Denis O’Hare on Becoming Russell Edgington, Vampire King

June 20, 2010 by  

In tonight’s episode of True Blood, we will be meeting the delightfully insidious Russell Edgington, Vampire King of Mississippi. To help us get to know the actor who plays him, The Advocate did an in-depth interview with Denis O’Hare in which he offers great insights on the creation of his 2,800-year old character.

As a gay actor, Denis says that being Russell is like “home territory…but a character’s sexuality, even if he’s gay, isn’t necessarily the most important attribute to me. In the case of Russell, he’s a power-hungry ancient druid who has a serious concern for the stewardship of the earth. Not to downplay it, but being gay is just another aspect of his life.”

Since Russell is not a very prominent character in Charlaine Harris‘ books, Alan Ball gave Denis some creative license to develop his own backstory. He researched ancient Celtic culture and went hiking with castmate Theo Alexander in Runyon Canyon, during which they discussed how Russell and Talbot met and fell in love, and how their relationship has evolved over 700 years:

“We came to the idea that they met in Byzantium, where Talbot was some sort of Greek prince. They met at a costume party where Talbot was dressed as Alexander the Great and Russell was dressed as Augustus…What you’ll see is a marriage that’s well-traveled and a little frayed at the edges. These guys snipe and complain, but there’s always an incredible deep affection at the base of it. Theo and I worried that there were too many fighting scenes between us, but then we had this lovely scene later in the season, a lovely tender moment, where I finally get to put my hand on his cheek and basically talk about how much I care for him. It was a great relief to have that scene, because we kept talking about that every day of shooting: How do we show the love?”

Denis also hinted that later in the season, we would be seeing Russell in bed with another man, and that Talbot would have a steamy scene with another man, as well. So how does that arrangement work for them?

“Well, you know, after 700 years, you gotta keep it spicy. There’s also a sense of, You’re not going anywhere, so if you need to get that, you go ahead and get that. There’s a level of trust there that’s pretty strong, so Russell has no fear that Talbot’s going to fall in love with somebody else. Theo and I talked about the idea that they broke up for maybe 75, 80 years sometime around 1700. Russell went to the Dutch Indies to get involved with trade, and Talbot went to Greece to fight for his independence. Then they missed each other too much, so they got back together again.”

When asked the standard question–Team Bill, or Team EricDenis declined to answer. Ever the diplomatic king, he said he needs them both for strategic reasons.

It’s not surprising that Denis seems to be having a lot of fun working on the show! All the thought he has put into his role makes his performance so engaging, as Truebies will begin to see tonight in “Beautifully Broken”!


(Photo credit: HBO Inc.)