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James Frain, True Blood’s Most Demented Vampire

True Blood’s newest vampire, Franklin, played by British actor James Frain (of The Tudors), is a delightfully sick bounty hunter who falls madly in love with a human, Tara (Rutina Wesley). He’s a possessive fellow with a sadistic streak, and we spoke to Frain about playing him for laughs, his weirdly long fangs, and what the heck a British vamp is doing in Louisiana.


Did you know, initially, what this character was all about?

No, they didn't actually tell me much at all. I went to an audition and we had a couple of scenes — the first meeting with Tara at the bar, and then one of the scenes in which I'm really distraught at her trying to get away, and really, there was nothing about it that seemed like it wasn't just a torturous romantic story. It wasn't until I started filming it, and started getting these scripts coming in, when I was like, Oookay! All right! I guess I'm a psycho.

Did that make you happy?

I thought it was fun. I’d have a line like, "Look how fast I can text!" And I mean, that was just hilarious. I hoped that the audience would be onboard for the ride. It seems to be working, and I'm happy that the humor came out.



How did they actually film that texting scene?


It’s weird, the vamp-speed stuff you have to do in super-slow motion, and then they speed it up. If you do it in regular speed, it doesn't work. So have to keep super still and do it very slow.



How did you and Rutina Wesley (Tara) do that without cracking up?


I did laugh. And they just kept filming until I stopped! That scene was so much fun, and that had to come through as part of it.

Your fangs are scragglier than other vampires'.

Mine were crazy long. I don't know why — that's the design choice they made, but I don't know where it came from. I went and got them fitted, and they handed them to me, and I didn't know until I got to set that everyone else had smaller fangs than I did. I was like, Does this mean I get to go to the front of the lunch queue? And you sound really silly indeed when you talk with them. I think they were trying to make some comment about the character.

It almost feels like Franklin and Tara are a good match.

If there's any feeling of that, then that's fantastic! He’s just trying to get her to wake up and see that this is the relationship she's been dreaming of! [Laughs.]

You seem to specialize in playing bad guys.

Yeah, creepy characters. I've definitely been there before. But this guy's pretty special. I didn't really think of him as a vampire, but more of as this abusive boyfriend guy who happens to have gotten bit and has strange sleeping habits.

Your next big project is The Cape, a new superhero show on NBC.

Yes. If you can believe it, I play the bad guy.

Did you know that you were going to use your own accent in True Blood?

Normally, I like the idea of doing the American thing, and I was assuming that they'd want to go with the Louisiana accent. But I got this note saying, "Do it in my own accent," and I thought, That's kind of fun. But no one ever mentions it in the show, no one ever says, “Are you English or what? What the fuck's going on with you? You sound weird!” But I like that no one mentions it; in this world of vampires, and werewolves, and heinous, incredible things, one of the strangest things to me is that there's this British guy, and no one talks about how he’s a Brit! By virtue of its own simplicity, it becomes the weirdest thing about the show.

Photo: Patrick McMullan