Photography STEVEN KLEIN
Stylist KARL TEMPLER
If there’s such a thing as a mainstream cult, then the furorsurrounding True Blood, the HBO series nominally about a group of very good looking but nonetheless marginalized vampires living—or maybe not quite, since they are undead—in the swampy backwoods of Louisiana, certainly has all the earmarks. Based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries books by CharlaineHarris, True Blood was developed for television by Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball, and since debuting in 2008, has amassed an audience as ritualistic and rabid as the blood-sucking inhabitants of Bon Temps, the fictional town where much of the show’s supernatural happenings occur. The attraction? True Blood is gothy, frothy, sexy, and soap-operatic. It’s filled with thriller-like twists and turns and plenty of camp-horror violence and elaborately photographed nudity. But it’s also smart, self-aware, and novelistic in its storytelling, and watching the action unfold, one gets the sense that the fangoria might in fact be more than it seems, which it very well might be—vampiric even, as it bites from and nips at a variety of B-movie tropes and American historical themes. But the great strength of True Blood as a piece of work is while it encourages such second-level analysis, it is never overwhelmed by it; there’s always enough adrenaline, drama, skin, and blood to keep even the most demonic of beings who’ve been roaming various astral plains for centuries grounded in the graphic glory of the moment.
As Eric Northman, a millennium-old Viking vampire who favors silk robes and keeps busy with his work as both area sheriff and as a budding nightlife impresario, 34-year-old Swedish-born actor Alexander Skarsgård has been thrust to the center of the True Blood maelstrom. Skarsgård’s Northman is by turns complex and mercurial, a pansexual opportunist—humans, vampires, men, women, one Estonian cardiologist-turned-pole dancer, and a fairy have each whet his appetite in turn—whose club, Fangtasia (complete with its underground restraint chamber), is a popular local pickup spot for interspecies trysts, and has become a metaphorical safe space for the fanged-and-forever-not-so-young.
Though Skarsgård appeared briefly as a male model undone by an errant cigarette in Zoolander (2001), his big break in America came in 2008, when he co-starred in the critically acclaimed HBO miniseries Generation Kill as a U.S. Marine sergeant heading up a battalion during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. (In a more zeitgeisty moment, he also appeared in Lady Gaga’s video for “Paparazzi,” a meditation on the destructive nature of fame, in which he played a hulking blonde lover who hurls her over a balcony.)
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