Photography by Mr Paul Jasmin. Styling by Ms Arianne Tunney
Words by Mr Christopher Goodwin
Style determines character for Mr Sam Trammell in the hugely popular vampire series True Blood. Soon to go into its fourth season, True Blood - adapted from The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Ms Charlaine Harris - is set in the small, steamy Louisiana town of Bon Temps. Sam Merlotte, Mr Trammell's character, runs Merlotte's Bar and Grill, the local watering hole, where much of the show's gothic, hypersexual, blood-drenched action takes place.
"I was born in Lousiana, and I have family down there," Mr Trammell tells me in an accent that betrays none of his Southern roots. "So when the show started, I went back and I saw the kind of guys that I thought Sam would be like and those guys wore Wrangler jeans and cowboy boots. Any man wearing those things could be Sam Merlotte. Sam is a guy that doesn't think about clothes. He's got jeans, boots and the shirts and that's pretty much it." Except when Mr Trammell takes them off, which happens surprisingly infrequently.
That sartorial earthiness and lack of fuss suits Merlotte, one of the more grounded of the show's characters. He's a good man, if mysterious, protective of Sookie (played by Ms Anna Paquin), for whom he holds a torch, fending off
mortal danger from vampires and other supernatural aggressors, while succumbing to many and varied sexual temptations.
Sex has been a key ingredient of True Blood's success. The audience for the show in the US has grown every season and now tops nearly five million viewers an episode. The New York Times recently described True Blood as "a saga of natural and supernatural desire... [where] the Freudian underpinnings of a stake through the heart have never been more vivid."
"We are always put in very tight clothing," says Mr Trammell, sipping coffee in a Fifties diner in East Hollywood late one afternoon. "I wear a couple of sizes smaller than I usually wear. Everybody has to peel off their clothes at the end of each day - not to mention that you have to stay in ridiculous shape because of all the shots without your shirt on."
Mr Trammell - who has pale blue eyes, straggly light brown hair and beard - is wearing jeans, a dark grey T-shirt and a brown, hooded coat. He's a touch smaller with more delicate features than I'd expected. He's fun to be with, easy, engaging and quick to laugh. He stays "in ridiculous shape" by surfing, which he does up and down the Californian coast, and through yoga and hitting the gym. "And watching what I eat. It's hard to do all that. I'm not 22 any more."
In fact he's 40 and expecting twins in a few months with Ms Missy Yager, an actress he has been with for eight years. "You're looking at a terrified individual," he says, taking another sip of coffee. "I know it's going to be great, but it's daunting." Mr Trammell and Ms Yager, who has been in Mad Men, met when they were living and working in theatre in New York.
Mr Trammell did not intend to be an actor but an astrophysicist, although he did play in bands, including a Rush cover band in his teens. He went to the prestigious Brown University, in Rhode Island, which was where he first got involved in drama. "I went in a physics major and came out a semiotics major," he says. The change from astrophysics to semiotics and then to acting seems as radical as his character's shapeshifting in True Blood, in which Sam Merlotte can instantly turn into a dog or a lion, should the need arise. Mr Trammell can't reveal much about the forthcoming season but he foresees even more intriguing changes for Sam Merlotte. When we speak, he's got a few more weeks of the shoot left; True Blood is mainly shot in LA, with some exteriors in Louisiana, and a lot of it is shot outside at night.
"I did a naked scene this year - here's a teaser - at night, in freezing cold weather," he says. "It was one of the hardest scenes I've ever had to do as an actor, just to keep from shaking."
Hard to do, perhaps, but bloody easy to watch, I'm sure.
True Blood: Season 4 Trailer