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)