Up until now, the sum total of our knowledge of the True Blood vampire monarchy rested on the tiny, delicate shoulders of Evan Rachel Wood's Queen Sophie-Anne. But there's a new crown in town, and he rides horses! Russell Edgington, the gay vampire king of Mississippi (Denis O'Hare), kidnapped Bill with the help of his werewolf lackeys and has now made him a very suspicious job offer. O'Hare tells us what the ancient king really wants, why he loves Talbot and how he's different from Sophie-Anne.
Summer TV: Get scoop on all your favorite shows
TVGuide.com: Had you read the books or seen the show before signing on?
Denis O'Hare: I was definitely a fan [of the show]. I hadn't read the books; I've read them since and enjoyed them very much. I was a fan of Six Feet Under and was very sad when it ended, so I was not ready to switch my allegiance to another show. So I was like, "I'm not watching this True Blood." Then a friend got a bootleg copy of the first four episodes and by the third one, I was irrevocably hooked. When we finished the fourth one, I was running to the phone and calling [the cable company], begging them to give me HBO On Demand so I could watch the rest of the season immediately.
TVGuide.com: What did Alan Ball tell you about Russell going in?
O'Hare: He said he has a Southern accent, and is very charming, very powerful and very deadly.
Snoop Dogg sings about True Blood's Sookie
TVGuide.com: Tell me about the King of Mississippi.
O'Hare: Russell is the oldest vampire we've yet to meet, and is therefore the most powerful. His physical power is kind of staggering. At one point, a vampire attacks him and Russell twitches his shoulder and the vampire flies off him and hits the ceiling. He is beyond morality, an ancient Celt, 2,800 years old, a pagan. Certainly he's assimilated and evolved, but at heart he's a pagan druid creature, an earth-worshipper who's incredibly concerned with nature. Eventually, we'll hear his vision for the world, which is that humans need to step aside and let vampires rule because humans are squandering the earth and ruining their habitat.
TVGuide.com: What kind of relationship does Russell have with Talbot?
O'Hare: It's kind of a tragic relationship. They're people who deeply love each other, but they're caught in a cycle of bickering and fighting. Like any marriage, the things you are trying to do might pull you away from each other, and the things start to collide or drift away from each other. He just wants Talbot to be happy, and it gives him sleepless days that Talbot is not happy.
TVGuide.com: Why isn't Talbot happy?
O'Hare: I think it's in his nature. I think what attracted Russell to Talbot is that he's mercurial and moody. Theo [Alexander], who plays him, is Greek, very Greek. He can be very dark very suddenly. The things that attract you in people can be maddening later.
True Blood's James Frain: Who is Franklin Mott working for?
TVGuide.com: What does the King want with Bill?
O'Hare: It's so complicated. When we shoot, we sit down and say, "What do I know?" All Russell knows now is that the Queen wants Sookie; Russell wants to find out why. His eventual goal is to take over every state and become the first vampire president of the United States, and his first target is Louisiana. Russell wants to use Bill as a spy to gain insight into Sophie-Anne so he can blackmail her into marrying him. Along the way, he realizes that Sookie is actually the prize, and then he becomes obsessed with her.
TVGuide.com: Should we trust the King?
O'Hare: Who can you trust? The alliances are so fast and furious. I've been betrayed by Bill and Eric at least a couple of times by this point.
TVGuide.com: How is he different from the Queen of Louisiana?
O'Hare: Russell is good with money. Sophie-Anne is childish; she doesn't know how to wield her power. Russell knows exactly how to wield his power. Sophie-Anne is cruel is a sort of off-handed way; Russell is cruel is an incredibly calculated way. They're both violent and autocratic, but Sophie-Anne is erratic. There's nothing erratic about Russell.
TVGuide.com: What's his relationship with the werewolves?
O'Hare: They work for him. He keeps them addicted to his blood, and they become addicts. He's done this for 1,000 or more years. Two things: You don't have to demand their loyalty; you have it. They're addicted to your blood. It's like mind control. The second thing is that you have a daylight set of eyes. These guys are able to be awake during the day.
Russell loves the werewolves. To him, it goes back to something very ancient. In the ancient druid culture, there are two animals that are twinned: the raven and the wolf. Russell's real name is a word for "raven" in an ancient Celtic tongue.
Read our True Blood episode recaps
TVGuide.com: Will the King ever travel to Bon Temps and interact with the other cast members?
O'Hare: I spend a lot of time in Fangtasia. I never got to eat at Merlotte's, but I certainly visit the front porches of many people's houses.
TVGuide.com: What else can you tease about upcoming episodes?
O'Hare: Russell is like a snake; he's incredibly calm and incredibly charming... until he rips your f---ing spine out. My hands have been so bloody I've had to come home and soak them for a couple of hours.
TVGuide.com: What's the weirdest thing you've had to do on this job?
O'Hare: All the vampires get their nails painted with a mixture of brown and red; they paint the edges of our cuticles so that it feels like the blood is surging out of our bodies, and that does not come off easily. So if you work two days in a row, you have these bizarre, glowing, red hands, and it looks grotesque. I'll be at dinner with friends and I'll forget and go, "Oh my God."