Denis O’Hare on Being a Vampire King

June 27, 2010 by  

Who would have thought that Mississippi was ruled by a 2,800 year old vampire king? In the HBO series True Blood, Russell Edgington is that vampire king and he’s looking to rule more than just Mississippi.

The king is played by Denis O’Hare, a Tony award winner for his role in Take Me Out; he is also known for his roles in Milk, as well as Brothers and Sisters. O’Hare sat on Bill Compton’s porch in between shooting to talk to iF Magazine.

O’Hare reveals he’s had some practice at portraying a vampire. When he was eight, O’Hare was a blood-sucker for Halloween, though he was also a werewolf at nine as well as Frankenstein at ten. As for playing a king, he portrayed the famous Scottish king, Macbeth. However, this is the first time he is playing a Mississippian.

During the interview, O’Hare kept his accent for the show, as he feels his own accent is boring. This led to a discussion about home, where O’Hare revealed he was born in Missouri, and raised in Detroit, Michigan before spending twelve years in Chicago and finally residing in New York. O’Hare notes,

” I’m from nowhere. I’m from everywhere.”

Many of the characters in True Blood seem to be from nowhere and from everywhere, which seems to help O’Hare in his portrayal as Russell Edgington. However, O’Hare hasn’t done much genre work as he has spent most of his career on stage and, in the last few years, in film. He does note that Changeling was a period piece and his new film, Eagles of the North, with Channing Tatum is a swords and sandal picture. He also did the horror movie Quarantine, where he was eaten by a dog in an elevator, but True Blood is O’Hare’s first taste of the fantasy genre.

Though he hasn’t been in this kind of genre piece and had no concept of how he’d portray a vampire, he was a fan of True Blood prior to being cast as the vampire king. For O’Hare playing a supernatural is a great experience. He muses,

“You’re always trying to explore the limits of your powers. ‘Can I do this, can I do that, can I fly, can I read minds, can I tell the future, can I read smoke?’ And this guy is particularly fun, because he may have anything, really. You can kind of be whatever you want to be… He’s king because he’s powerful. He’s king because he took it. And this is a guy who is 2,800 years old, who is more powerful than any of these other vampires, so he can do things physically that nobody else can do. I don’t think I have special powers, but my powers are more concentrated, so I’m just incredibly fast.”

For O’Hare, Russell Edgington can build and destroy. There is a depth to his character that makes him more real to the audience. Aside from creating a dynamic character, O’Hare believes the show is more than a plot driven monster fest; rather the show forces the viewers to ponder philosophical and ethical questions. For example, in a society where gay marriage is banned in certain parts of the country, True Blood showcases a vampire king who is gay and has been in a relationship with his partner for seven hundred years. There is love and a home between Russell Edgington and TalbotEdgington’s interest in the Queen of Louisiana is simply a political alliance.

In the books, the Queen marries the King of Arkansas instead of Mississippi. O’Hare feels that while Alan Ball has followed very closely to certain details of Charlaine Harris’ novels, Ball follows his own gut feelings. From a small and not so powerful character in the novels, Russell Edgington has become much more stronger…a vampire buying and selling power.

The power of this vampire king can be reflected in his mansion. O’Hare points out,

“They’ve made a plantation house for me, which is based on a house in Natchez, Mississippi, called Lionwood Plantation… You know, it’s funny, because when we go there… all of the crew are kind of going, ‘My liege,’ ‘Oh, the king is here,’ ‘Welcome home,’ and everyone’s joking, but after awhile, it does begin to have an effect. It helps you in a good way – it makes you feel like you have the power that’s attributed to you. So that’s actually fun, I actually enjoy that.”

With a mansion and a kingdom, also comes fangs. O’Hare notes that in order to have his fangs suddenly pop out, he must hide them in different areas during shooting. He’s hidden them in cigar boxes, behind a chair, clenched in his hand or simply given to him by someone off set. On performing with his fangs O’Hare notes,

“They add a little boost to everything, because you know that you look fearsome. They tell what you’re feeling in a strange way, they’re a way of telegraphing, I am now angry, lustful, hungry, whatever.”

Fans of True Blood are going to see a lot more of O’Hare this season. Whatever he’s feeling-angry, lustful, regal-fans are ready ready to sink their teeth into this dynamic character.

SOURCE: iFMagazine

(Photo Credit: HBO Inc.)