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

bastard executioner stephen moyer
Courtesy of James Minchin/FX

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.