You’ll know Alexander Skarsgård best as True Blood’s Eric Northman, effortlessly taking the accolade of “coolest on-screen vampire” amid a recent glut. Son of esteemed Swedish actor Stellan, he landed his first official acting role when he was seven, and since moving to Los Angeles in 2004 (via a brief stint at Leeds Metropolitan University), he’s been stealthily scaling the Tinseltown tree.
OutsideTrue Blood (and a memorable turn as Meekus inZoolander), he’s starred in the likes of Battleship, Straw Dogs (the 2011 remake), Generation Kill and Lars von Trier’s Melancholia. And he’s now the face of Encounter, the new men’s fragrance from Calvin Klein. He has openly admitted he’d like the role of Christian Grey in EL James’ raunch-fest Fifty Shades Of Grey, and he may be blessed with irritatingly good genes, but don’t write him off as another pretty boy just yet…
Did your experience as male model Meekus in Zoolanderprepare you for the Calvin Klein shoot?
Ha! There’s some Blue Steel in that poster, wouldn’t you say?
And would you be up for a cameo in the rumoured sequel?
I’m pitching it right now. I wouldn’t want to miss that. Well, I’m hoping they would do something like the scene with Hamlet’s father, and that Meekus will come back as a ghost - I mean, he’s definitely dead.
How did you approach the Encounter campaign?
This is my first big campaign, so I’m really excited. It’s a cool brand and one I was excited to work with. I’ve had some opportunities before now - I shot Hickey Freeman with Annie Liebovitz - but everything felt right about this one. Calvin Klein has never used an actor as the face of its men’s fragrance before, and it’s an honour to be the first. Steven Klein is an amazing photographer, and I thought the concept was really cool. It felt like something from the German expressionist movement. We shot a two-minute short film, so it felt more like making a movie. I’ve worked with [model] Lara Stone before and it was great to work with her again. We had a blast, and I got to be an actor not a model.
Your True Blood schedule sounds gruelling. Is your role as Eric Northman physically demanding?
We do have to be fit - there’s a lot of running around. But I don’t go to the gym six days a week or do any weird diets or anything like that.
So, you don’t get competitive in the gym with Ryan Kwanten (Jason Stackhouse) and Joe Manganiello (Alcide Herveaux)?
No, the whole cast is almost like a little family now. We’ve had the same crew for five years - we’re such a tight group. I’m very lucky, as I know that’s not always the case on other shows. There’s a lot of tension and stuff, but everyone’s supportive of each other. It’s great to get five months off and do other movies and projects because creatively I need to find that kind of motivation in discovering new characters. But it’s also great coming back after a long time. It’s like going back to school when we were kids - it’s exciting.
Are you conscious of being typecast as a sex symbol?
Absolutely not, and that might sound odd when I’ve just done the Encounter campaign. But in terms of finding characters and movies, it’s important to me to find real characters that have some depth. All the movies I did last year - Disconnect, What Maisie Knew, The East - there are definitely no pretty boys in there. One character I played was a little overweight, had glasses and grey hair. One guy had a beard, long hair and never showered. That’s not why I choose roles, obviously, but when I read a script and I connect or don’t connect with a part, I would never let that stand in the way. What’s the incentive to play someone who’s just good looking? I mean, how much fun is that? It’s none at all. You want that transformation, you want to go there; if you’re not willing to go there, then you’re not doing the character justice.
Italo Zucchelli, Calvin Klein Lara Stone, Rihanna, Kate Bosworth and Lady Gaga: you’ve worked with some amazing women - is there anyone left on your bucket list?
I’d love to work with Isabelle Huppert and Meryl Streep. Meryl is an amazing actress and she’s great to work with. But I’ve been very lucky because I’ve got to work with some phenomenal actresses.
Do you like getting dressed up for shoots or the red carpet?
Yeah, I like it because I usually wear jeans and a T-shirt. It’s fun because I don’t do it every day. So I like wearing a suit. I like to wear Tom Ford, Calvin Klein, Burberry - those are my favourites.
We love Swedish fashion - do you think British men can learn anything from Swedish style?
I like British style. To me, especially in California, there’s a lot going on in terms of fashion. It’s like more is more. Swedish style, in general, is minimalistic and clean. I like that, and that’s my style. But I can’t say that I’m going to tell somebody else what’s right and what’s wrong because that’s what great about fashion - that it is personal. You can’t go wrong with whatever you feel comfortable and f***ing awesome in.
How were your student days in Leeds?
Amazing! The reason I didn’t go to London was because there are so many Swedes there. I was 20 years old and I knew that I wouldn’t get the whole British experience if I went to London. It’s such an international city that I felt if went there, I would end up hanging out with all my school friends. I wanted to go somewhere real, that’s 100 per cent British. I went back to Leeds Metropolitan last summer for graduation and got my doctor degree - I’m an honorary doctor now. It was so much fun going back. It’s changed quite a bit. It’s more cosmopolitan with trendy hotels, and Jamie Oliver has a restaurant there now. But I love Leeds. I still follow the football team. It was just what I wanted - the real experience.