On True Blood, an encounter with Alexander Skarsgard’s vampire anti-hero often ends in bloodshed. Luckily for Alon Freeman , who sat down for a face-to-face with the Swedish-born actor and spokesman for Encounter by Calvin Klein, the new men’s scent boasting a heady blend of cognac, pepper and rum, Skarsgard is less volatile in real life, although he does feel that a whiff of mystery goes a long way.
Encounter by Calvin Klein is quite sexy and masculine. Is that why they chose you to represent the fragrance? Would you describe yourself that way?
I’m still waiting for them to tell me it’s a joke and they’ve actually found the real guy. I don’t really think about myself that way at all.
Style-wise, Swedish men seem to favour a cleaner, sharper line and a darker palette. What is it about the culture that inspires that look?
In general, Swedish style is minimalistic. In the thirties, forties and midcentury, there were amazing architects coming out of Sweden. I’m an expat [Skarsgard lives in California], but I grew up [in Stockholm] and so of course when I got my first home in L.A. I went out and got a very modern, Swedish-looking, [Richard] Neutra-style house. I think there is something about the old platitude that less is more. It leaves more room for imagination.
You started acting as a child with encouragement from your father [actor Stellan Skarsgard], then took a break before returning as an adult. Was there another career that you were seriously considering in between?
Architect – I was interested in that. When I was a kid, I also wanted to be a [soccer] player, but I realized early on that I had zero talent.
I read a quote in which you stressed the importance of preserving a sense of mystery as an actor. Is there something about the Swedish national character that cultivates mystery?
Growing up with an actor as a father, I saw how he handled [the job], so it seemed natural for me. For him, it was important to protect his family, to keep that private and preserve some kind of normalcy, not share everything with everyone.
Also, Swedes generally don’t show off. There are plenty of very rich people in Stockholm, but you aren’t going to see many pink Lamborghinis on the street or big fake mansions with fake Greek columns. It’s a culture where people don’t really talk about success. You strive for it, but it’s kind of frowned upon in Sweden to brag. Personally, it’s difficult for me to know why someone would care about what kind of sandwich I ate for lunch.
I’m not saying Tweeting is bad – it’s a great platform if you have an important message and a great way to connect, in terms of charitable causes or in politics. Just look at the Arab Spring. But I’m an actor. Do people care? I don’t – not about myself in that way. It’s so me, me, me.
This interview has been condensed and edited.