Christopher Meloni has traded in his badge and gun for a set of fangs and one scary-looking stake.
The Law & Order: SVU alum makes his True Blood debut Sunday as the stoic, yet vicious Vampire Authority guardian Roman. The Authority already has its hands full with the threat of a civil war, so the betrayal of one of their own — Nora (Lucy Griffiths) had unsuccessfully tried to help Bill (Stephen Moyer) and Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) escape the council's clutches — will not make Roman a pleasant vampire to be around. Still, there may be a way for Eric and Bill to survive... but what Roman wants from them in return won't be easy.
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To get the scoop, TVGuide.com turned to Meloni to find out what kind of vampire Roman is, why Meloni choose True Blood as his follow-up to his years on the cop beat over on NBC and what's next for him. (Hint: Could there be a Wet Hot American Summer sequel coming? Please?)
Following such a long run on SVU, what was it about True Blood that made you want to join the series?
Chris Meloni: I don't think you could go farther afield from SVU than joining the world of Bon Temps and the whole True Blood werewolves, werepanthers, faeries and vampires running around. That was what it was. I really was just looking for something absolutely completely different than the world that SVU had.
Was it hard switching gears or were you totally game for it?
Meloni: No. From the moment I decided to move on and try different stuff I was completely open. I'm ready to roll and I was very happy that this was one of the first projects that came my way.
Tell us about the Vampire Authority and what their beliefs are.
Meloni: I found it interesting that they carry on the polarizing aspect of politics today, which I think there's a lot of set-in-stone fanaticism in politics today and in the world, whether it's Islamic or Christian or Tea Party whatever. So Roman is a guy who's absolutely certain about his beliefs, which is coexistence with humans. On the surface it seems reasonable and right, and yet people can get caught up in their own sense of power and rank and maybe they go too far with implementing their beliefs. So the Authority is the governing body of all vampires and they're trying to dictate how vampires will operate in this world in coexisting with humans.
What is Roman's role within the Authority?
Meloni: He's the political and spiritual leader, whether he's self-appointed or not, we never get to.
How will the Authority be dealing with the impending civil war between those who want mainstreaming and those who don't?
Meloni: Kill them all. Reasoning can only go so far, then you've got to resort to the stake.
Does everybody in the Authority agree with that view? Or is that just Roman's view?
Meloni: Well that's where the intrigue occurs. Who is pretending to be with me and who is not? It's the old adage of keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Roman is trying to figure out who he can trust.
Speaking of who they can trust, what does the Authority want from Bill and Eric and how will they feel about them killing Nan (Jessica Tuck)?
Meloni: Well, they're going to pay for that, Bill and Eric and they're going to do my bidding or they're going to get whacked. So I'm going to have them go out and they're going to find and kill the vampire who upsets the Authority more than anybody: Russell Edgington (Denis O'Hare).
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Does the Authority fear Russell?
Meloni: Yeah because he truly does have incredible strength as a vampire because of his age, so I think he's a natural enemy. On top of it, I think he's unstable. There's nothing worse than an old, psychopathic vampire.
Can the Authority even be trusted?
Meloni: I think that one of the beauties of what they have written and filmed is: "Question authority." From the outside it seems good, fair, correct, but you have to question power.
How will the Authority deal with Nora's betrayal in helping Bill and Eric since she's also an Authority member?
Meloni: Off with her head. Again, you try reasoning with a vampire and what do they do? [Laughs]
So Roman is just all about death, huh?
Meloni: But only to make sure that life continues. Coexistence is a beautiful concept. It's what human beings have tried to put together throughout history. Roman is on the side of good... in his mind. Any means necessary.
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Since you've gone in the complete opposite direction of SVU with True Blood, which direction will we see you go next? Any chance for some comedy?
Meloni: I just finished an independent movie and it's comedic, there's a little drama in there, called Small Time by Joel Surnow, who was the showrunner and creator of 24. And I'm actually going to be working I believe, we're still hammering out details, but I'm going to be doing another David Wain movie, which is who did Wet Hot American Summer, in July or August. And they keep sending out little hints that there's going to be a Wet Hot American Summer Part Deux, so we'll see. I'm up for anything!
True Blood airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.