samantha mimi nguyen

stephen moyer : the laterals


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An attempt to figure out Stephen Moyer is like trying to put puzzle pieces together that simply don’t fit. A more apt overview reveals that his work is an anomaly, a compilation of characters that land all across the spectrum. Most of us know him as Vampire Bill Compton from True Blood; but his impeded rise to stardom includes everything from musical theatre to romantic comedy. This cognitive dissonance - the disconnect between Shakespeare and satire - has one single connective: you want him to bite your neck.

A true-to-heart boy from Essex, Stephen got his start in school plays and local drama societies. After acuminating his craft at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, he spent the following years with a number of companies including the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Oxford Stage Company. His transition to film and television was evident, which earned him leading roles in a variety of genres such as romantic comedy, a mini-series, dramas, as well as a sitcom with a talking dog. However, there is no dispute Stephen Moyer is a craftsman whose command of artistry is fascinating to watch. Still, it wasn’t until his role as a vampire that appropriated him the notoriety.

For the entirety of seven seasons, Stephen played Bill Compton on True Blood, a confederate soldier turned vampire. Remarkably, he became the protagonist’s love interest both on and off-screen. After having dated from the show’s pilot in 2007, Stephen married his costar Anna Paquin. Never shy about the show’s fantastically hypersexual scenes, the couple professes that working together was actually great for their marriage. With a number of films and television shows thereafter, Stephen finally exchanges his supernatural attributes for mortality. In his latest project The Gifted, Stephen plays Reed Strucker, an ordinary suburban father whose children discover their mutant abilities. In association with Marvel’s X-Men, Reed Strucker takes his family on the run to join an underground network of mutants to fight against a hostile government. Uniquely complex and provocative, his performance is as good as ever.

Stephen Moyer has played some fantastical characters from this world and beyond; and yet somehow, he always finds a way to make them more than human.

Some may not know this, but you have extensive training as an actor. Tell us how you got started and what that experience was like for you.

I started singing at an early age in both my school and church choirs. My secondary school head teacher noticed me and started casting me in school plays. From then on, my poor parents became taxi drivers for my past-time. They drove me all over the map to community theatres all over the country. Up until the age of 16 I had only really done musical theatre, then a few friends and I started our own theatre company doing straight plays.

I was lucky enough to be accepted into the drama school of my dreams, as I got in before taking my final school exams, I stopped working and completely flunked them. Not cool. I’m still embarrassed of my cataclysmic shutdown. Especially as I am now trying to instill in my older kids how important education is. My second job out of college was a year at The Royal Shakespeare Company, and from there on a bunch of other stuff, but probably the best preparation I ever had was watching people drinking in pubs. 

What do you miss the most about theatre, if anything at all?

The creative process in the rehearsal; the sense of ‘play’ when there is no wrong way of doing something.

If you weren’t acting, what do you imagine yourself doing instead?

I would want a woodshed and a lathe. That and looking after the garden would just about do me, just pottering off to the farmers market to sell my tomatoes, sitting on my rickety homemade stool.

Looking back at your early career, what do you consider to be your most “cringe-worthy” moment?

There are honestly so many it is hard to find one moment, although doing a Doritos commercial incredibly hung-over in Hamburg springs to mind. I also did a coffee commercial incredibly hung-over in Stockholm. I’m sensing a pattern…

You were on True Blood for the entirety of 81 episodes. How were you able to grow and elevate your character Bill Compton throughout the years?

I became quite fascinated with the idea of being able to consume everything you could ever wish to such as language, music, books, and art knowing you have infinite time.

One of the beauties of working for someone like Alan Ball is that he very rarely makes you repeat anything, and when he does it’s for a very specific reason. It was an incredible journey watching this 173 year old man/vampire learn from his mistakes, or not, and try to rectify them, or not. Bill was a slow learner though; I’ll say that for him…

Working with such an incredible cast and crew, including your beautiful wife Anna Paquin, must have been so much fun for you. Share with us one of your favorite behind-the-scenes moments.

In the 2nd season a literal ‘meat tree’ effigy is created outside of Sookie’s house. That season was so wild and insane to shoot. I remember us all howling to the full moon out there. I have pictures of us howling….

Carrie Preston and I were having dinner the other evening and laughing at the craziness of a 70-person orgy that happened there one evening in 30 degree F temperature with everyone naked at 3am. Anna and I paid for a food truck to turn up that evening for all the naked revelers. It just so happened to be an In-N-Out truck…

Aside from playing a vampire in True Blood, you were also attacked by vampires in the film Priest and turned into one in Ultraviolet. Since you are pretty much an expert when it comes to the “undead,” what is one piece of advice you would give a vampire?

Practice with your teeth - those who don’t look foolish.

Needless to say, True Blood has quite the cult following. What was it like having such a devoted fan base? Do you have any stories from Comic-Con you can share?

I’ve shared the crazy stories of signing boobs and such before but meeting fans who have your actual face tattooed on their body is quite surreal (a couple of whom out there I have become quite close with).

Taking a departure from the world of vampires, you’re new series The Gifted tells a story about mutants based off Marvel’s X-Men. Tell us more about this project.

The Gifted is a Fox/Marvel show set in the X-Men Universe about a family that learns their children have the mutant gene. They have to give up everything to protect their children. They go on the run and join an underground mutant network.

It’s really about how these two families come together, the traditional nuclear one, and the collective family of mutant outcasts that we meet. The whole show is really about survival and how far you will go to protect your family.

Do you miss having super powers?

Not at all - you have to do everything three times on set! Seriously, I like the fact that my character in the show is normal and that his life is turned upside down by his children’s mutations. He and his wife (Amy Acker) are thrust into this world in which they are the ones that are different and not the other way around.

You’ve had the chance to play a variety of characters from Romeo, to a lieutenant, a vampire, a homeless beach bum, a prince, and the list goes on. Is there any role out there you’re still waiting out for?

I’d love to do some comedy at some point. I still want to do Macbeth, Sweeney Todd and La Cage A Folles in repertory. Alternating performances. Same cast and crazy stupid idea. I’d also love to do a Pixar movie. I had the great fortune of getting to tour the Pixar studio with Anna. It is extraordinary.

Considering your exceptional range, what attracts you to the characters you play?

Over the years I’ve been so lucky to play so many different roles. My favourite of the last few years was Corbett in The Bastard Executioner. I wish I’d had the chance to play him longer. For me, it’s mostly about the writing and the artistic vision of the creator. If I can see that what they are trying to do is interesting conceptually I will jump.

Of course, we all know your beautiful wife Anna also played Rogue in the film adaptation of X-Men. If things were to go down, who would win? Vampires versus mutants.

My wife is a badass. She could bench press me easily. She’d take me out in seconds.

Some would say we are living in a tumultuous world with real life villains out there. The Gifted makes some really relevant cultural commentary. What does being a hero mean to you?

Someone who puts others before themselves and champions people far worse off. It’s not about money, power, property, or material wealth of any kind; it is about humanity.