Alexander Skarsgard: The Man Behind the Viking Vampire

April 12, 2010 by  

DETAILS Magazine recently featured three of True Blood’s hottest male stars on the cover of their issue, “The Men of True Blood.” Those three men were Stephen Moyer, Ryan Kwanten, and Alexander Skarsgard.

Alexander Skarsgard has had an interesting journey from child movie star in Sweden, to the role of Eric Northman. It started three weeks before he left for Marymount Manhattan College, to participate in their acting program. He met a girl and fell head over heels in love. Although he enjoyed the program, he became lonely and was not fond of living in a tiny Times Square apartment. He also knew he didn’t have the longevity of a vampire to try and make the relationship wait until he was done with acting school.

“So I said f**k it, I’m going back to Sweden. I quit school and went back, and it was like I created her in my mind. We hung out for two weeks, and we didn’t get along at all.”

It would be another seven years before Skarsgard returned to the United States, after his pursuit of love left his American acting career dead in the water. But Alex has a rich history of acting in his family and was determined to make something of himself.

His father, Stellan Skarsgard, is a movie star in both Sweden and increasingly on the international silver screen. His most famous roles were “Bill” in Mama Mia and “Bootstrap Bill Turner” in the Pirates of the Carribean. Stellan has also always been behind Alex, regardless of the choices Alex has made in his career.

“My father was totally supportive of me quitting acting. He said, ‘If there’s any other option for you, I recommend that option.'”

Skarsgard’s “other option” ended up being a few months studying English at Leeds University, followed by a 15 month term of duty in the Swedish Marines.

“Sweden is probably one of the three countries least likely to get into a war, so the military’s pretty safe.”

Afterwards, Skarsgard became interested in acting again and was able to land a number of roles in Sweden and a small role as Ben Stiller’s roommate in Zoolander. The role that really gained him a lot of notoriety was the role of Sergeant Brad “Iceman” Colbert in the 2008 HBO miniseries Generation Kill. As he was leaving to go to Africa for the shoot, he heard that Alan Ball was starting to develop True Blood.

“I though, ‘Oh, vampires–I don’t know.’ But then they said Alan Ball was behind it, and I was a huge fan of Six Feet Under and American Beauty. I auditioned on tape from my hotel room in Mozambique.”

Skarsgard was actually auditioning for the role of Bill Compton. But when it came to casting, Alan Ball recalls,

Alex wasn’t quite right for Bill, but I remember that he was giant and also beautiful. So when it came time to cast Eric, I thought of him. He’s got the most amazing eyes…he’s able to do this thing with them where he loses focus but remains totally focused.”

Skarsgard claims he picked up the trademark Eric Northman stare through a combination of watching Dracula, Nosferatu, The Lost Boys, and believe it or not, nature documentaries.

“It’s, like, you see this big male lion…and he sits up and he looks at something, and you don’t know if he’s going to pounce or if he’s just going to go back to sleep.”


(Photo credit:  HBO Inc., screencap by James)

  • Stephanie

    OMG Alex playing Bill… LMAO i cannot see that at all! Alan did a good job picking him to play Eric.

  • jaxx

    EXACTLY!!!! He truly gets it. It’s funny, the comment about the lion, because I’ve said it myself many times and so have many of you also–you get the image of a majestic lion, waiting/watching, assessing every situation, not impulsive, picking his moves.

    I, myself, am glad he didn’t get the Bill role. I couldn’t picture anyone else but Alex playing Eric. He is pretty close to the Eric in the books for me (except for the hair, miss the long viking hair). He brings the character to life for me.

    Oh, and a military man on top of all of this. Yum, loved him in GK.

    Go Alex, *kisses*

  • pbt

    Thanks Cory for the wonderful article about my favorite Viking Vampire. Alexander is Eric Northman. He encapsulates the best of the Viking.

    After reading several novels written by Charlaine Harris, Alex has a firm grip on how to portray this pivotal character from the Southern Vampire Mysteries. I especially enjoy his quiet sometimes stoic acting style. I feel his approach suits the character very well. I think I read somewhere that Alex studied several versions of the Dracula genre and even how lions in the wild behave. Such attention to detail and researching of his character has given us a very interesting Eric Northman.

    I look forward to lots of drama this season.62 more days until the V-ddiction continues! Go Eric!

  • Loleaf

    “It’s, like, you see this big male lion…and he sits up and he looks at something, and you don’t know if he’s going to pounce or if he’s just going to go back to sleep.”

    Hey Ladies, does anyone else feel like he’s teasing us!!!! LOL 😉 🙂

    • pbt

      Hey Loleaf. We were typing and posting at the same time. We both used the same example. I totally agree he is like the lion toying with us before pouncing on his prey. And we eat this right up. Love this man to death. I wish him many successes in the future!

      • Loleaf

        pbt.. I sincerely agree with you on all counts!! Even Alan said that Alex has a special quality about him, we all (including Alan) know that his eyes are a huge part of this draw. I also wish him all the luck that an aspiring actor strives for!!!

  • He has Eric down pat! He is exactly what I pictured Eric to be in the books. He’s one of my favorites!