"True Blood" star really wanted to be a physicist

Sun Jun 13, 2010 11:22pm EDT
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By Simi Horwitz

LOS ANGELES (Back Stage) - Sam Trammell planned to become a theoretical physicist, but was forced to lower his sights while studying at Brown University after realizing he was not a genius.

He certainly never imagined himself an actor, let alone one who plays a shape-shifter on a hit HBO show about vampires. The series is "True Blood," created by Alan Ball based on the novels of Charlaine Harris, and Trammell is enjoying the unexpected development.

"I wanted to stop thinking," he says of his career switch. "I wink when I say that. You have to be smart to be a good actor. But acting took me out of my head and back into my body."

He admits that early in his career, he had a condescending attitude toward television. He would not have considered auditioning for the small screen. But he now thinks TV writing -- especially for cable -- is far superior to most film writing, calling our current era a golden age for television.

His featured role on "True Blood," now in its third season, is a career turning point. Appearing in Eugene O'Neill's "Ah, Wilderness!" with New York's Lincoln Center Theater was pretty good too, he admits. After all, it earned him a Tony nomination. But his current gig has a huge weekly audience that crosses demographic lines.

"It's a totally original show, a character drama set in a fantastical world. Usually genre dramas focus on genre, but Alan Ball is a genius and he writes about character. He is wired into the Zeitgeist and bridges genres. The show is campy, funny, serious, sexy, bloody, and it's a gothic romance. And Alan casts really well. With the exception of Anna Paquin, the cast is largely an eclectic group of unknowns, which makes it easier for the audience to buy into this world."

For Trammell, the challenges of the show are twofold: the nuanced complexity of the writing and mastering a Louisiana accent. He is, curiously enough, a New Orleans native and grew up all over the South. Nonetheless, he says, he hasn't spoken with a Southern accent in 25 years: "It's not new to me, but I have to go back to it and put it on and then have to keep it up."

MAKING THE ROUNDS   Continued...