Stephen Moyer Will Be Heating Up South African TV Screens
October 26, 2009 by Udo Blick
Alan Ball’s hit HBO TV vampire series True Blood returns for season two on South Africa’s M-Net on Tuesday, October 27, 2009. Based on Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries, True Blood is picking momentum with viewers in the UK as Season One continues to air on the UK’s Channel 4. In the US, Season 2 premiered on June 14 2009 and was the most watched HBO show since The Sopranos series finale in June 2007. According to HBO, True Blood averaged 12.4 million viewers per episode, when measured across various viewing platforms, up 39% from last season. The popularity of the Louisiana vampires is undeniable; they have truly captivated the hearts and imagination of millions viewers in North America, South America, UK, Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
At the heart of this award winning HBO series is the undeniable romantic tension between Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer). The 40-year-old Stephen Moyer, who plays the 173-year-old vampire Bill Compton in True Blood, recently sat down with reporter Theresa Smith to discuss his character and the themes presented and developed in the show.
Part of the reason for the success of the show is, as Stephen explained, the casting of such an international group with Stephen splitting his time between England and the US, Anna from New Zealand/Canada, Alexander Skarsgard from Sweden and other cast members from across the US and Australia. As Stephen highlights:
“Alan (Ball) is brilliant at casting. One of the things he did was create a central core consisting of people who have almost all worked in the theatre. So we’re all much open to playing, creating and throwing things into the mix.”
Stephen provides an in-depth look at the qualities of his character, Bill Compton and the struggle that he sees his character is trying to deal with not only on the outside but also within himself.
“You’ve got this romantic, old-fashioned gentleman who also happens to be a vampire. And the audience has to wonder about that conflict within him and wonder what he is capable of [...] Actually, one of the reasons I love this job so much is because we are playing with so many ideas. Like his costumes–the costume designer will come to me and say, ‘How about we try this?’ And it will be a little thing like having his collars turned up on a certain jacket that gives a hint of the Confederate soldier, just a little echo of part of his past.”
Stephen wasn’t initially familiar with the Southern Vampire Series and read them only after he got the part of Bill Compton. Stephen describes vampire Bill as a conflicted individual; a vampire who’s desperately attempting to mainstream and be a decent character but who is at the core also a killer:
“When I began playing the role Alan wrote, he (Bill) warms up throughout the season in a way the character in the books doesn’t. Sookie in the books also flits from one romance to another and if you did that with a lead female character, she would not be as virtuous as they wanted her to be. So Alan made the decision to let her have the attachment to Bill [...] But he’s (Bill) still a vampire who kills.”
Fans of True Blood often forget that Stephen is a British actor with a decidedly British accent who can deliver a convincing and hilarious Cockney accent. A thorough bred actor, Stephen was helped by a voice coach in his delivery of vampire Bill’s Southern drawl.
One question that many of his fans have wondered for quite some time is why he changed his name. Stephen, whose original name was Stephen Emery, revealed in the interview that he changed his name because he didn’t want to be known as the actor playing a horse’s ass. Stephen received his Equity card for his role in the pantomine Oliver in the same week as another actor of the same name. This other Stephen, according to our Stephen, was
“playing the back end of a horse, I swear to God, it’s true”
When asked what it is about British actors that they portray vampires so convincingly, Stephen explains that the classical training British actors receive in drama schools helps actors immerse themselves in a specific role to deliver convincing characterizations, and in the case of True Blood, the training Stephen received in drama school has helped him convey the age and experience of vampire Bill.
Stephen also indicates his appreciation of how True Blood uses the vampire genre as a platform to discuss meaningful socio-political issues, albeit in a light-hearted manner:
“Alan (Ball) takes this idea of the outsider coming into the world and how everybody reacts to that outsider. The metaphor is about someone who is a pariah in society trying to prove he is not what people think he is and this can be a metaphor for homosexuality, the black and white civil rights movement, or any minority that you want to bring to the table.”
Stephen adds that one of his favorite thing about True Blood is how each episode ends on a cliffhanger, adding:
“I think Alan is a very clever film-maker because he put in undercurrents of information in the show. It can also be a rollicking funny thriller, great fast television.”
Season 2 of True Blood has now completed its run on HBO in the North America with Season 3 due out in June 2010. Of Season 3, Alan Ball hints:
“After last season you would think things would sort of return to normal – but no, that’s not going to happen!” No, there’s just as much weird stuff out there, and we’re going to meet some werewolves for the first time; we’re going to find out some roles vampires played in history, which is interesting and shocking and funny. It’s more of the same.”
While the relationship between Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) will continue to be the heart of True Blood’s narrative arc, Alan Ball explains that some of the supporting cast will be receiving more screen time in Season 3. As Alan Ball explains:
“Definitely Eric has broken out and is a big important character now. Jessica and Hoyt are still trying to deal with everything that happened to them, and Arlene and Terry are going to have a little bit more of a life and more of a presence on the show.”
Season 2 of HBO’s True Blood will premiere on M-Net tomorrow, Tuesday, October 27, 2009.
Photo credit: HBO Inc.