True Blood is about to get it’s UK terrestrial premiere on Channel 4. In advance of its launch, we bring you an interview in which lead male, Stephen Moyer talks about why he loves the show and what he enjoys about playing the role of blood sucking Bill Compton.
What was your first impression of True Blood when you were approached with it?
I was in London with my kids and I said to my agent I really didn’t want to see anything else at that time, but she said Alan Ball has written this script and it’s the one that everyone is talking about and asked me to read it. When I got it I couldn’t believe it, I finished it in one sitting and when I got to the final page I just wanted to read more. I put myself on tape, Alan received it and he said that’s the guy. I flew out to LA that afternoon and the next morning I met with him and Anna (Paquin) and later that afternoon I got it. I don’t remember ever reading something and being so engaged by it, the world he sets up is just so extraordinary – it’s been an exciting ride.
Tell us a little about the set up of the show?
True blood is set in a fictional town called Bon Temps in Louisiana. The first episode centres around a bar, Merlotte’s, where the viewer is introduced to Sookie (Anna Paquin’s character). We know right from the start that vampires exist in this world but nobody in Bon Temps has ever seen one. About 20 minutes into the first episode Bill, my character and a vampire, walks into Merlotte’s. Sookie is telepathic and all her life she’s been able to hear everybody’s thoughts. Then suddenly there is this presence when Bill walks into the bar, she can’t read his thoughts and she immediately knows that something is different about him. He can also see that there is something different about her and that’s the attraction. Bill is trying to live his life “mainstreaming”, living off Tru Blood rather than feeding on humans. He’s an outsider ostracised by vampire society because he’s mainstreaming and trying to live like a human but he’s obviously also feared by the humans because he is a vampire, so he’s kind of the ultimate outsider and I think he can see that she’s an outsider too.
It’s a pretty bizarre prospect that you’ve got vampires living in normal society, how has this come about?
In the story the Japanese invented a synthetic blood drink three years before, the idea being that the blood was invented for use in war etc for blood transfusions. Vampires came out and said they could drink this blood so that they no longer have to feed off humans. Then a drinks company marketed it as Tru Blood so that vampires could drink in normal bars like anybody else, and that’s what Tru Blood is.
How did you manage to engage with the character Bill? What kind of research did you do?
Well I looked at the American civil war which I’d never really studied before as my character’s father was a slave owner (even though my character wasn’t) and he fought with the confederates for the south.
Alan (Ball) actually asked me if I thought anything was missing from the character. And I liked the idea if you imagined you died what would you do? If it was me, I’d want to listen to all the music I never listened to when I was alive, and read every book that I’d never read, watch the films I’d never seen and play the instruments that I had never played. So I thought that’s great, he’s going to make me into this aesthetic genius who knows everything but Alan being warped, made my character listen to Tuvan throat singing and Cambodian disco, so in every episode you see me listening to some obscure sound.
Another thing that I think is interesting about him is that vampires have no heartbeat so there’s no blips, no moment where his heart skips a beat – when he stops and he’s sitting he’s just “being”. We played with the idea of trying to make him as still as possible so that every movement is considered. When he moves, he’s doing it for a reason. It’s almost like a video game, I can move at lightening speed but if I do it costs me, it’s like my energy depletes and I need to feed sooner meaning I only do it if I need to. Bill really is a fascinating character to play.