‘Bastard Executioner’s’ Stephen Moyer on the Joy of Playing Evil Characters

Stephen Moyer’s “audition” for the deliciously demented and power-hungry Milus Corbett in FX’s bloody period drama “The Bastard Executioner” was a story of Hollywood lore with a modern twist.

Although he and series creator Kurt Sutter had never met in person, they followed each other on Twitter and, as luck would have it, were able to set up a casual meeting when they both were in London.

“Nobody from FX knew we were meeting; the casting director who was working on it didn’t know,” Moyer said of the clandestine rendezvous that landed him another series regular role after he’d barely had time to pack up his fangs from HBO’s “True Blood.”

Now sporting a salt-and-pepper Caesar cut and stubble, Moyer spoke to Variety about his love of sword fighting, scheming characters, and changing his look and accent from his days as Bon Temps’ first vampire.

Why did you want to do another series?

It was totally the plan to rest for a bit. But I couldn’t not do it. It’s just a great part. I just felt like I can’t turn it down — you know how rare these opportunities are. In 25 years of doing this, there are been two or three occasions where something amazing comes along and I’ve missed a couple of them and then I really regretted it.

And you don’t have to use an American accent.

No, which is lovely! I’m really enjoying it. What I felt would be interesting for me — coming from my background, which is Essex and a working class accent — is that with his gang, he is where he’s from. When he’s trying to build himself up, he’s a little bit better spoken. He’s more articulate. He’s pronouncing his T’s a bit more. He’s trying to be what he’s not. It’s quite hard to do, especially when you’re filming out of order.

Why do you like playing Machiavellian characters? Fans of “True Blood” know that your character, Bill Compton, had this trait as well.

Everyone who does this will tell you they like to do them because it’s much more interesting. I don’t know why they had to come to me, but I’m much more interested in ordinary people who have screwed up somehow and are trying to make the best of the circumstances or are lead down the path that they normally wouldn’t go down.

My character is ambitious – ruthlessly ambitious. He wants the crown and he wants to live the life. I don’t know if we will see in this season or in future seasons where he came from.

You know the character who’s the executioner’s kid? I’m fascinated by him. And not because he’s a beautiful boy, but I really love the kid himself called Ethan and the character called Luca. There’s something about what he’s seen with his dad that I’m trying to sort of bleed into Milus’ life.

There’s going to be some nasty stuff along the way. It has been toned down. There was some darkness they had to take out. When I read it, I was like, “Oh wow. That’s hardcore.”

Did you enjoy that you got to change your appearance?

Very much so. I came onto “True Blood” in 2007 having just done a gig (“The Starter Wife”) where I had to be beach blonde. They wanted Bill to be dark and there were a few years there with the hair. But it’s been nice for me. I’ve been like, “I want to look different, I want to sound different. I want to be physically different.”

And he’s gay.

He is sexually ambiguous. I’d read it in the pilot. I questioned Kurt about it – not that it would have stopped me at all – but I wanted to know for my character. He said sex is power. I was like, “Aha.” He wants to control stuff. He wants to have everybody and everything and he wants all the toys in his stroller.

Did you have to train in sword combat?

I don’t get to do much in the pilot. My character gets to do a little bit later. It was actually one of the things that I was most drawn to. Me and the family ride horses at a ranch. So that aspect of it, I adore.

When I was at drama school, I took every exam I could possibly take in sword fighting. I became a teacher as well, post drama school. I love it. I’m a total [wuss] when it comes to real fights, but I love choreographed fights. I love the dance of it. I love that everything has an action and a reaction. I do all my own sword stuff, which is lovely.

The Bastard Executioner” airs at 10 p.m. Tuesdays on FX.

More TV

  • Jussie Smollett

    Jussie Smollett Seeks to Stop Appointment of Special Prosecutor

    Jussie Smollett’s lawyers filed a motion on Friday to overturn the appointment of a special prosecutor in his hate crime hoax case, arguing the appointment would expose the “Empire” actor to double jeopardy. Smollett is seeking to reverse an order issued last month by Judge Michael Toomin, who faulted Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx [...]

  • Jimmy Pitaro ESPN

    Dan Le Batard Tests ESPN's - and Jimmy Pitaro's - No-Politics Policy

    Perhaps someone didn’t get the memo. Ever since Jimmy Pitaro took the helm of ESPN in early 2018, employees at the Walt Disney-owned sports-media juggernaut were made aware of at least one thing: The new boss didn’t want sportscasters yakking it up about politics any longer. But Dan Le Batard, the popular radio and TV [...]

  • Rick Rubin Spotify Secret Genius Awards,

    Seven Things We Learned About 'Shangri-La' and Rick Rubin from Showtime's Series

    Showtime’s documentary series “Shangri-La” insists it is not a biographical documentary on uber-producer Rick Rubin, and it’s not meant as a four-hour advertisement for Rubin’s legendary Malibu studio, after which the four-part series is named … but it feels like a little bit of both those things. “Shangri-La” is primarily filmed at the studio where [...]

  • Elaine Paul - Amazon Studios

    Elaine Paul Exits as Hulu CFO to Join Amazon Studios

    Elaine Paul has departed Hulu after nearly six years as chief financial officer to join Amazon Studios as CFO/VP of finance. She started at the ecommerce company’s studio division on July 15, reporting to Dan Jedda, VP of digital, advertising and corporate development finance for Amazon, a company rep said. Paul’s move to Amazon, first [...]

  • Major Expansion Planned at Belfast Harbour

    Major Expansion Planned at Belfast Harbour Studios, Home of ‘Krypton’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Belfast Harbour Studios in Northern Ireland, where the Syfy series “Krypton” is shot, is set for a major expansion. The Warner Horizon-produced series has occupied the full site, which currently has two stages, since it opened in 2017. The landowners had signaled that they wanted to expand, and Variety has learned that plans for the [...]

  • Rola-Bauer-and-Tim-Halkin

    Bauer, Halkin Ride in Tandem

    ROLA BAUERExecutive managing director, Studiocanal TV; managing director, Tandem Productions “I simply wanted to continue creating great stories,” Bauer says about why she resigned as exec VP of international fiction at Germany’s ProSieben and founded Tandem. The Canadian had worked at Alliance Intl. in Paris before moving to ProSieben. “I loved doing it from a [...]

  • Shadowplay stars

    Tandem's Berlin-Set ‘Shadowplay’ Goes for Edge

    Period dramas rarely break the fourth wall, but for Mans Marlind, the creator-writer-director of Tandem’s “Shadowlands,” “we don’t have to be traditional. Especially with period, you need to be even more modern, to avoid the stiffness of costume drama,” he says. “Television’s development [is] creating audiences that are smarter, meaning we can be more and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content