Updated 05.29.10: True Blood fans can now enjoy Alexander Skarsgard’s interview via the video player below, in addition to having the transcript available. We’ve used the audio from our chat with Alex and added pertinent photos to enrich the experience. Enjoy!
This is Mel and Liz from True-Blood.net Radio and today we are chatting with none other than Alexander Skarsgard, who plays Eric Northman on True Blood. Welcome to our show!
Alex – Thank you very much. Thank you.
Mel – We’re so excited to get a chance to talk to you!
Alex – Well, I’m happy to be here.
Mel – Well, we have a lot of questions for you. We wanted to know first how far along in the book series have you read?
Alex – I’ve read the first 5 books.
Mel – Was that before – had you read them before you even got the part?
Alex – No, I read a couple when I was doing research, when I got the part right before we started season one, and then, once we started, I found that it was kind of hard to read the books simultaneously, as we were shooting, because you’re reading one book and your working on season one, which is, obviously, book one, so I found, when I’m on hiatus, I read. But now, we started season two just a couple weeks ago, so I’m not going to read anything until we’re done in June or July because it confuses me a lot.
Mel – I’m sure!
Alex – Yeah, ‘cuz we have all these scripts and this story line, and we’re working on Living Dead in Dallas right now, and reading another book is just – it’s complicated enough to know just where we are on the storyline in the script.
Mel – I’ll bet. Well also, at that point, you should have the next book ready to read too. Book 9 comes out in May.
Alex – Oh really? Oh, I didn’t know that. Well then I have four books to read over the next hiatus.
Mel – That’s your homework right?
Alex – Exactly.
Liz – Will he do it? There’s the challenge.
Alex -(laughs) Yeah.
Mel – There will be a pop quiz later on.
Alex – Ok, well let’s do that after the next hiatus and we’ll see.
Mel – All right. So, you started reading them after you got the role. How has that informed your portrayal of Eric, because, of course, in the first book, he’s there, but he’s not a really major player. But then as we move in – and I’m trying to stay away from the spoilers here – as we move through the series, Eric becomes a bigger and bigger part of the books. I think that’s safe to say. So did it help you to have read ahead?
Alex – Yeah, I mean, of course it did, because when I read the first book, I mean, he’s barely in the first book. But it helped a lot to read a couple of the others. And then as an actor, you have to make the character your own. You have to pay respect to Eric and who he is in the books, but also he had to become a part of me so at a certain point you need to, kind of, step away from the books and make the character your own, and make your own decisions, and your own choices, based on what you already have, and not stay too true to the books and not let that confine you in any way.
Mel – Well I think your doing a good job so far.
Alex – Thank you. Well, Eric is not a very… he’s not heavily featured in season one, so I didn’t do very much.
Mel – Well, but he was memorable. There are a lot of fans who haven’t read the books, but they are eager for more of Eric, when are we going to find out more about Eric, and I think that’s a testament to how you portrayed him.
Alex – Well that’s very flattering. I didn’t know that. That’s interesting.
Mel – Yeah, there’s a huge Eric Northman fan base out there.
Alex – Oh really?
Mel – Oh yeah!
Alex – (laughs)
Liz – I bet your scared now. (laughs)
Alex – I’m terrified. ( laughs) I don’t know, it feels weird. I’m terrified and flattered at the same time.
Mel – You better get used to it.
Alex – Yeah.
Mel – So, how do you feel about, you’re on the edge of a cultural phenomenon, I think?
Alex – I don’t know…
Mel – Speechless?
Alex – Yeah, really? Honestly, I don’t read those blogs on the internet about True Blood, or those forums they have, because I don’t think it’s going to be good for me. We’re shooting season two right now and I know that I’m gonna read stuff that I don’t wanna read, and that’s going to get stuck in my head, and I’m going to get self conscious and worry about that. So I’m trying to stay away from that.
Mel – Ok, well, we’ll quit flattering you then. From now on it’s nothing but criticism.
Alex – (laughs)
Mel – Whatever we can do to help.
Alex – Yeah, no, I mean, obviously, I realize that the show is doing very well and that there’s tons of fans out there, and that means a lot. Without that we wouldn’t be able to do a second season, you know. So I’m very grateful about that and I know that comes with a tremendous responsibility to all the fans out there. But that being said, I’m just saying that I know some actors are very comfortable spending hours online, Googling their own names, while reading the blogs and forums where they’re about True Blood and their characters. It’s just, I don’t know, I’d get very self conscious if I did that. And I would read something bad and I would be like, “Oh really… maybe… oh shit, is that true?” So, I think it’s better for me to stay away from that.
Mel – So you don’t second guess yourself?
Alex – Exactly.
Mel – Well, with that in mind, what do you see ahead for Eric? I mean, obviously, there are things being written for you, and they’re being guided by the books, but as you are deciding how to play Eric, what direction are you taking him in as we move into season two?
Alex – Well, I don’t want to talk too much about the direction. I can say, I know that some people that I’ve talked to feel that Eric… they’re like, “Oh, he’s the bad guy”, and I’m trying to make sure that people realize that he’s more complex than that. He’s not a bad guy. So that’s important for me this season to show more sides to his personality and a bit more depth than just the bad guy, you know. Because that’s not how I see him.
Mel – I wouldn’t have called him a bad guy from season one, just mysterious. Because you never really know what his true motives are.
Alex – Exactly, and hopefully maybe you’ll know a little bit more of that when season two goes on.
Mel – We spoke with Kristin Bauer last month, and we asked her this question and it was really quite an interesting story, and we’re wondering if you would have the same answer. What was your most memorable scene to shoot in season one?
Alex – Well to me, it was the one in episode 4, my first scene, and Kristin’s first scene as well. I mean obviously, this was my very first scene, the first time I met the rest of the cast and the crew and my first scene playing Eric. It was a pretty big scene. An important moment for me. So that was very memorable.
Mel – Which scene was it that you were filming first?
Alex – It’s the one when Stephen and Anna comes to Fangtasia for the first time. It’s in episode 4. She comes to question me about these girls that have died or got killed, and I’m up on my little throne there, and she shows me pictures and stuff. And I realize that there’s something quite interesting about this girl, the first time I meet her, so, that was a very memorable scene to shoot for me.
Mel – It was a pretty iconic image really the first time we see Eric up there on his throne, surrounded by the very stoic Pam, and then all there’s people trying to get his attention, and he’s just so…
Liz – Stuck on himself?
Mel – …and uninterested in anything else.
Alex – Yeah, he’s kinda like, “Been there, done that.” You know, he’s been around for over a millennium so it’s kind of hard to impress a guy like that. I would guess that Kristin said that the most memorable scene was when we were flying. I don’t know, is that the one?
Mel – Yeah, that was it. (laughs) That was a pretty funny story there.
Alex – Yeah, it… (laughs) We had a lot of fun.
Mel – Skateboards and ropes and…
Alex – Yeah.
Mel – Pretty glamorous life you got there.
Alex – It didn’t look very cool. In a back lot in Long Beach.
Liz – Well it transferred well. We got it.
Alex – I think it took a lot of work in post production to make that look ok. Because our balance, I mean, my balance is terrible and I had to deliver these lines and look kinda of mysterious and cool and it was just – it was not easy, I tell you that.
Mel – Well, it came off cool.
Alex – Well thank you.
Mel – So which scene would you like to forget filming – that one?
Alex – No, I mean it felt ridiculous. It was hard to do it, but I mean, we’re still talking about it and that was more than 6 months ago, so I guess it was kind of a you know, it was a fun experience. I honestly don’t have a scene that I feel like, “Oh I really want to forget this.” I mean, knock on wood, so far so good. I don’t have a terrible experience like that. Yet.
Mel – That’s probably because you weren’t laced into a leather corset.
Alex – Probably, yeah that might be – I’ll get back to you guys when I have a scene where I have to wear a corset.
Mel – You had the easy part of the job, I think.
Alex – Yeah, definitely. When it comes to costumes, definitely.
Mel – Yeah, so far, Eric’s just been jeans and t shirts basically.
Alex – Yeah, that’s it. Like flip flops and sweat pants and stuff like that. He’s very casual in a way.
Mel – He is, he’s quite laid back.
Mel – Does that hark back to that he’s not that impressed by much, therefore, he doesn’t need to impress?
Alex – Yeah, well I talked to Audrey, the costume designer, a lot about that. I kinda like the idea, especially when he’s, like, roaming around his office – chillin’ back there. I kinda like the idea of having him in just sweat pants and flip flops even though he’s the most powerful vampire in Louisiana. I just wanted to get away from him walking around in big leather coats and being all menacing all the time. I thought it would be more interesting if he’s kind of casual. He doesn’t have to, you know – he knows he’s powerful, he knows he’s got all the attention and people will obey him. He knows that, and he doesn’t have to try too hard, you know.
Mel – Well that’s the innate coolness, I guess.
Alex – Yeah, you know, he doesn’t care.
Liz – Well, that being said, how are you and Eric similar? Or different?
Alex – Well, I think we’re both quite stubborn. Well, I know we are. (laughs) And different? Hopefully, I’m a little bit more compassionate than he is.
Liz – What do you like most about Eric? What do you think is his coolest feature?
Alex – I think his honesty and his loyalty are (garbled) yea he’s very honest and loyal.
Mel – Loyalty, that’s an interesting word. Loyal. How are, mmm, I don’t know how you can answer my question there. I was going to say how are we going to see that come out? What are you referring to when you say loyal?
Alex – (laughs)
Mel – Or is that a wait and see?
Alex – Yeah. Well he is, he stands by his word. Yeah, I think loyal is a good word for Eric. And he expects loyalty in return as well.
Liz – Well, he certainly has a loyal, um, subject? Friend? Follower? in Pam, I think. What are your thoughts about Eric’s relationship with Pam? Have you guys talked about it, the two of you?
Alex – Oh yeah, we talk a lot about it, and Kristin is a very good friend of mine, so we hang out a lot and we have fun together and hopefully that will… I mean I think Pam is like his spoiled daughter. And she gets away with more than anyone else around Eric. It’s kinda like, Eric, you know if you had a big CEO of a huge company and people around him all day, they’re all like, “Yes sir, yes sir,” When he talks they nod and when he tells a bad joke they laugh and then he comes home to his little daughter and she’s like, “Dad you bought the standard version of the little mermaid!” and he’s like, “Oh I’m sorry, honey! I’m sorry! I’ll get the right one!” I think it’s a little like that, you know. He’s bossing people around all day, and you… he… when it’s important she’ll do whatever he tells her to do. But she definitely gets away with way more than anyone else, and he respects her a lot. She’s very important to him. More important than anyone else.
Liz – Whereas Bill, he kinda likes to treat as the kid brother that he likes to push around.
Alex – Yeah, because Bill is doing his own thing and mainstreaming and hanging out and he’s more like a renegade. Pam’s more by my side. I’m definitely not as tight with Bill as I am with Pam.
Liz – Ok I wanted to go someplace else with that but I know you’ll probably have to kill us so. You have experience in writing and directing, but it seems you do more acting than anything else. Do you… would you want that to change in your future? Would you like to do more writing and directing?
Alex – Yeah I think. So I’ve been… I did that back in Scandinavia a bit. I went to Africa two years ago to do another HBO show, and before I got that job I was working on something that I wrote in Sweden and I was about to direct there. So it’s just been kind of hectic the last two years. With Generation Kill, the show we did in Africa, and True Blood, but as soon as I get a break, I’d love to go back and continue working on that project for sure.
Liz – It’s on the back burner for now, though, huh?
Alex – Yeah well, right now I’m too busy, but it’s definitely something I want to explore more, and I’m curious to work more behind the camera definitely.
Liz – Do you prefer working on movies or television shows?
Alex – My last two jobs were both television shows and both of them are like, I mean the people I work with on both Generation Kill and now True Blood are, I mean they’re amazing. So I think the quality of television today with HBO and Showtime are… it’s so good. So it doesn’t really matter. I don’t care if it’s movies or television, what’s important is the quality of the script and the people you work with.
Liz- You were mentioning Generation Kill. We’d love to hear you talk about your experience with shooting that. It was a fantastic series.
Alex – Thank you. Yeah we spent, for those who haven’t seen it, it’s a mini series about a platoon of recon Marines in Iraq in ’03. You follow these guys throughout the first five weeks of the invasion in the spring of 2003. We shot that in Africa last year, or in 07 actually. We spent seven months out there, shooting that in the desserts of Namibia, So. Africa, Mozambique. So it was, I mean, it was a very intense job. It was tough because you spent so much time away from friends and family, and you’re very isolated. But at the same time, the show was created by Ed Burns and David Simon, who created The Wire and the cast was amazing so to me. It was definitely the experience of a life time. It was an amazing job.
Liz – I had to, when I was watching it, I had to watch it with my husband, he’s an ex-Marine, and he had to translate a lot of the terminology being used because it’s, just some of the terminology that Marines use. It’s Marine-talk and you don’t understand it.
Alex – I know. Believe me, the first time I read the script, I was like, “Whoa, what’s going on here?” I didn’t understand half the words. So it took a lot of… I had to work a lot on understanding what I was talking about… the lingo there. But that’s what I really liked about the script as well. It’s not so accessible, it’s not, you know, sometimes it think they explain too much. You know, they do a movie about Marines but they kind of cater to a broader audience, so they always explain every single word. Which takes away from the authenticity of the project. I kind of like when you don’t understand every thing. I’m a big fan of The Wire and it’s the same thing. Sometimes you don’t really understand what they’re talking about, or you don’t understand some of the words, but you kind of feel like you’re a small fly on the wall. Because you’re not supposed to understand every single word, because you’re not used to that environment, that kind of language.
Liz – That’s what appealed to him, my husband, speaking of, when he was watching. He tends to, we both do, we tend to shy away from movies that deal with the military, war, things like that, but this one was so real and it was so, it was true to the story and how things really are in the Marines, and that’s what appealed to him. He was petty proud, actually.
Alex – Well that means a lot. We obviously made the show for guys like your husband, the people who are out there. And it was important for us to tell their story. Because it’s not really being told, you don’t see much about what’s going on over there. And you know, it’s very censored, what you see in the media, and you don’t really hear much about ‘going on from the boots on the ground. So it was very important to make it real, make it legit, and hopefully make those guys proud, yeah.
Liz – Well it worked, and there were some elements of fun it looked like. Of course, I saw some of the behind the scenes stuff and there was some stuff that was there, the part where you guys were singing songs. Did you have, did you know those songs? Did you have to learn those songs or did you already, did you guys…some of those songs were like really old, like, older than you.
Alex – Yeah, it was I mean we sang a lot. Some of it was kind of improvised, us coming up with stuff. Some of it was scripted. Some of the scripted songs I knew and some of them we had to work on, or I had to work on the lyrics. You know, quite often we were, you know, when you do stuff like that, when you drive around, it’s kind of like a road trip, in a way, and there is boredom, you know. They spent hours and hours just driving and they’re not supposed to know the lyrics. You know what it is, you’re in you’re car and you just sing along and someone starts, and you just, you know… if you know every 10th word that’s it, you know. That’s good enough. You just hum, you know?
Mel – That’s how I sing.
Alex – Exactly.
Mel – It’s lalalalaaa!
Alex – Yeah. So we kind of helped each other and we just had fun with that.
Liz – Road trips – we know road trips. Try doing it with children. Small children.
Alex – Well it kind of felt like that. We kind of talk about that when we shot it, it kind of felt like we were family, with me and PJ up front and Lee and Billy in the back seat, like the kids, always going, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” Yeah I was the stern father and PJ was the sensitive mother.
(laughing) Liz – So can we expect to hear, or can we expect to see an “Alexander Skarsgard’s Greatest Hits of 2008″ anytime soon?
Alex – Um, I don’t even know what that means. (chuckles)
Mel – The CD compilation?
Alex – Oh, you mean like songs from Generation Kill?
Liz – yeah, that’s probably what I should have called it.
Alex – Yeah, you’re right! That’s actually a great idea, I should talk to the guys. We should tour the country and play live.
Mel – You should!
Alex – I’ll do that!
Mel – That reminds me, there’s a scene in True Blood where you are hijacking Bill’s bathroom, taking yourself a bath, and listening to some old Swedish music on the radio, or is it a cd? Must be a cd.
Alex – On the iPod there.
Mel – On the iPod. We know that that was an original composition for the show. Were you involved in that at all, in composing it, or was that just Nathan Barr coming up with it?
Alex – I was not involved in that. I was talking to Alexander Woo, who wrote the episode, a lot about trying to find something in Swedish that’s very old, but it’s obviously hard to try and find something from 10 or 11 hundred years ago.
Mel – Right, from Eric’s childhood.
Alex – Exactly, so I wasn’t involved. We actually, when we shot the scene, we hadn’t found anything yet. So that was done in post, you know, they added the soundtrack afterwards.
Mel – We got so many emails people requesting that tune. They were hoping for an iTunes version of it.
Alex – Oh yeah?
Mel – Oh yeah. But then Nathan said…
Alex – I don’t know, then, maybe he’s working on it, I don’t know.
Mel – Yeah he’s going to work on getting it available for release, so, we’re still waiting on that, Nathan.
Alex – Is he really? That’d be great.
Mel – The music in True Blood is incredibly popular. We always get emails about that after a new episode airs. We have all the songs listed on our website, but we get lots of questions about what song was this, and… it’s interesting how they mesh, the music and the songs with the storyline.
Question was, who inspires you? who is your inspiration?
Alex – Oh, for getting into acting?
Liz – Getting into acting, or do you have anybody who inspires you right now?
Alex – Well I think everything, it sounds kind of pretentious, but everything in life, everything around you everything you experience and see and do is helpful in your acting. I mean my father is an actor, so getting into acting, I don’t know, that might have played a part. I mean he was working on stage and I was sleeping, when I was a kid, so I spent most of my childhood running around backstage. So I kind of grew up on theater so.. I get inspired every time I see a good movie or performance, I’m inspired. It’s not like I had one I had a poster of someone all in my ,and I light a candle for every time I go to bed.
Liz – Ok, I’ll take those off of my wall as soon as I can. Sheesh! Gosh!
Alex – I’m definitely inspired every time I see a good movie with quality acting in it.
Mel – If you weren’t in the business, what would you be doing?
Alex – Well when I was a teenager, I didn’t want to act at all. I was a child actor in Sweden, but I quit when I was 13 and then I spent 7 years not acting at all. And I kind of wanted to be an architect.
Mel – Oh. Does that still interest you? Architecture?
Alex – Yeah, yeah!
Liz – So maybe we’ll see you building some of the sets around True Blood, hmm?
Alex – I don’t know about building, I’m not very good at that.
Mel – Designing?
Alex – I might make the drawings or something.
Mel – There you go. What profession would you not like to do?
Alex – Accounting. I would be a terrible accountant.
Liz – Ok we’ll cross that off my list too! Gee, you’re killin’ me, here!
Mel – I guess that means we shouldn’t send you our tax info.
Alex – No, no. I get a headache when I see that stuff. I’m a terrible accountant.
Liz – Do you have a creed or a motto that you live by? We’re getting into the ‘getting to know Alexander Skarsgard’ area.
Alex – Yeah, to always be curious. Because curiosity is insubordination in its purest form.
Mel – That is an interesting quote. “Curiosity is insubordination in its purest form”.
Alex – mmhmm
Mel – A bit of a rebel then?
Alex – I wouldn’t say that. I don’t know. (laughs) Just because of insubordination?
Mel – Uh-huh.
Alex – Well I don’t know how much of a rebel I am because I’m curious. I just think that’s important.
Mel – I agree, curiosity is vital to have an interesting and full life.
Alex – Yeah because if you lose that, I think, you lose everything.
Mel – Well next in our James Lipton Inside the Actor’s Studio list is what’s your favorite word?
Alex – This really is like Inside the actor’s Studio! (laughs)
Liz – Now you don’t have to go and do his show.
Alex – Exactly.
Mel – Or you could count this as a rehearsal.
Alex – Yeah, I’ll call James after this and tell him no thank you.
Mel – Sorry, done it!
Alex – Um, mun . I like that. It’s the Swedish word for mouth. It’s spelled m-u-n but it’s pronounced moon.
Mel – And what’s your least favorite word?
Alex – Greed.
Mel – Deep thoughts from Alexander Skarsgard.
Alex – Wow! (laughs)
Mel – You had no idea what was going on here, did ya.
Alex – (laughs) No!
Liz – And we just learned how to say something in Swedish.
Alex – Yeah!
Liz – I wonder what we, you know, if we sounded like, what we would sound like if we were to repeat something in Swedish. Would we…Kristin Bauer had an interesting comment to say about that.
Mel – Yes she did. When you were teaching her how to speak Swedish, and you told her she sounded like a Russian prostitute. And we just wanted to know how you knew that.
Alex – (laughing) – Oh, I’m busted!
Liz – See, now, she told us you would say that! She didn’t really.
Alex – (still laughing) – Ah, sweet Kristin. In Swedish crime series’, the victim is always a Russian prostitute. And Kristin, she was perfect…her accent sounded very much like those actresses.
Mel – Oh ok. I think we can accept that.
Liz – As far as we know. I think we just got Kristin in trouble.
Mel – We did, sorry Kristin.
Alex – Yeah. (laughing) You did!
Liz – No she really had nice things to say about you. She did. As far as you know.
Alex – Yeah, ok.
Mel – It seems like you guys have a really good off screen friendship and it translates so well on screen.
Alex – I’m glad to hear that. Kristin is one of my best friends. She’s so much fun. I’m very fortunate to work almost every day with her. It’s fantastic, it really is.
Mel – Are you able to discuss the length of your commitment to the series?
Alex – Well I don’t know, so much can happen, I guess. Who knows. We never know. We shoot a season at a time and then in the summer, when season two airs, we’ll find out if it’s going to go into a 3rd season, and if my character is still in it. I don’t know, I kind of focus on one season at a time. I know that we’re going to try to do 12 episodes now, and I’ll be working on that, and who knows what’s going to happen in the future.
Mel – Well we’re crossing our fingers for 9 seasons. Or however many books Charlaine Harris writes.
Alex – Yeah, well, so do I right now because I’m having a blast.
Mel – What other projects have you been working on? I know you’ve been, boy, setting up this interview you were here there and everywhere working on things.
Alex – Yeah, I was, during the hiatus, I was in NY shooting a movie called “Thirteen”. It’s a remake of a French movie called “Tzameti -13″ by the same director, Gela Babluan. It’s a movie about Russian Roulette.
Mel – Oh, interesting!
Alex – Yeah.
Mel – Does it involve Russian prostitutes?
Alex – (laughs) No, no Russian prostitutes, just roulette. Not a lot of female parts in it at all, actually. So I did that, and then I did an animated movie called Metropia. It’s kind of like a distopia about Europe in the future. A Europe not run by governments but by big corporations. And they manipulate their citizens. So it’s kind of a dark animated movie for, definitely for grown ups. And then I did another, well we started, we were going to finish it this year. Also a French movie called Trust Me. I’m going to finish that as soon as I’m done with True Blood over the summer.
Mel – Wow! So you are a busy guy!
Alex – Yeah, yeah, it’s been a busy year.
Mel – well that’s awesome. I know you have so many people who are being introduced to your work thanks to Generation Kill and to True Blood, so, I think they’re going to look forward to seeing these other projects that you’re working on.
Alex – Well I’m glad to hear that.
Mel – Well we want to thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. We kept you longer than we intended.
Alex – It was my pleasure. Have a good day!
TB.net – You too!