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True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten on Playing Dumb-Yet-Lovable Jason Stackhouse

When we last saw him, Jason Stackhouse, as played by Australian actor Ryan Kwanten, was in a bit of a bind. He'd just killed Eggs, Tara's boyfriend-slash-possessed-by-the-devil buddy, and even though his pal Andy Bellefleur‎ stepped in to take the blame, Stackhouse was surely headed for some (more) trouble. Kwanten, who got his start on the Australian soap opera Home and Away, excels at playing the dumb-yet-lovable Stackhouse and was psyched about the story line. "That was quite an interesting place to start a season — with the fact that I’ve just killed a man and then trying to deal with that," he told us yesterday. We chatted with him about what's in store for Jason, playing those crazy sex scenes, and perfecting his Louisiana accent.

How much of the new season have you seen?
We had our premiere last night and they showed the first two episodes. I think it was probably the strongest start to a season that we’ve had, so it was really nice to see that. The first episode is pretty action heavy, and I thought the second one was slightly more emotional-driven. But I think just with the layers they’ve created in the first two seasons, they’ve wasted no time in getting back up to speed.

Jason was left with a big cliff-hanger last season after killing Eggs. When did you find out the rest of the plot?
I didn't know what was going to happen until I started filming this season. I like to not know things, and then sort of read the scripts and be, more often than not, surprised by where they’re taking us. But yeah, that was quite an interesting place to start a season, with the fact that I’ve just killed a man and then trying to deal with that. It’s a pretty big thing, especially for someone with Jason's, er, capacity.

Yeah, he's not the sharpest tool. It must be a challenge to embody that kind of, well, emptiness.
I try not to be too self-aware in the way that I want to play him, because I think that would take a lot of the comedy out of it. As much as he’s self-absorbed, he’s not self-aware.

A lot of Jason’s role is to be the comic relief of a dark-ish show.
I love the fact people find it funny, because obviously it is. There's a certain amount of comedy to it, but again, I never sort of go for laughs when I’m shooting it. I have to try and play the reality of the situation, because if I start believing in myself that it is funny, then it takes the scene in a different light. It can almost make it a caricature. We're sounding very analytical and actor-ly this morning!

Okay, then let's talk about your abs ...
No, this is good. Let’s stick to the acting.

Boo, okay. How did you initially get cast? You weren't well known in the States at that point.
[Creator] Alan Ball had actually seen a film of mine called Flicka, so he approached the casting directors and said he'd like me to read for the role, and I did, and I presume they liked what they saw, and I was the first one cast on the show. I think that we were relatively slow out of the gate, and then sort of built up momentum by the end of the first season. And then the second season, was just ... we weren’t expecting that kind of response. It just sort of grew from week to week.

In the very first scene of the series, you're having extremely graphic sex. What was that like? Were you nervous?
There was definitely a bit of trepidation, but I actually felt more nervous for the lady I was acting opposite. In fact, whenever I film a sex scene for the show, I kind of offset any of my nervousness onto her, and we sort of go into it as a partnership. The crew is 80 to 90 percent male, so it’s going to be far more difficult for the girl. I figure if we go in as a team, that way we can get a great scene in a way that is comfortable for both of us.

Last season Jason's sex scenes faded somewhat, because he got into God. Will those return this season?
No, this season’s even less! Jason finds a girlfriend.

One of our commenters, laurachattopadhyay asks: Is it difficult to get in and out of the Louisiana accent? We'll add: People have complained that the show doesn't always do it justice.
I sort of pride myself on doing all that stuff by myself. And I've got no one else to blame but myself if something fucks up. What’s great about the Louisiana accent is the fact that it’s not just a Southern accent. Even within Louisiana itself, there’s at least four or five different accents outside of the Cajun one, and so I just sort of honed in on one of those, and then sort of put my own spin on that, and I think that’s what most of the actors have done, too. The vampires aren’t necessarily from that area, so they don't have to worry that much. Someone like myself was born and bred there, so it has to be pretty close to spot-on or it’s not going to make sense.

One of the great developments of last season was the new friendship between Jason and Andy.
I know! Our characters come from totally different ends of the spectrum — they’re almost polar opposites — so I think when you put two people like that together, great things can happen. Because Jason’s so spur of the moment, wears his heart on his sleeve, whereas Andy’s so conservative and by the book that it created a kind of two-man show. And we spend a fair amount of time together, too, in season three, just because Andy’s covering for the fact that I was the real killer. He sort of takes the credit for it, and then also the glory. And I’m obviously not too happy with the fact that I have to deal with it, and then also with the fact that Andy’s stealing my glory.

The, um, bluntly named NewYorkTittie asks: Please tell us your diet and exercise routine. Your body is hotter than one of Maryann’s parties.
Deftly worded there. Rather hilarious. [Long pause.]

So?
I was hoping to change the subject enough to get away from that.

Oh, okay. Modage wants to know if you'd rather be on Mad Men.
Absolutely not. It's a fantastic show, a really good show, but I wouldn't want to be on any other show but this one. I love the people I work with; I love everything about it. I think it’s like apples and oranges: You really can’t compare the two

Allisoniskiller is wondering how Jason's going to atone for killing Eggs.
That’s a really good word, too. “Atone.” Well, at first he’s sort of taking advice from Andy, and Andy wants him to go back to his rambunctious ways and just pretend like everything is normal, and the more that Jason tries to act normal, the harder it is. He can’t ... his virility is sort of taken from him; everything in his life is caging in on him because he can’t have the same amount of normality. Meanwhile, Andy is stealing his thunder by being sort of the local hero, and eventually that angst eats away at Jason and he confronts Andy.

I read that you're really into surfing and were once bitten by a shark.
Yeah, I actually just got out of the water. And yes, I was bitten by a shark when I was 13. I made the front page of our little local newspaper. But it was a type of shark with more gummy than razor-sharp teeth. My arm was fine, but I’ve still got scars on my hands from the shark.

On that note, the rest of the commenters want to know if you're single and if you'll marry them.
[Pause.] I think I could have some pretty fun answers to those.

But you won't.
[Long pause.]

Photo: Charley Gallay/Getty Images