As welcoming as some humans are to vampires on True Blood, many of these immortals just don't want to come down to our level. It's understandable. Even one of the most sinister vampires on True Blood, the sheriff Eric Northman, is gorgeous, powerful and has sex with as many women (and men) as he likes, sometimes while standing up with the woman hanging from a torture wheel; more recently, he was nude, about to penetrate the vampire king's boyfriend from behind, when he unceremoniously stabbed him in the back with a stake.
Skarsgård, the eldest son of the actor Stellan, seems almost genetically engineered to play the part of Eric. Evil seems to be so much a part of his DNA that he was also cast as Lady Gaga's wretched boyfriend, the one who pushes her over a balcony, in the video for "Paparazzi." "That was a really fun day," he says. At 33, he's the Platonic ideal of a Euro-trash vampire fantasy—tall, pallid, with a lock of blond hair that falls to the side when he moves a little bit, which is not that often. "I like to think about Eric like he's a male lion," he says, when I meet him at an L.A. restaurant. "He looks so relaxed, his heartbeat is probably 15 beats a minute, but you don't know if he's going to pounce, or attack, or yawn.
Skarsgård drives a black Audi R8 sports car, wears Hermès cologne and dates Kate Bosworth. He was a child star back home in Stockholm, but set aside the profession at 13 to hang out with his friends. After school, he joined the military service, which was mandatory in Sweden. Skarsgård spent 15 months in the marines, with a semiautomatic with a grenade launcher perched on his shoulder. "I did it because I thought it would be interesting," he says, ordering a Moretti. "I didn't do it because I loved guns—it was a selfish experience for me. I viewed it as a personal challenge.
He started thinking about acting again after this, and in his early 20s, when he was accompanying his father on a trip to Hollywood, an agent booked him on an audition for Zoolander. "I said, 'Of course, I'll try that—it's a cool adventure for a guy from Stockholm to go on a real Hollywood audition.'" He was cast as a male model, and while it didn't change his life, he got the bug again. Skarsgård moved to L.A., buying a 1981 Eldorado and rooming with four Swedish friends in a Santa Monica pool house owned by another Swede. "One guy was a director, another was an actor, one was just a pot smoker—he was a musician, but he just sat around and smoked pot," Skarsgård says. "We were so broke that three of us slept in the same bedroom." It was harder to get parts than he'd imagined, and he went on a lot of auditions for the high school jock in horror movies until he booked the character of Iceman in Generation Kill. "That show was incredible," he says. "The Marines on set helped us get everything right—how to hold the gun, how to get out of the Humvee. We would have been lost without them."
This is pretty much the way the conversation with Skarsgård goes—no talk about sex, nothing too personal. "I don't want people to know too much about me," he admits, when I begin to pry. "It's easier for people to suspend disbelief that way. There's a risk when people see you in a part and they're watching Alexander Skarsgård. Also, I learned from my father to keep your integrity and protect your family—there are certain things that you can talk about and certain things you shouldn't talk about."
There is one way in which he's willing to reveal himself, though. On True Blood, like most shows where actors have to be naked a fair amount of the time, female actors wear a patch, a kind of thong with its sides cut off, and male actors get a sock to cover their private parts, for propriety's sake. "I rock the patch," says Paquin, "even though I don't pretend to think that on the 18th hour of shooting anyone on set gives two flying whatevers that I have my tits out."
Skarsgård, on the other hand, refuses the sock, in his scenes with both men and women. "I don't want a sock around it, that feels ridiculous," he says. "If we're naked in the scene, then I'm naked. I've always been that way."
The evil of Eric hasn't been able to come between Sookie and Bill, at least not yet. Paquin doesn't even mind the vampire bites she endures: She describes them as like "having your flesh ripped open by two really large needles." To most of us, that might sound terrible, but not to her. "I've had 10 piercings in my ear, and a bellybutton pierce, and a tongue ring," she says, counting them off. "My tongue, as it turns out, is not really appropriate for piercing, because the webbing is too close to the front, and the bottom barbell kept hitting against my teeth—clank, clank, clank. And it gave me a lisp, which isn't great as an actress." Plus it must have hurt, too, right? "Well, that," she says. "I don't have a problem with that."
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