Alexander Skarsgard Chats About True Blood and Life Before Hollywood

August 15, 2010 by  

Alexander Skarsgard‘s star is on the rise.  After getting his big break in HBO‘s Generation Kill, he has gone on to star in music videos, another HBO show True Blood and several movies.  Through all this he has remained hard working and down to earth, regularly stopping to sign autographs with his fans.  Alex sat down with to chat about his life, upcoming projects and True Blood which has its second season premiere in the UK in September.

Chris Harvey, a reporter for, met Alex at a 15th century manor house where he is staying while filming Lars von Trier’s Melancholia in Trollhättan with Kirsten Dunst, Kiefer Sutherland and his father Stellan SkarsgardAlex is the oldest of Stellan’s children and many of his siblings have also gone into acting.  His mother is a doctor.  Alex spoke about his childhood and said that his family was very close.  There were always family members around and it was a hectic environment, but was full of love.  To escape the chaos Alex said he would go to his room and organize his toys in order to keep some semblance of order in his life.  During much of Alex’s childhood Stellan was performing in repertory theatre, and he says:

“He worked a lot, so I would hang out backstage at the theatre and just play there because it was pretty much the only chance I got to spend time with my dad.  A lot of the plays were Ingmar Bergman-directed, but I didn’t care about him. It was more fun to play around in the costume department.”

Alex’s career in show business started young and he acted in a few Swedish films, but it was “The Dog That Smiled” that brought him the most success at the age of 13.  Girls started hanging out at his house wanting his autograph and Alex said it made him paranoid and uncomfortable.  He had only done the movie because the director was a friend of his father’s and was not expecting the fame that came along with it, so he told his parents that he did not want to act anymore.

“My dad said, “You have to love it, if you don’t feel that way, do the other thing, whatever it is.”  I’m very grateful that he did that.  I would have listened to him if he’d said, “Keep going”.  I would have tried, and I would have done it for a few more years probably, but I’m absolutely sure I wouldn’t be acting today.  I would have crashed and burned after a while.”

Alex’s teenage years were spent hanging out with his friends, listening to punk music and drinking.  When he was 19 he joined the Swedish marines and says:

“For me it was just a personal challenge. I’m very happy that I did it.  It was tough.  I hated it at times; the unit I was in dealt with anti-sabotage, anti-terrorism in the archipelago, so some of the people who applied were total warheads.  There were a lot of really cool guys, but the mentality sometimes got a little too testosterone-fuelled for my tastes.”

After finishing up his service in 1996 he went to Leed Metropolitan University where he studied English for six months.  Throughout this time Alex‘s thoughts kept returning to acting and he decided to give it another try.  His reasons for quitting had nothing to do with the job of acting, but were related to the fame that came along with it.  At 13 years old that kind of attention can be overwhelming.  Alex attended a course at Marymount Manhattan College in New York in 1997, but after six months he moved back home to Sweden because of a girlfriend.  Their long distance relationship was not working out and she had ended the relationship with Alex leaving him with a broken heart.  He flew home to try to reconcile with her.  Ultimately the relationship did not work out and he stayed in Sweden working on movies, soap operas and live theater.

Alex describes himself as impulsive and emotional and the reporter asks him how someone with those characteristics landed the rolls of Brad Colbert and Eric Northman, who are both calm, outwardly cool people.  He replies:

“I can definitely relate to them. But I’m different in real life. They’re subdued and calm, I’m more playful. I’m pretty intense when it comes to relationships, platonic ones as well. If I feel a connection with someone, I’m willing to go there.”

In 2004 Alex moved to Hollywood to give his career another try but success did not come easy.

“I realised that I was number 499 to audition for a small part in a bad horror movie,’ he says. ‘I read so many bad scripts. I wasn’t a snob. I just needed to connect with the character. I didn’t leave Sweden for that.”

His big break came when he landed the roll of Sargeant Brad Colbert in HBO’s Generation Kill, a television adaptation of journalist Evan Wright’s book about his experience as an embedded reporter during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  After four auditions, he got the part with only 36 hours notice that he had to fly to Namibia to begin seven months of filming.  The pressure was on for Alex.

“I was scared, you know.  I was the lead of this huge mini-series for HBO, there was a lot of weight on my shoulders.  I remember the night before we were supposed to start on day one of the shoot, I was still trying to figure out this whole “Iceman” thing.  I didn’t have a chance to talk to the real Brad Colbert because he was in England with the SAS at the time.  Then Evan Wright played me a short clip from inside the Humvee during a firefight in Iraq.  They’re being shot at, you can hear bullets ricocheting off the Humvee, and he’s talking to the guys, giving orders.  I was blown away by how calm he was.  It was the last piece of the puzzle.”

Around the time that Alex auditioned for Generation Kill, he also auditioned for the role of Bill Compton on another HBO show, True Blood.  He was still in Africa working on Generation Kill when he was offered a different part on the show – the part of Eric NorthmanAlex says his inspiration for how to portray Eric came from a documentary he watched on lions.  He was fascinated by the male lions and the confidence with which they moved and their mannerisms.  He liked that you were not able to predict their next move and he used that mindset when portraying EricAlex also likes that while Eric is seen as a villain he is also very loyal and there is a lot more to him than meets the eye.

While Generation Kill was well received and got great reviews, True Blood is the show that has really launched Alex’s career.  He talks about his current and upcoming projects saying that he looks for parts that are challenging and have substance.  He says he never wants to turn down a part because of vanity.

When asked what it was like working with von Trier, who Nicole Kidman said “tortured her” on the set of Dogville, Alex replied:

“It’s a dream…It’s so liberating.  You don’t have to sit around for super-long takes.  You play around with the scene, change things, it’s just so creative and, er, lovely.”

Once filming is finished on Melancholia, Alex will head to Hawaii to start filming Battleship with pop star Rihanna and will then head back to start filming Season 4 of True Blood.  So how long does he himself playing Eric Northman?

“Well I don’t know how many years.  I’m not supposed to age, so we might have a bit of a problem when I’m 55 and still playing Eric, it might get kind of pathetic.  We still have a couple of years. I do live in LA, so I can cheat with Botox and plastic surgery. That was a joke, by the way.”

True Blood Season 2 premieres in the UK on Channel 4 on September 16th.


Photo Credit: HBO Inc.