You could be forgiven for overlooking Alexander Skarsgård’s dastardly, bloodsucking sheriff and bar owner Eric Northman in the first season of hit vampire show True Blood.
All the attention was on the fizzing chemistry and red-hot sex scenes between Bill Compton and Sookie Stackhouse – real-life lovers Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer.
But as season two of the bloody brilliant show kicks off, Alexander has finally been given a storyline to sink his teeth into, involving his mysterious maker and telepath Sookie – and it’s just what the sexy Swede has been looking forward to.
With the pilot filmed before Twilight fever hit, Alexander – like the other stars – signed up with fingers crossed that a show based on Charlaine Harris’ The Southern Vampire Mysteries books would be a success.
But he admits that he’s always found vampires sexy. “There’s the attraction, but at the same time you know a vampire is an animal who’d kill you in a second,” he muses. “People are fascinated by the knowledge and the experience and the wisdom. You can only imagine what someone who has been around for 1,000 years has seen.”
Alex, 33, is in the perfect position to judge whether something’s hot: he’s been voted Sweden’s sexiest man no less than five times. “My friends loved that, they took the piss out of me,” he shrugs. “But Eric’s hair is a wig, and I look quite different on the show to how I am every day, so I don’t often get recognised.”
The accolade helped Alexander land the part of Lady Gaga’s boyfriend in the steamy video for her ‘Paparazzi’ single, who has wild sex with her, then tries to kill her by pushing her off the balcony of a stately home.
Alex got the job thanks to his friend Jonas Åkerlund, a fellow Swede, who directed the video. At first he was reluctant to star opposite the rubber-loving pop princess, but the kinky idea behind the video sold him on the project.
“When I got the call asking if I wanted to play Lady Gaga’s boyfriend, I said if it was walking down a beach holding hands I wasn’t interested. But when Jonas told me that I’d try to kill her, I thought it sounded fun.”
Alexander admits, however, that the idea of such a passionate romp between the sheets only came about on the day they were filming, when he and Gaga started talking about the concept of the video.
“It was pretty intense doing that. It kind of happened on the day,” he explains. “We talked about it and we wanted it to be beautiful and passionate at the beginning so it would then be a bigger deal when he pushed her off the balcony. Lady Gaga is great – really intelligent, smart and hard-working.”
For the past five years, Alexander has been splitting his life between Los Angeles and his home in Sweden (plus he spent seven months in Africa filming military drama Generation Kill).
Going home to Sweden, even for a few days, helps keep his feet firmly on the ground: “Whenever I get a window I go home and hang out with my friends, even if it’s only for a couple of days. All my old friends still live there. They all do normal jobs. I find it refreshing. It gives me a different perspective after the craziness of Los Angeles. LA is fun, but it’s not real.”
He’s more anxious than most to avoid being sucked into the world of showbiz craziness, having retired from acting once before at the tender age of 13.
His father is Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård (Bootstrap Bill in two of the Pirates Of The Caribbean films) and Alexander first started working in TV and movies when he was just eight.
But he landed a surprise hit in Sweden with coming-of-age movie The Dog That Smiled (Hunden Som Log, 1989) and his world changed.
Instead of being an entertaining hobby, acting suddenly became a serious job and he was a teenage star – and he didn’t like it.
“It’s tough to be famous that young,” he says. “I got quite a lot of attention for a film, and it made me self-conscious, and I couldn’t deal with it. Thirteen is a weird age, and on top of that I was reading about myself in newspapers… It made me really uncomfortable. I didn’t like being looked at all the time.”
It wasn’t until after he’d done military service in Sweden when he was 20 that Alexander started thinking about being an actor again. He ended up at theatre school in New York to give the profession one last try.
“I spent seven years doing other things, hanging out with my friends and not being famous. I went to college, did military service and lived on a beach,” he says. “Then I decided to try being an actor again one last time before I dismissed it. I went to theatre school and decided ‘Damn, I really miss it’.”
Roles in Zoolander and Generation Kill followed, as well as a string of jobs in Sweden, while his most bizarre part was that of suicidal transsexual Geert in low-budget movie Kill Your Darlings (2006).
He’s also just finished filming a remake of ultra-violent 1970s movie Straw Dogs. He plays Charlie, a character involved in a controversial rape scene in the original film.
But True Blood fans can look forward to season two, when club Fangtasia boss Eric finally comes into his own and makes a play to get Sookie away from Bill.
Alexander says: “A lot of people come up to me and say, ‘You’re the bad guy’, but I have to defend Eric – there’s so much more to the character than that. He’s not the villain or the bad guy, there’s more to the character than the antagonist.”