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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Stephen Moyer discusses the startling success of 'True Blood'


Stephen Moyer discovered New Orleans on a couple of days off from recent location work for "True Blood" in Clinton, La., but he'd savored an exotic picture of the city since childhood.

A banjo-playing uncle (who "was one of those people you called an uncle, but he wasn't really my uncle," Moyer said) left England in the 1980s to pursue his dream of living in New Orleans.

"It was an exotic thing," Moyer said, during an interview in Clinton before getting into the grey makeup that helps make him "True Blood's" Bill Compton. "My mom and dad met singing in a 'trad' jazz club, so they'd always wanted to come out here."

Moyer made two trips into the city back in July, the first by himself to wander the streets of the French Quarter with a camera, the second with fellow cast and crew members (including on- and off-camera love interest Anna Paquin -- the couple recently got engaged ) for a dinner at Galatoire's.

"I did all of it," Moyer said. "I walked around free, happy, kind of going around the streets smelling the vibe."

Moyer came to town as "True Blood" continued its startling climb to hit status for HBO.
He'd been back home in England when the first season of "True Blood" launched, and missed its gradual build into a pop culture phenomenon.

Episodes this season, however, are averaging 11 million total viewers - counting repeats and on-demand plays -- and the cast was treated like rock stars at the July fantasy Comic-Con convention in San Diego.

"I was in London from the time that we finished last year to the time it went out," Moyer said. "I was in London for the whole lot of it, and it hadn't shown in England, so I had no clue. It wasn't until I came back to start shooting the second (season when) I kind of began to realize just what it had become."

Based on a series of novels by Charlaine Harris, "True Blood" is set in the fictional Louisiana town of Bon Temps in a time when vampires have been mainstreamed thanks to the availability of synthetic blood.

Early on, the core of the show's appeal seemed to be the romance between Moyer's vampire and Paquin's mortal Sookie Stackhouse, but Moyer and others involved with the show have noticed a much broader audience than a show merely riding the "Twilight" trend could muster.

"The other thing that I absolutely did not expect is the demographic (diversity of the audience)," he said. "I think I thought it would be a youngish show. I didn't think it was going to be a teen show, but I thought it would be 21 or 22 to 35. I thought that would be our obvious demographic.

"I go out in the street and I get spotted by septuagenarian men, and they come up and tell me stories about the whole family coming to their house on a Sunday. Literally, three generations of men and their wives and their children and their extended family, and I think that's what the show has done."

To back up his anecdotal observations, Moyer cited a June 16 report on the TV-ratings-mining website www.tvbythenumbers.com that noted that "True Blood's" premiere averaged more viewers-per-household (1.51) than every other show on cable that week - aside from the pro wrestling on "WWE Raw" (1.55).

"It's got drama, but it's got fun," he continued. "It's completely escapist. I think people who don't have HBO go to other people's houses to watch, and I think that explains the DVD sales, which are insane."

"True Blood's" first-season DVD package has moved more than 1 million sets and is the year's best-selling TV box.

"I do get recognized by the most disparate group," Moyer said. "You can't put a lid on it at all. It's extraordinary."

By Dave Walker | NOLA.com | Link to article


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