Heyerdahl plays perfect TV menace 0
Cast member Christopher Heyerdahl poses at the premiere screening of AMC cable channel's new series "Hell on Wheels" in Los Angeles October 27, 2011. (REUTERS/Fred Prouser)
Canadian actor Christopher Heyerdahl seems scarier than he used to be.
"You'll have to talk to my friends and family," Heyerdahl said with a laugh.
But they're all afraid to speak to us.
Nonetheless, through his TV roles on True Blood (which airs Sundays on HBO Canada) and Hell on Wheels (the second season of which currently is being filmed for AMC), Heyerdahl has perfected the concept of friendly menace.
In the fifth season of True Blood, Heyerdahl plays Dieter Braun, an ancient vampire and a chancellor of the so-called vampire Authority. Heyerdahl also plays a vampire named Marcus in the Twilight films.
In a memorable recent True Blood scene, Heyerdahl's Dieter was politely interrogating and calmly torturing Bill Compton (played by Stephen Moyer). Heyerdahl's demeanour made Dieter even more frightening, reminding us of Sir Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man ("Is it safe?").
"Oh nice, thanks -- Olivier, wow," said Heyerdahl, grateful for the compliment. "I'll take that whole-heartedly.
"It's that very reasonable menace. If you tell us what we need to know, everything will be fine. But we need to know right now and it's a very serious thing."
Heyerdahl, a native of British Columbia, applies some of those same acting principles to his role as "The Swede" in Hell on Wheels.
"What I find interesting about a character like The Swede is that the menace is there because we assume he is capable of anything," Heyerdahl explained. "Do we actually see him do anything? Rarely.
"But the more humane I play these characters, the more kind, the more generous, the more menacing they seem."
While TV shows such as True Blood and Hell on Wheels largely target adult audiences, it has been a unique experience for Heyerdahl to be part of the youth-oriented Twilight film franchise, and to witness the inherent mania surrounding young stars Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner.
"I'm playing a very tertiary character and I'm not of a certain age, meaning I don't think 13-year-old girls are screaming my name and hoping desperately to see me at the premieres," Heyerdahl said.
"So for me it was perhaps a vicarious pleasure. By association, I was able to enjoy the experience through a certain amount of anonymity. To see the younger actors working their way through that madness, and doing it with various shades of grace, it was a fascinating thing to observe."
In other words, it's kind of like being near the Beatles, but not quite being in the Beatles.
"Yeah, you're one of the studio musicians who pops in and nobody knows who you are, but you get to enjoy it, you're in the heart of it," Heyerdahl said.
"It doesn't happen that often, so to be a part of something like that is a lot of fun. Come November it will be the last chapter (with the premiere of Breaking Dawn - Part 2) and we'll see how it all finishes up."
Fortunately for Christopher Heyerdahl, his career is nowhere near its last chapter. For some reason, there's always work for scary guys.