Page last updated at 07:33 GMT, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 08:33 UK

Talking Shop: Stephen Moyer

Stephen Moyer is the latest British actor to take US television by storm as vampire good guy Bill Compton in the hit show True Blood, which starts on Channel 4 later.

Stephen Moyer
Moyer has played a vampire once before for a BBC show

With his flawless southern-US drawl and chiselled Hollywood good looks, it is a surprise that the 39-year-old hails from Essex, far from the fictional swampy Louisiana town of Bon Temps.

In the show, vampires have been drawn into the open after the invention of a new synthetic human blood substitute called True Blood.

Moyer's character - an American civil war soldier who turned vamp in 1868 - begins a love affair with telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse, played by Anna Paquin.

He is now engaged to his co-star who, in 1994 at the age of 11, became one of the youngest Oscar winners in history for her performance in The Piano.

The show has been a huge hit in the US already. Are your American fans still surprised when they meet you and hear your English accent?

However much press that Hugh Laurie does and however many interviews they see him sounding English, when they meet him in the street, they still can't believe it and that's the reaction I get.

It's lovely for me, you know, I have dark hair in the show and I'm pale and I have the dark sideburns so it's like a whole costume by itself. It's very enjoyable.

I would ask how exciting it was to be play a vampire, but you've already played one in the Channel 4 series Ultraviolet. Did that make it easier the second time around?

Well, the character I played in Ultraviolet loved being a vampire and the character this time is somebody who struggles with it. He struggles with the fact that he has to feed on humans.

He's trying to live a decent life and is very conflicted and tortured which is great fun to play.

True Blood
The cast is about to begin filming the third season of True Blood

At the moment, most vampires seem to be brooding and self-loathing - don't you miss the gleefully evil, sexy vamps who enjoy drinking the blood of young virgins?

Oh, there's plenty of them in our show. And as we get deeper into the show, we get to meet those vampires that you're talking about . And Bill, for all his attempts at being a decent - for want of a better word, human - is conflicted and he won't prey on the innocent.

But he's quite happy to find people who cause pain to Sookie and if he finds them, he will take them down.

There are quite a few parallels in the story with, for example, the American civil rights struggle. Many vampires are just looking for social acceptance.

Definitely, as soon as you get told that Alan Ball [Oscar-winning writer of American Beauty and Six Feet Under] is involved, you have to take it a bit more seriously. It's not going to be just some camp romp, although there is some of that.

But when I read it, I saw parallels between segregation between black and white and the issue of homosexuality and any minority that you want to bring to the table. Bill has gone through such pain and has lost his wife and children and you really do feel for him.

Do you have a favourite portrayal of a vampire - who is the definitive bloodsucker?

For me , the original Nosferatu is just so compelling and dark and weird. Our fascination with vampires didn't really start until after that and they made the vampire attractive.

I'm a massive fan of Gary Oldman and I also love Hammer and the new Swedish movie, Let The Right One In, was an extraordinary film.

There's a current revived interest in vampires which has surely helped True Blood's success. On the flipside, are you worried that people will start to tire of the craze?

You do think when will the zeitgeist end and when will people stop being interested, but I think that Alan has created so many ideas within our show.

The second season has already gone out in America and it was even bigger than the first season so there's going to be werewolves, there's going to be other supernatural characters.

Ultimately it's just a framework for telling a story. Our show isn't really about vampires, it's about human relationships and how people interact with each other.

Anna Pacquin
Paquin's character is initially ostracised for her relationship with Bill

You met your new fiancee on the show. Do you find it hard to switch off when you go home for the day?

We both love the show, Anna and I, and if we have a scene coming up, maybe we feel that we've seen before, we'll try and do it in a different way and we'll talk about work then. We always try and make it fresh, but when we've done that - it just becomes about life, not vampires any more. We met on set, everyone knows us on set and as a couple, but that's really where it stops.

You celebrate your 40th birthday later this week, have you got a big party planned?

I've got a bunch of friends coming out to a country house that I have rented for the weekend and we are going to make merry.

We've got an Indian Elvis playing and we've got some children's entertainers and it's going to be a riot.

I'm sure my 'hilarious' friends will be doing something with comedy teeth.

True Blood starts on Channel 4 at 2200 BST on 7 October. Stephen Moyer was talking to BBC News entertainment reporter Kev Geoghegan.

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