While sipping an espresso at Fat Radish, a dimly lit restaurant on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Alexander Skarsgård speaks with deep admiration about An Iliad, an off- Broadway restaging of Homer’s Trojan War classic featuring a well-reviewed performance by his True Blood costar Denis O’Hare. “If you’re into acting-acting, this is just the thing for you,” Skarsgård says, sounding like someone who’s into acting- acting. He looks down at his watch, worried that he’ll be late for the performance at the New York Theatre Workshop. “Do you want to run there with me?” he says, as he gulps the espresso like a tequila shot.
Once outside, the 6’4″ actor races across Houston Street, towering over the other pedestrians on the sidewalk. “We shot What Maisie Knew in Chinatown, out on the street,” he says, referring to the upcoming family drama, in which he stars opposite Julianne Moore. “It’s life, it’s real, it’s chaos, but it’s lovely,” says the 35-year-old Skarsgård with an accent that has all but disappeared after years spent embodying all manner of characters. “Let’s go for it, the light is green,” he says. We start to run across Second Street, when a car grinds to a halt inches away from him. “Shit, I’m going to miss the show,” he says, as he checks his watch again, ignoring the car that nearly turned the famous Swede into roadkill.
With broad shoulders, dirty-blond hair, and blue eyes, Skarsgård looks like a superhero—or at least a Homeric warrior—which has served him well in his portrayal of Eric Northman, the darkly sexual vampire of HBO’s True Blood, a supernatural drama loosely based on Charlaine Harris’ popular Southern Vampire Mysteries book series. In Harris’ first installment, Dead Until Dark, Sookie Stackhouse (played in the series by Oscar winner Anna Paquin) describes Eric as a “hunk—kind of like the guys on the cover of romance books.” But Skarsgård brings more to the role than come-hither fangs and a set of killer abs. There’s heft to his character’s brooding, which is no easy task given that he’s playing a 1,000-year-old vampire in a fictional world overrun with werewolves, shape- shifters, maenads, and witches.
At the end of season four, which aired last summer, Sookie, who’d been playing a competitive game of emotional ping-pong with Eric and Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), suddenly removes herself from the show’s central love triangle when she breaks up with both of them. In the season finale, Eric’s protégée Pam (whom he turned into a vampire) hinted at the plot twist when she said, “I am so over Sookie, and her precious fairy vagina, and her unbelievably stupid name. Fuck Sookie!”
But that doesn’t mean the party is over. “Bill and Eric have to set aside their disputes and team up. They bond in the process; they have no choice. There’s definitely a bit of a bromance going on there,” says Skarsgård, smiling. “It’s a little like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” referring to the Wild West outlaws immortalized on screen by Paul Newman and Robert Redford.