a common shout on the TRUE BLOOD set, where action stops so that actors can insert their fangs mid-scene. “Trying to get them on and,” he makes a sound of unsuccessfully trying to speak, “so fortunately, they were rolling tape through that, so there’s probably some really good blooper stuff of me sort of trying to put in my teeth like a goofball. It’s almost like a retainer. They take about two weeks to make. You go and they take a mold and they build this retainer, and they fit up over your gums and they fit above your teeth and they’re really, really secure and they’re wickedly sharp. They actually have little holes—they’re actually hollow, I can actually suck through them—I could drink a bowl of soup through them. I mean, they look amazing, they feel amazing and they’re pretty fun. So, to be a fan of a show like this and then to get to work on it, to get to show fangs and get to run around at vamp speed, is pretty cool.”
Vamp speed is the faster-than-lightning way the predators can get from point A to point B. Quinn explains how the actor accomplishes this feat. “You run just like a typical goofball and they speed it up,” he laughs. “They go, ‘Run’ and you go to a certain place, you stop, and then they say, ‘Reset and action,’ and you start again. So it’s all the magic of filmmaking that makes you run around real fast, but it’s nice to know that they’re going to cover me in post.”
Alan Hyde, the Danish actor who plays Eric’s ancient-but-boyish-looking sire Godric, seems to be working tonight at vamp speed, as he is constantly being asked to appear at either end of the enormous church serving as the set. “I have never played a vampire, but it’s pretty cool,” he says affably. “I’ve never played anything but human, so it’s a new thing. The thing about my character is that—these vampires are extremely old, so it’s about getting that wisdom into the character and that experience, and also getting that rage in there.”
Michael McMillian, as Fellowship of the Sun founder Steve Newlin, is getting the brunt of tonight’s rage, as his character gets punched to the floor by Ryan Kwanten’s Jason, take after take. “I have to land in a certain zone,” McMillian explains. “I have to end up in a certain place so the camera can see me, but there is actually quite a lot of freedom on this show, and one of the things I love about acting on it is there’s a lot of freedom for play and a lot of freedom to try things differently each time. So that’s been one of the most rewarding things and I get to work with a cast that loves to try new things each time. One of the first days I worked, I worked with Ryan Kwanten, and he was great to work with, because every time he did a take, it was something different and all brilliant and all usable.”
Wes Brown, who plays Fellowship of the Sun acolyte Luke, actually hails from Louisiana, where most of TRUE BLOOD takes place. As a self-proclaimed “avid watcher” of the series, he ponders whether it is realistic in its depiction of small-town life in that state. “That’s a good question. I want to say yes and no. I’m trying to figure out exactly why yes and no, though. It is pretty good. My family is from a really small town in south Louisiana and it actually has a bar right down the street from my uncle’s house that’s very similar to Merlotte’s. It’s on a bayou, it’s got the same surrounding moss trees and everything, so it is pretty good. Down in the South, where my family is from, they have pretty heavy Cajun accents, not so much the country, though.”
Ironically, Brown’s character Luke is from Texas. “I’m laying on my Texas accent. I was actually born in Texas and when I go back and visit family, the accent starts to come out. I’ve been on the set before where I would have to withdraw the accent, but if I speak long enough, and especially if I speak with somebody who’s from that part of the country.” He says his cast mates are not coming to him for dialect tips. “I’m the new guy, so I’m the one asking the questions,” he laughs. “Especially [Australian] Ryan and [British] Stephen—to hear them speak out of character is just shocking and really makes you appreciate them—I know if it were vice-versa, it would be a lot tougher for me.”
Alexander Skarsgard is Swedish and gets to use something close to his own speaking voice as ex-Viking vampire Eric Northman. He’s been famous in his native land for a number of years, but San Diego Comic-Con was an eye-opener, he says. “I was kind of overwhelmed, I guess. I wasn’t surprised, because I knew that it would be good, but I didn’t realize that there were that many hardcore fans out there,” he laughs. “And so it was very flattering and overwhelming. I was out of the [U.S.] when TRUE BLOOD premiered, so I didn’t really understand how crazy things got.”
This season, Skarsgard continues, “I have gotten to explore the character a little bit more and go deeper. I was just basically introduced in season one, so season two has been great for me. It’s been a lot of fun, because it’s involved a lot more, in many ways. It just keeps getting better and better. I’ve had some great, great moments that I’ve enjoyed tremendously.”
Like Moyer, Skarsgard enjoys playing off Woll’s fledgling vamp. “She’s a fantastic actress. It’s fun to have as a contrast to these seasoned vampires, this teenage vampire who just has a completely different background and a completely different stage of being a vampire than the rest of us.”
Although Skarsgard has starred in many European productions and the HBO miniseries GENERATION KILL, TRUE BLOOD is his first U.S. series. “I can’t compare it to other television shows that I’ve worked on. All I know is that it’s an amazing, amazing—the cast and the crew
are fantastic and it’s like a family, it really is, so it’s a pleasure to come to work every single day. We’re just having a blast.”
SOURCE: Fangoria Magazine
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