Stephen Moyer Likes Roles That Take Him Out of His Comfort Zone

comfort zone Below is another interview with Stephen Moyer which must have been done during the press jaunt for  his latest film, The Double where he talks about going out of his “comfort zone.  However, this interview has lots of interesting insights about Stephen’s role of Brutus, like how he came up with his character’s look, about Systema – the fighting that was used by the KGB, what he thinks about the Double’s writers, Michael Brandt and Derek Haas as well as working with Richard Gere and Topher Grace. There are also some interesting tidbits about Stephen like his interest in gardening.

Stephen Moyer is a man known for sinking his teeth into a role, holding on and making it his own, leaving an indelible impression on both the character and project as a whole. For the past four years, Moyer has bewitched us with his star-making turn as vampire Bill Compton in the acclaimed HBO series True Blood, something that Moyer does not take for granted. “The show is so extraordinarily successful. Who would have thought in Season 4 that we’d gain an audience? That’s so rare to do that in any chance. I don’t think The Sopranos ever did that. Sex in the City certainly didn’t do that. And obviously, that’s just HBO shows. So it’s extraordinary that we keep growing.”

Describing his success with True Blood as “a double-edged sword”, Moyer never forgets for a moment that it’s the show, and his fans, that have generated great interest in him, an interest that has put him in great demand with film projects. “The reason is that there’s that interest is because of my show. I love my show, and if it wasn’t for my show, there wouldn’t be that interest. I’ve got a 5-month window [to do non-True Blood projects]. A lot of people don’t have that long. If I can make stuff happen in that 5 months then that’s amazing.

Moyer is chameleonic in his performances and looks for roles that will allow him to embody himself into someone new and different.When I started out with Bill Compton, obviously being English, the American Civil War wasn’t something that I’m particularly oh fay (sp) with, even though there was English involvement. So I did some research into that. I also did a lot of research into the kind of accent we were going to use. The accent stuff is very interesting to me because it’s another part of your costume. You go on. You put your boots on. You do the hair. You put the make-up on and then you put the voice on. By doing that, I feel every time, a slightly bit more removed from “Steve”. . . I played an American character earlier in the summer who was more of a Californian sound. My straight American [accent], it tends to be more Connecticut sounding which is something that happens. Most actors when they come over [to America] they sort of end up with a kind of middle-class version of American. . .I did something a little more Californian which was a lot of fun.

Beyond accents (which while watching Moyer speak about them, you see his excitement with this aspect of a role), is his physical appearance. With so many people identifying with him as Bill Compton, Moyer is quick to point out that “I’m not from the South and I don’t have jet black hair really. It’s kind of quite fair under here. I’m actually not as pale as I am as Bill. And I’m not 173 years old. When I act in other stuff, I think I’m lucky because I don’t think I have the baggage that’s going to make me only be seen as that character. Certainly, I take that into consideration when I’m doing something like this [THE DOUBLE], when I’m building this character. Instead of wearing the bangs, I’m gonna wear my hair back and we’re gonna lighten it and we’re going to put lines under my eyes and we’re gonna put a scar here because I want to try to be as different as possible from the way people see me on a day to day basis.”

For his new film, THE DOUBLE, in which he co-stars with Richard Gere and Topher Grace, Moyer plays an evil Russian agent named Brutus going toe-to-toe with CIA operatives played by Gere and Grace. Describing Brutus as “a really well-written character“,”He’s a lot of fun. One is always looking for stuff that takes you out of your comfort zone and Brutus is quite dark and he sees an opening. I kind of played with the idea that he’d been in solitary confinement for let’s say 10 of those 15 years. So when somebody comes and there’s an opportunity for him to use his skills, it was a lot of fun and really well written and a nice sort of impactful character that I knew I was going to enjoy. Any possibilities to eschew the scenery! But I always like playing accents. One of the things that have just happened is that I just came off a job using my own accent and I hadn’t done it for years. I called my wife and I said, ‘I sound weird and I’m not sure I like it because it’s the first time I’ve spoken as me for so long.’ So it was quite odd because I’m always using an accent of some kind. Even when I was in England doing a lot of work. I played northern and different dialects. So [Brutus] was a really fun character to get my teeth into.

Part and parcel to the role of Brutus was the intense preparation in researching and learning about Systema – the fighting that was used by the KGB.[U]ntil the Cold War was over, the West didn’t really know about it and how it was used. It’s a form of self-defense in which you use the other person’s energy to disable them rather than expelling any of your own energy. It’s an incredible discipline and it was taught to Russian KGB. So I had to learn about that. . . One of the things that Toph and I talked about earlier is the fact that I think the reason people are attracted to the Cold War and the espionage and all that stuff is because it was a much simpler time. We could only try and garner information. We had to try and guess. So we sent all these spies in and they sent spies into us to find out what we are doing. Now we live in a world where hacking and emails and the internet, and all of that, we can find out so much more, so much quicker. This is almost a nostalgic way of looking at the world. So hence we find out about Systema. . . And Systema is even taught. I just came back from doing a film in Canada and one of the guys there does Systema with this Russian master.

Moyer is quick to praise English director Max Stafford-Clark for imbibing him with a learning technique or tool that informs each character and performance. Also used by directors for scene analysis and sometimes referred to as COW, “when you get a script, [you] write down everything your character says about everybody else that he speaks about. And you also write down everything that everybody says about you. And you write down everything that’s mentioned physically in terms of stage direction and stuff. Immediately, right there in three columns, you’ve got an awful lot about your character. You’ve got stuff about the way that he speaks, stuff about what people say about your character and you’ve also got stuff about the way you move. So, literally, without doing anything else, you have an immediate access point to understanding. That’s something I still do to this day.”

THE DOUBLE is written by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, the team behind 3:10 to Yuma, Wanted, 2 Fast 2 Furious, and even the family-friendly, Catch That Kid, with Brandt marking this as his feature debut as a director. According to Moyer, “Michael [Brandt] is a very incredibly educated man. . .very intellectual, interesting man. . .and I loved that. I love him. He’s very soft-spoken, he’s incredibly articulate, but most of all he allows you to create what you want to create. So I came to him with a bunch of ideas and he just said, ‘I love all that. Do all that.’ So, it was everything from the hair to the scar to the tattoos to the dialect that I chose, and all of that stuff. He’d come in and give me little tinkering notes of things to think about, but mostly he just let me create. It’s a lot of fun to be able to do that. I think [THE DOUBLE] is a really beautifully constructed film. So it was actually the two of them being attached to this film that made me read it in the first place.” So impressed with Brandt and Haas, Moyer was offered a part in their new film currently being shot in France. Unfortunately, Moyer had to turn them down, “literally because of time, no other reason. It goes all the way into True Blood territory and I can’t do it.”

But what about working with Richard Gere? Admittedly in awe going into the experience, Moyer explains his great admiration, giving his sister full credit.My sister loved OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN. We had a VHS tape of it that she used to watch a lot. And I absolutely loved that movie because of that. I think it’s a great film. There’s an amazing fight sequence where Richard’s kind of incredible. I still remember it where he’s going in and picking up his friend off of the…when he his friend gets the shower thing wrapped around him and kills himself. . . But also what people tend to forget about Richard is that he started out in musicals. And I started out in musicals. . . And I think he was the first person to play Danny Zuko in GREASE on stage. I played Danny Zuko when I was 17. So, I was peppering him with that. I wasn’t actually peppering him with American Gigolo and Officer And A Gentleman or any of those films. I was more interested in his musical theater career. We found out that we sort of got a common thread. And we’re not from dissimilar backgrounds either. That was really fascinating because I think he kind of started thinking back to things that he had sort of not thought about for awhile. We didn’t go into any West Side Story numbers during our fight [in THE DOUBLE], but we did have a little croon every now and then.”

Admitting that he doesn’t have “the most conventional of situations”, Moyer juggles tv, film and family “in the most proactive and most effective way that I can. When I got True Blood I knew that it would give me possibilities that I might not have got if I had stayed at home [in England] and so I fly back. I fly back to London every 5 weeks and I Skype with my boy every day. One does what one has to do. In the middle of shooting in Toronto, I had a 36-hour window and I went back to London and we went to paintball. And it’s what I do. I’m back here now, and the reason I’m leaving at the time that Amanda is going to make me leave today is because I’ve got to go and pick up my daughter from school. I take it as seriously as one can take it with the situation that I’m in.”

As the day winds down, Moyer is reflective and enthusiastically regales his acting roots. “I did a production of Tom Sawyer when I was about 10 and I used to sing in the church choir. My headmaster of the school that I went to. . .had seen me singing in the church choir and he asked me to play Tom in the school production of Tom Sawyer. I absolutely loved it and I did many many productions at school. Then about the age of 12 or 13, I started doing local amateur dramatics. When I was about 15, you have a thing called a Career Advisory Day where you talk to somebody who does that at your school. And he said to me, ‘What do you want to do?’ and I said, ‘I want to be an actor.’ Literally, I hadn’t said it up until that point. And he had never heard it up until that point. He went around to this office of filing cabinets trying to find how you do that. I’m from a very ordinary working-class background in a town without any actors in it, in a small town outside London. And there wasn’t anything. We went through all of these things and we didn’t know what to do. I was about 15. And I found out what you had to do and I wrote all the letters and I flipped burgers because you have to pay for your auditions. That’s how I got into drama school.”

Who knows what the future still holds for Moyer. True Blood is still going strong and there are more movie roles on the horizon. And it’s a good thing because he has no back-up plan to replace acting.I did do, on summer holidays, landscape gardening for a friend. Used to dig holes and plant flowers. I’ve got an awful lot of knowledge about greenery because of it that I’ve still retained. So everywhere I’ve ever lived there is a little pocket of ground with a garden in it that I keep going.” And what about tackling one of Gere’s most famous roles – Chicago’s Billy Flynn? “I’d love to do it. But there’s a couple of big parts that I’d like to play before Billy Flynn, so we’ll see.”



  1. Stephen:
    You should know that TrueBlood had a following even before it aired
    back in 2008.The following began on the HBO MemberCreated boards for
    the show,and continued after the first show aired!.
    I was one of the ones who actually called HBO up and told them
    what a wonderful show they had!
    I saw a preview commercial for the show and knew I was going to be
    hooked when I saw “FANGS” I’m a Major Vampire Lover!
    I love the show and I like your character.
    I love you,Stephen Moyer the person better.
    I’m sorry, but I’m an Eric Northman Lover.

    I’ll be watching TrueBlood till it goes off of HBO’s radar screen.
    I’m in for the LONG HAUL!!!

    Looking foward to seeing The Double.
    When I saw a preview clip I thought that it rememided me of the film
    “Three Day’s of the Condor” with Cliff Robertson,RobertRedford and
    faye Dunaway.

  2. A wonderfully inclusive interview, with all sorts of fascinating tidbits about Stephen and his background, his character in The Double, and how he juggles film, tv and family. He really works to stretch himself as an actor. I love that.

    Talking about Richard Gere and the stories they shared: “We didn’t go into any West Side Story numbers during our fight [in THE DOUBLE], but we did have a little croon every now and then.”

    Now that I would like to have heard.

    Thanks, Lynn, for providing.

  3. I know I posted to this previously. I guess my comment was lost in the ether. Will try again. I appreciate this inclusive, in-depth interview, and love hearing about Stephen’s background, his character Brutus in “The Double,” working with Richard Gere, and how he juggles film, tv and family time.

    Hope this post “takes.”

  4. Wow, great interview with Steve. Love his passion and enthusiasm! And I would be there opening night if/when he plays Billy Fynn.

  5. Very interesting, informative, and engaging interview. And well written! I loved reading about the “inside information” on Stephen’s role research, and also about the “systema” fighting skills.
    I remember Stephen mentioning the gardening interest before, and I admire him so for that. I also admire his priorities – especially his children. Whether near or far, he is involved with them all the time.
    This article is a reminder of why I am such a fan!

  6. Very interesting, informative, and engaging interview. And well written! I loved reading about the “inside information” on Stephen’s role research, and also about the “systema” fighting skills.
    I remember Stephen mentioning the gardening interest before, and I admire him so for that. I also admire his priorities – especially his children. Whether near or far, he is involved with them on a constant basis.
    This article is a reminder of why I am such a fan!

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