Stephen Moyer Talks with Venice Magazine

September 8, 2009 by  

stephen-moyer-veniceWhether you’re on Team Eric or Team Bill, it would be difficult to read Venice Magazine’s recent interview with Stephen Moyer and not be completely taken in by his charm and thoughtfulness. The conversation ranged from Shakespeare to the moral ambiguity of True Blood to life in general.

Stephen’s acting career began because of his singing. He was a choir boy and sang in school plays, which led to him being cast as Tom Sawyer in a school production at the age of 13. From that point on, he knew that acting was what he wanted to do. The process of becoming an actor in England is different than it is in America:

“It’s not the same as going, ‘I’m gonna go to Hollywood and say that I’m an actor.’ It just isn’t the same. You can’t do that; it doesn’t exist like that where I’m from. The only way in is to go to drama school, but nobody knew how to do that either. I don’t even know how I found out; I think in the back of a Stage and Television Today, there was an advert for one of the drama schools. So I sent out for my forms, and then I got a load of auditions, and next things you know, I was at drama school.”

For years, Stephen was working in theatre. He was part of the Royal Shakespeare Company, where highlights for him included Romeo and Juliet, the Oedipus trilogy, and Measure for Measure. Then he moved on to television and film, where his work included a role in a sitcom about a family with a talking dog (he laughingly calls it a “crime against television”).

His story about the process that brought him to his role as Bill Compton on True Blood is a complicated one. He was in the midst of a disheartening pilot season — he was involved with a couple of shows for the BBC that weren’t working out. He didn’t think that he wanted to return to America but his agent insisted that he read one more script: the pilot episode of True Blood.

“I read it and I was blown away by it. It’s not my genre at all but I could see in it a whole microcosm of society as we know it. I loved the fact that the vampire is the one who’s trying to live a decent life. The sex addict is human, the drug dealer is human and the pariah is the vampire. I loved what [Alan Ball] had set up there. And we know that the vampire has a dark past. I was mesmerized by it. I thought it was beautifully written, it was sexy and romantic, rather than soppy and sloshy. And there was this kind of edge to it as well. And I knew right then that this could be amazing.”

He sent in an audition tape, went home with his kids to find that his house had been robbed and then received a call to bring him to L.A. the next day and meet Alan. All in one day.

Stephen offered his insights on the layers of morality in True Blood. On the one hand, Bill is trying to mainstream and live a good life but the people around him, who aren’t perfect themselves, judge him for being a vampire. Yet, Bill doesn’t deny his vampire nature — he will feed on people, especially if they commit “Crimes Against Sookie,” as Stephen calls them. What he found very interesting was the Magister’s ruling that Bill would have to end an innocent life by turning Jessica into a vampire:

“A character who had done nothing wrong and Bill ultimately saves himself at that point but he knows he’s going to be tortured for the rest of his living days, or ‘unliving’ days. And he also knows that were he to say, ‘No,’ they would have fed on her anyways. I mean, I love Bill, so I have to give Bill the benefit of the doubt in this. If she’s going to be tortured, what’s the best that can happen? I’ll look after her.”

Stephen is also fascinated by the hierarchical system of the vampires, based on rank and age and how the respect of that system contributes to their appeal:

“They’ve actually set up quite an old-fashioned world that you can hold up against our modern society, with its slipped virtue and its slipped manners. I think that one of the reasons that women are interested in vampires is because they usually come from a gothic place, when women were treated in a courtly manner and the men were men. So this idea pits itself against modern society, against metrosexuality, if you like, and for the manners and the kindness. The chivalry.”

But to go along with that chivalry is the dark, animalistic appetites of the vampires that makes them so sexual.

Stephen also talks about what holds Sookie and Bill together.

Bill has never come across someone like her. She’s streetwise but she’s innocent. She’s spunky but she’s pure. She’s a throwback for him. She’s a virgin at 25. And she falls for him because he’s strong, silent and that’s very important, because she can’t read his mind. He’s trying to lead a good life. Trying desperately to forge, as much as he can, a human way of being. She realizes the points where he can’t do that, that there are limits and she forgives him.”

When asked about the beginning of his relationship with now-fiancee Anna Paquin, Stephen said that they were the only two people in the cast who were from out-of-town — he from London and she from New York. During the filming of the pilot, they spent time together, getting to know each other. When they went their separate ways after the work was done, he knew that he wanted to be with her:

“The truth is that after the pilot, I got back to London and she got back to New York and it pulled my legs from underneath me. I couldn’t believe how much I missed her. And from then on, we were in each other’s pockets and have been ever since. Two years.”

The conversation ended with a reflection on the line from Hamlet, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” In terms of True Blood, Stephen refers to the vastness of the supernatural world and the creatures in it that Sookie, and we as the audience, have yet to come across. And for his own life, he says that his beliefs about life and God have changed, adding to his knowledge and the way he experiences the world.

This is a great interview to read because it reveals new things about Stephen. You can tell that he actually thinks about the work that he does and it certainly enriches his portrayal of Bill.

SOURCE: Venice Magazine via

(Photo credit: Kwaku Alston)