With the continued ascendency of "True Blood" — the show even got its own "Sesame Street" parody last year — Skarsgard's public profile is only likely to grow. This season, Eric is at the center of the key storyline that sees witches rob the vampire of his memory, and he must rely on Sookie's kindness as he struggles to rediscover his true identity.
"It's a completely different side of Eric," Skarsgard said. "He doesn't know who he is so all that baggage is gone — 1,000 years of resentment and bitterness, the whole loathing humanity kind of stuff is gone. But there has to be an element of danger there still. I didn't want him to become too much of a little puppy.... I don't think it would be fun to watch him for very long if he was completely emasculated."
As for the romance brewing between Eric and Sookie, Skarsgard has the support of at least one cast member. "I think it's great for the show," Moyer said, pointing out that there's no rivalry between the actors. "I went up to him at the beginning of the season, and I just went, 'Look, I want you to do your job to the absolute best of your ability and I will not be around when you have to do that stuff. I don't want you to feel like you're looking over your shoulder and there's me at the monitor going, "Get your hands off her!" 'It's absolutely not how we roll. Me and him are mates."
Although Skarsgard says he has no specific criteria in choosing parts, he prefers characters, like Eric, who are neither overtly heroic or villainous, he said. "When I watch a movie, I always find it more interesting when that line is blurred. That makes people real, three-dimensional."
He even endeavored to bring that nuance to the role of Charlie in the new "Straw Dogs," still remembered for a controversial rape scene involving his character. Skarsgard cautions that the remake is "quite different" but he said the real appeal of the project was the chance to better understand his own darker impulses.
"Look around," he said, "people are always, big shiny white teeth, big smiles, everything's fantastic. How sincere is that? Are people really genuinely that happy all the time or is there something in there that they're trying to fight? I know I am. I think it's really good to acknowledge that there is that inner battle. Of course that's interesting exploring. It's scary and it's dangerous, but it opens up your soul."