Sam Trammell is best known for his portrayal of Sam Merlotte on HBO’s True Blood. The shape-shifting thespian took to reddit to answer questions about the last season of the series and his upcoming role in The Fault In Our Stars. You might be able to get a question in with the actor if you hurry.
What made you want to be an actor? Was it one moment, or did it slowly sneak up on you?
I was in college at Brown University and a friend of mine suggested I audition for a play for “the new plays festival” which featured graduate student plays. They needed a lot of actors. I auditioned and was cast, second semester senior year, in a play called “Stupid Kids” which has since been done off broadway. Believe it or not Angela Robinson was the director, she cast me, and she now happens to be a writer on True Blood. The craziest of coincidences and serendipity. To a certain extent I owe her my career. I did two more plays at school and then moved to New York. That was it. A lot of time and hard work later, here I am.
Just have to say you are one of my favourite characters on the show and can’t wait to see your new work! How do you feel about this being the last season of True Blood?
Yeah, it’s really sad. I already feel nostalgic for the show, even though we’re still working on it! Every day is the last time you’ll work with this actor, or the last time you’ll work on that set. Saying goodbye to the crew and other actors will be the hardest thing. I just saw James who was our original script supervisor for the first 3 seasons (which seems EONS ago) and I hope to work with a lot of these people again on other projects.
What was your favorite scene in True Blood to film?
Some of my favorite scenes were the ones where I got to play my brother Tommy. He was sort of the dark side of the family. And had such a specific walk and rhythm of speech. It was fun to do something that was a bit of a stretch for myself.
What was the most emotional True Blood scene to film?
I can’t say what it is, but it’s one I recently did this season and it was really emotional for me. Subtly, but powerfully.
Since you’re often required to be nude in True Blood, do you feel a need to stay fit and hit the gym and get your Schwarzenegger on?
If only I could get my Schwarzenegger on! I’m just trying to get a passing grade out there—and it TOUGH AS HELL. You know, the camera DOES add 10 pounds and that includes 10 on the gut. YES, I exercise a lot when I know I have to take my shirt off—and by the way, that’s the issue. Shirt off or naked—all the same to me. It’s the gut. It definitely requires exercise and dieting. Really cutting down the calories. And I don;t even lift weights or do tons of sit-ups. We all have a six pack, it’s just about clearing away the fat to see it (not that I was ever fully successful at that). So yes, tons of work to do when you have to be naked and a lot of being “Hangry” (so hungry, you’re angry).
Did you enjoy shooting the Faults in our Stars movie, and did you read the book before before you shoot this movie?
Yes, I read the book before we shot. Wow, such a complex and beautiful and existential piece for YA. But maybe I just don’t know my YA genre. I was so moved by it and yes, it was a daunting task, the idea of playing a father who has a child with cancer. I was such a fan of Shailene Woodley and Laura Dern before met. And the script was so good it was a no brainer. We really did have a great time together. This cast and the producers and director and John Green too, we all bonded in a serious way. We had a lot of dinners together in Pittsburgh and basically hung out whenever we could. I love Pittsburgh. It reminds me of a bigger Charleston WV where I grew up and consider home. Very very special project and I think everyone should see it.
Your character had to cry a lot in The Fault In Our Stars. As an actor, how do make yourself be emotional and cry?
I DID have to cry a lot. It was so specifically stated in the book and everyday on set Josh Boone, the director, said “looks like you gotta cry again”. So there was a little bit of pressure (A LOT). On “The Fault in our Stars” it really wasn’t all that hard—or at least it was easier than other times. I have two little 2 1/2 year old boys. I was playing a father to a child with cancer. That in itself is a pretty good setup. My heart goes so soft anytime I even think about my boys. In fact, I’ve become hyper sensitive to kids in general and I get emotional pretty easily when it comes to them. Even total strangers. I did some research of course and read blogs about kids who had had cancer or are still living with it. One boys’ blog, Max Mikulak (www.maxsRingOfFire.org), was particularly beautiful and heartbreaking. I feel like I got to know his family. Anyway, there are a lot of sad and inspiring stories out there and so it wasn’t hard to get there. I started in the theater in New York and I feel like every play I did I had to cry or do an accent—and 8 times a week. So, that was pretty good training. I’ve never used the peppermint spray that you can ask for on set. And maybe I should have, but I come from that hard headed only do it if it’s real sort of mentality. Making yourself cry for projects always demands some kind of new head trick. The same visual or memory only works a couple times at best. So, you have to keep inventing. And sometimes you don’t have to do anything. Like when I was doing a lot of plays, your body would get used to that moment that you had repeated dozens of times and it would just happen.
Sam, who are some actors you grew up admiring and who are some younger ones you admire today?
THE PERFORMANCE, for my generation of actors in New York, in the early 90s, was John Malkovich’s portrayal of Lee in the American Playhouse production of Sam Shepard’s “True West” in 1984. He’s so outrageous and beautifully over the top. We all wanted to be him. Try to find this piece. Gary Sinise is in it with him. It’s so entertaining. Who else . . Tim Roth and Gary Oldman in some of their early movies in England. Gary in “Sid and Nancy” is insane and also his stuff in “State of Grace”—another big performance. Of course, Sean Penn. Basically anything he’s ever done.
Channing Tatum claims he is from near New Orleans, so he is perfect for the role of Gambit (a very popular X-Men character from New Orleans). As a native of New Orleans, would you be interested in competing with him for the role?
No doubt Channing Tatum is a badass, but of course, YES, I’m a way better choice! I was born right there and all of my family is from Louisiana. I know how to eat and drink there and understand the rhythm of a day and the lilt of the speech. Some things you just have to live in to really know. But hey, respect, I wish him the best. I know he’ll kill if he gets it.