Since then, the actor has continued to take the more difficult road, choosing smaller indie ventures with complex, troubled characters, like Melancholia and The East. He finally has a giant YA blockbuster under his belt (which is, like, a rite of passage in Hollywood these days) with The Giver. He’s not the lead — that honor that went to newcomer Brenton Thwaites — but he plays his father instead, a character who is tasked with an unthinkable duty. Yet, the world of The Giver erases morality and sentiment, which allows Skarsgård to still be likable and sympathetic. Though, those icy blue eyes don't hurt, either.
What drew you to playing the father in the movie?
“I thought it was a pretty interesting challenge to play someone who is, in many ways, a robot — someone who doesn’t understand the concept of love or death or suffering. The things Father does in the film are horrific, but he’s not a monster.”
Can you talk about the vibe on set?
“The vibe on and off set was unbelievable. It was all because of Jeff [Bridges]. This project was his baby. He’s tried to make this movie for so long. I only had a few scenes with him, but he was always around the set. He’s the coolest guy. It was very inspiring to see someone like Jeff Bridges, an icon, be so humble and curious. He really wanted that collaborative process.”
Would you rather live in ignorant bliss the way the characters do in the movie, or would you rather suffer with knowledge?
“I think that pain and suffering helps us. It’s only through that that we can experience real joy, and real happiness, and real love, you know? To me, it’s a nightmare if you end up feeling nothing, if everything is just a flat line. You need those high and those lows to really appreciate life.”
Do you think it’s possible to create a utopia without sacrificing our freedoms?
“I would say so, yeah. I think it’s a question we need to ask ourselves considering we live in a big brother, surveillance society. How much freedom are we willing to sacrifice in order to feel safe? It’s important to constantly revisit and think about what kind of society we want to live in — especially what kind of society we want our children to grow up in.”
“Well, I can’t give anything away. There’s only a few episodes left, so I don’t want to say anything about the plot, but I can talk about how difficult it was to leave the show. I had to leave two months before the other guys because of Tarzan, which I’m shooting in London now. It was incredibly emotional, sad, and weird saying goodbye to, not only a character that I played for seven years, but to the show’s dynamic — the cast and the crew.”
How did you stay connected to your True Blood character, Eric? You’ve certainly managed to not define yourself by him.
“First of all, I was very fortunate that the two first jobs I booked in Hollywood were Generation Kill and True Blood. After a season of True Blood, I creatively searched for something different, something challenging, something I was interested in. All the characters I’ve played — between Melancholia, Disconnect, What Maisie Knew, The East or even The Giver — are very different from Eric Northman. I kept searching because I wanted to come back to the show after a five-month break excited to playing Eric again.”
Tell us a bit about what you’re doing in Tarzan.
“I’m playing Lord Greystoke. He lives in England with his wife, Jane. The story is obviously based on the novels, so he was born and raised in the Congo. He starts in England as a very well-adjusted British lord, but goes back to the Congo. It’s there that the adventure begins down. The suit definitely comes off pretty early on in the story. [Laughs]”