Unlike his True Blood character, Sam Trammell can wax philosophical on both astrophysics and the band Rush alike. Not impressed? He can also discuss all of the above in French, enfoiré. But these days, the actor (a.k.a. diner owner/shape-shifter/nice-guy-with-a-past Sam Merlotte) is more preoccupied with genetics: as in his still-gestating twin sons with actress-girlfriend Missy Yager. Vulture interrupted Trammell, who’s busy nesting at home in L.A., to talk to him about his True Blood plotline, his castmates’ drinking habits, his days partying with Peter Dinklage, and what to do if a serial killer cocoons you in Saran Wrap.
Congratulations on completing season four. What was that wrap party like?
This year a lot of the cast had already gone off to their respective countries. But last year was crazier. There are definitely people on the show that like to have a good time. [Laughs.] Me, one of the writers, [Alexander] Skarsgard, and [Ryan] Kwanten — we’re not shy of doing shots, let’s put it that way. You know Kwanten … both those guys … I don’t wanna speak out of turn, but they probably wouldn’t mind.
They drink like champions?
Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Kwanten, yeah — for sure.
You grew up for a bit in Louisiana. Do you think the accents on the show are, you know, overblown?
I think everyone does a really good job. When you talk about the Louisiana accent, the people in the north have different accents than the people in Lafayette, which are a little more Cajun. Everyone sounds a little bit different, but everyone sounds a little bit different in the south.
That was very diplomatic of you.
This season, we’re getting the feeling Sam just can’t trust his brother, Tommy. True?
[There’s] a huge deception and a huge violation of trust. Tommy is definitely in deep water. He’s got Maxine [Hoyt’s overbearing mom], but Tommy’s running out of friends in town. And Tommy’s trying to cheat Maxine out of her land, so he’s really burning a lot of bridges right now.
Will he outright turn evil?
I don’t know if I can really answer that specifically. We’re going to find out what price you pay when you shape-shift. That’s going to be a big issue. There’s a lot of mess that Tommy has already created that I have to clean up, and there’s potentially a lot more mess. He’s kind of a loose cannon.
And what of Sam’s new relationship with Luna?
Luna has a very scary ex-husband and father to her child [and a werewolf]. Sam is going to have a major conflict with the werewolves.
What if Sam just shape-shifted into a werewolf?
[Long pause.] I wonder if I could. Probably so. I like that.
Why don’t Sam and Sookie really share scenes together anymore?
Just because of our story lines, there’s so much to resolve in hers and mine. Though we do come together. There is some — I won’t say “resolution,” because I don’t wanna imply how well it goes or how not well it goes — but we do get together to talk. I feel like if we end up doing a few more seasons, the writers may run out of story with that and come back to me. Sam will always have a real connection with Sookie, and he’ll always love her.
How bummed were you that the show didn’t get any Emmy nominations this year?
Well, you know, it would’ve been really nice to get an Emmy. I think it’s tough because it’s a genre show. I mean, our show is much more than a genre show, because it deals with social issues and it’s really well written — it’s Alan Ball. And production wise it’s really, really rich; we shoot about four pages a day. But I think the fact that we have supernatural beings on it, maybe that’s not popular with Emmy voters.
Then how do you figure Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage got a nomination?
Peter Dinklage is one of my oldest friends from New York!
What were you both like back in the day?
We were ridiculous. We were out of control. It was a fun group of actors. You’d do plays, and when you’re done, you go out and meet friends. You wake up late in the morning, and you stay out late at night. Dink is one of the funniest, driest people that I knew in New York. And he was always that way: witty and kind of sarcastic in a great way.
Before you did theater, you were a musician in high school. Tell me about the Rush cover band you were in.
It was probably because of Neil Peart, the drummer — one of the most badass drummers ever. I remember going to a Rush concert, and we just sat behind Neil Peart and watched him play drums. I was also in an Ozzy Osbourne cover band, mostly because we had a guitarist who could play Randy Rhoads’s [parts].
Have you run into Ozzy in L.A.?
I saw him at a newsstand at, like, two in the morning. I didn’t say anything to him. I was coming off of some event. I remember being a lot tipsy and seeing him. So if it didn’t happen then, it’ll probably never happen.
Is it true you went to Brown after high school to be an astrophysicist?
When I was in high school, I was really into string theory and superstring theory and read Scientific American. It’s fascinating … but it doesn’t really get into the math of it. It’s all math. I was good at math, math was my thing — but I was not nearly good enough to be an astrophysicist. I was way outta my league. I realized this very quickly.
So you went to the Sorbonne to study.
It was crazy because it was assumed that I was fluent in French. And I was not. Everything was in French! I was studying semiotics and, like, a lot of French twentieth-century philosophy, deconstructionism: Jacques Derrida, Foucault. Psychoanalysis. Film theory. A lot of pretentious theory. The opposite of what I do now — completely not preparing myself for life.
But you must kill at cocktail parties.
You know what? If there’s actually a French speaker there, I can speak in French and do pretty good. But it doesn’t matter anymore: I’m about to have twins. I’m absolutely terrified, and they’re boys, too. The fear level is pretty high.
Before True Blood, you did episodes of Dexter, House, Cold Case, Bones. Are you fascinated by death?
I think it’s more a comment on what people on TV watch. But it was pretty funny — I was in the second episode of Dexter. I was the first person to be wrapped up in Saran Wrap! My arms went numb after four hours. I was just, like, saying, “This is going to be over. You’re a guest star. Just relax, take a deep breath, and keep going.” That was my brush with death.
Soon after, you meet your maker again in 2007’s AVPR: Alien vs. Predator - Requiem.
I got to work with Alien, and that was one of the coolest things I’ve done. That’s the Alien from Aliens, the second Alien movie — the same three guys who have been operating that alien. I got to get killed by the Alien. That was one of the great moments of my acting career.