Interview: Alexander Skarsgard Talks ‘What Maisie Knew’ And ‘True Blood’ [Exclusive]
Alexander Skarsgard is arguably one of the most astonishingly handsome men the industry has to offer. Standing at a lean 6’4, he’s the perfect life-sized Ken doll, with his hair styled just so and his smile hanging in an affable manner. The minute he enters a room, it’s easy to see why the blue-eyed actor pulls viewers in to HBO’s True Blood week after week as alpha male Eric Northman. He quietly commands the attention of a room, and that’s certainly not something you can teach.
That said, being the image of True Blood and subsequently the central go-to guy for vampire-related fantasies, it would be a no-brainer for Skarsgard to lean on the status his good looks has brought him to flesh out a more predictable career. Luckily, Skarsgard has started to deviate from that path as he heads for material that lets the actor work from the bottom up on a character. It’s the same complex deconstructing his True Blood character goes through as the seasons pass.
In cinema, the search for those complex characters seems to be a never-ending and sometimes exhausting chase for Skarsgard. Last month he had the thriller Disconnect hit theaters, and later on in the month he’ll have The East opposite Brit Marling. In his latest film, What Maisie Knew, Skarsgard plays a clueless bartender, who stumbles into a father figure role after entering into a relationship with a rocker [Julianne Moore] who is too inept to balance her lifestyle with parenting her 6-year-old daughter Maisie. What Maisie Knew stays with its title character Maisie, as Skarsgard anchor’s her central journey. The story is more of a telling through the 6-year-old’s perspective of being tossed in the middle of a bitter parental battle. Through her relationship with Lincoln the film navigates the true meaning of family. For Skarsgard, it puts the actor in the position to play out a softer side of a character he doesn’t ordinarily get to play on True Blood, and the change is a welcomed one.
This time around The Inquisitr’s Niki Cruz sat down with Alexander and 7-year-old Onata Aprile to chat about his film What Maisie Knew, and True Blood.
THE INQUISITR: What are you drawing?
ONATA APRILE: It’s on the road of some crazy town.
ALEXANDER SKARSGARD: It’s crazy town!
THE INQUISITR: You and Onata had a great relationship in this movie. How did you two strike up that chemistry you have?
SKARSGARD: I had been attached [to the film] for four months. It was a role I hadn’t done before so it felt like an interesting challenge. I was excited about the project, especially with Julianne [Moore], she’s one of the greatest actresses we have. But it’s all about Maisie and it’s not easy finding a six or seven-year-old girl to carry a film like that. One day they called me and had a meeting with this young lady and sent me the tape. There was something very strong but vulnerable, and she had so much presence. We met up at David’ [Siegel]’s house and drew a castle. [To Onata] What were we doing that day, do you remember?
APRILE: We made a castle with a moat and then we cut out people and we made it so that they were standing up.
SKARSGARD: It was a big day, and a big moment, because I was very excited about this young girl, but I also felt like, “This is it.” It’s so much about the chemistry. You can’t fake that with someone that young. It’s got to be real. It took about three seconds and I said, “I think we’re good.”
THE INQUISITR: Your character had some great stories about eating crayons and paste as a child. Were those your own stories?
SKARSGARD: I did not eat paste as a kid, no [LAUGHS]
THE INQUISITR: What did you draw on for your character Lincoln? You were saying the role wasn’t like anything you’ve done before.
SKARSGARD: A combination. I started thinking about who he was. As far as inspiration, I have friends who are kind of similar to Lincoln. Guys that are very, very sweet. I see him as someone with so much potential but not very driven or ambitious, who doesn’t take care of himself. He doesn’t care about anything in life. He’s content until he meets Maisie. For me that’s his journey. He’s forced to take care of her and she’s so wonderful. For the first time in his life he’s taking responsibility and grows a lot from doing that.
THE INQUISITR: What was your favorite scene?
SKARSGARD: I had a lot of fun. In the film I like the moment where we cross the street. It’s the two of us, and Onata looks so tiny. They don’t know each other at all and he’s going to walk her home. It’s such an awkward moment. He doesn’t know how to deal with kids. He starts to cross the street and there’s a light and she’s like, “No, no we have to wait.” He’s starting to figure out, “Oh okay, I have a kid with me. I should probably take more responsibility.” It’s the seed of what became their relationship. We had fun with the turtle, and the monopoly scene was fun.
THE INQUISITR: Did you ever get to go on the boat?
APRILE: Yeah. It was really windy.
SKARSGARD: But it was kind of nice because the sun was setting, and it was late in the day. It was very pretty.
THE INQUISITR: Did this role give you any additional thoughts on the nuclear family?
SKARSGARD: More about being there for your kids and doing the right thing. I’d rather have divorced parents that are happy then parents that stick together for the kids. I don’t think it’s good for a kid to grow up in a household where there’s no love between the parents. I rather have two parents that are happy but with a new partner or on their own. It’s absolutely about letting go of your ego, because it becomes an ego battle with the parents, and I think a lot of people can relate to that where it becomes ugly and infected.
THE INQUISITR: As True Blood gets more and more popular there’s opportunities to do other projects like this. What are you interested in?
SKARSGARD: It’s all about challenges and doing things that don’t feel repetitive. It should be and hopefully it is a creative profession. The creativity is in the discovery. You first sit down with a script and you start to think about the character, “Alright, this is something I haven’t done before and I don’t quite get who this guy is, but I’m curious and I want to discover who he is.” If I don’t feel that when I’m reading it, it’s not a fun process. If I have all the answers then there’s no discovery there. Reading Maisie after I shot True Blood for six months was great because I thought, “Oh man, this is something very different.” There’s got to be some question marks. Moving forward I want to keep pushing myself and to find those challenges, and to learn and grow as an actors.
THE INQUISITR: Do you ever worry about getting burned out? You have The East, What Maisie Knew, and Hidden coming up.
SKARSGARD: Yeah. It’s pretty intense right now because we’re still shooting the show and I’ve been traveling around with all these three films to the different film festivals. I don’t get enough sleep but I’m genuinely passionate about all three projects. I just had the most amazing time working. Come on, you get to hang out with Onata! It’s not bad.
THE INQUISITR: Do you feel like the True Blood books are following your character’s arc well?
SKARSGARD: At this point I think we’ve kind of gone on a different path. It’s based on the world and the characters, and in the beginning we follow book by book. The season would be based on that book, and the third season would be based on the third book, but now it’s taken on a life of its own. I think it has to because otherwise what’s the point of watching the show if you can just read the books? It has to have its own identity.
THE INQUISITR: There’s this terrible rumor going around that your character on True Blood is going to get killed off. Is that true?
SKARSGARD: I obviously can’t say [LAUGHS]
THE INQUISITR: What do you hope audiences will take away from this film?
SKARSGARD: I hope that they’ll enjoy it. I don’t want it to be, “this is the message” because then that feels so preachy and didactic. I hope they’ll connect after three seconds and feel that Maisie is such a wonderful and strong character. I think it’s a beautiful arc for someone who tries to navigate through all this madness of grownups acting like idiots.
THE INQUISITR: A real story about real people.
WHAT MAISIE KNEW HITS THEATERS IN LIMITED RELEASE TODAY.