BILLY SUTER offers an interview with True Blood star STEPHEN MOYER, who plays the lead role in the ITV Choice series, Safe House, season two of which begins on the DStv channel (channel 123) at 8pm on Tuesday, February 6. Moyer plays the charismatic, yet impulsive, former police officer, Tom Brook, who runs a police safe-house. It stands at the edge of the sea on the rugged coastline of Anglesey, a wild and beautiful sanctuary. Here, in an interview provided by DStv, Moyer answers some questions about the show and more.
WHAT DID YOU LIKE ABOUT “SAFE HOUSE”?
Tom Brook, on the surface, is a solid, confident, happy man. But there is something lurking under the surface from his past that he has managed to hide.
Having been a police officer, he’s now helping to run a safe-house and has re-invented a new life for himself. That’s as close as he’s getting to police work.
He and his partner are also running a little sailing school and that’s paying the bills. But he’s almost like a sleeper agent. He’s living his life and he’s fine. Then he catches a piece of news that brings something from his past back into his life.
It’s almost like he’s been switched back on and he cannot stop himself from becoming active and alive again.
I was really drawn to the idea that we have ghosts in our machinery… that we think we are somehow cured from. And yet along comes something that changes perception.
DID YOU HAVE ANY SAILING EXPERIENCE BEFORE THIS SERIES?
I lived on a boat for seven years in Little Venice in London. Although, obviously, that was not a sailing boat. My one bit of sailing experience prior to this was in Italy in 2008, where I went out to sea in a catamaran with my two older kids, got caught in a gale and had to be rescued.
I was trying to get back to the shore and got caught in this thing. The kids were smiling and laughing and thinking I was totally in control. But actually we were careering out to sea.
A speedboat came and rescued us. The kids don’t remember anything about it so I’m quite glad they don’t recall this genius bit of parenting.
“SAFE HOUSE” HAS A STUNNING OPENING SEQUENCE.
Our director, Marc Evans, directs films so the opening sequence is not what you’d expect to see on a TV show. I couldn’t believe what we did.
I had a couple of sailing lessons, they put me in the boat with Zoë Tapper, who plays my partner Sam, and they set us loose… a drone followed us and filmed us as we sailed out to sea. We were in this beautiful, 1920’s, wooden sailing boat. That opening sequence is incredible.
YOU END UP IN THE SEA AT ONE STAGE, LATER IN THE SERIES.
Water has followed me around all my career. I had to fight underwater in full armour in Prince Valiant and dive into a sewage-infested sea in The Lord of Misrule. In Waking The Dead I played a murderer who was obsessed with water. There’s a lot of water. So it was no surprise to see it in Safe House.
THE SERIES WAS FILMED IN LIVERPOOL, MANCHSTER AND WALES, INCLUDING ANGLESEY. DO YOU HAVE A PARTICULAR PART HISTORY WITH WALES?
We filmed The Bastard Executioner in Wales in 2015. And 20 years ago my very first feature film was the one I mentioned earlier, Prince Valiant ,\\, with Katherine Heigl, Joanna Lumley and Edward Fox.
When I went back to Wales in 2015, my wife Anna (Paquin) and I moved the family into this cottage in a beautiful little village called Cowbridge. We brought my dogs over and had this extraordinary summer and fell in love with Wales.
So the fact we were doing the second part of this shoot in Wales made me very happy. My dogs have also been here again for Safe House. They speak fluent Welsh now.
WHAT DID YOU MAKE OF THE LOCATION FOR THE SAFE-HOUSE?
It’s pretty amazing. It’s been in the real owners’ family for about 110 years. It’s a foreboding place. But it doesn’t feel like that when you’re inside.
It has an almost 270-degree view because it’s out on this promontory and has its own cove.
Anna asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I said, ‘I want my own cove. Why haven’t I got one?’
YOU’VE MENTIONED YOUR OSCAR-WINNING ACTRESS WIFE, ANNA PAQUIN, WHO CO-STARRED WITH YOU IN “TRUE BLOOD’. WAS SHE ABLE TO COME OVER TO THE UK FOR FILMING THE NEW SERIES OF ‘SAFE HOUSE”?
Sadly not. She has been busy being a Mum for the last few years after the birth of our twins, but went back to work in 2016.
We never intended to both be working at the same time. But I’d already said yes to this role. And then she got two roles, which she really couldn’t turn down, back to back in Canada. So I just said to her, ‘There’s no way you’re not doing them. It’s complicated but they are both great parts. We’ll work it out and it’ll be fine.’
“SAFE HOUSE” COMES AFTER HUGE SUCCESS IN AMERICA AS BILL COMPTON IN “TRUE BLOOD”, BUT WHEN YOU ARE WORKING THERE DO YOU VANISH FROM THE RADAR OF UK PRODUCERS AND CASTING DIRECTORS?
I don’t know if that is the case, but it certainly feels like it! Out of sight out of mind, very much seems to be the case. I’ve been very busy and continually doing stuff in the US, but I’m always looking for things in the UK.
YOU ARE BASED IN LOS ANGELES BUT HAVE A HOUSE IN LONDON. CAN YOU FEEL AT HOME IN BOTH PLACES?
We do, yes. It’s a really strange thing. When I get to London I put my feet up on the coffee table, I make a cup of tea and I feel like I’ve finally arrived home.
then when I get back to America I put my feet up and make a cup of coffee and I feel at home. It’s so strange, I never knew I could feel at home in both places. But what I’ve learned is, I drink tea in London and I drink coffee in America.
WHAT IS THE RECOGNITION FACTOR LIKE FOR YOU WHEN YOU ARE BACK IN THE UK?
I had an incident the other day where somebody had just seen my Waking the Dead appearance from 2005, saw me in a restaurant and was freaked out. They thought I was a killer or something. They couldn’t remember how or where they had seen me but they reacted to me like I was going to kill their puppy.
Then you’ll have somebody walk past and can’t believe Bill from True Blood is sitting in a cafe in Anglesey.
I went out for dinner in Los Angeles with a friend and sitting at the table next to us were a rabid bunch of True Blood fans. It was lovely because they just couldn’t believe it. And the table next to them are like, ‘Who the hell is that?’ … they had no idea.
HAS THE ADVENT OF MOBILE PHONE CAMERAS AND THE ‘SELFIE’ CULTURE COMPROMISED PRIVACY FOR THOSE WITH ‘FAMOUS FACES’?
Yes. Anna and I are very private with the babies and my older kids. When True Blood was massive and still on the air, it was kind of nuts. People would come up to us in supermarkets or coffee shops, or wherever, all the time.
We’re fine with it as long as they don’t take pictures of the kids. Because they haven’t chosen this life. I’ll quite happily take as many pictures as people need. But not with the kids. It’s just as simple as that really.
IS IT GOOD FOR THE SOUL WHEN YOU GET BACK TO YOUR ROOTS IN ESSEX?
I miss it. When I go home I absolutely love it. I just don’t get to do it often enough.
When people ask me what I miss about the UK, I always say winding country lanes. Because everything is on a grid system in America. You just drive straight and then you turn left or right.
I miss Essex country lanes and the greenery, and all my friends down the pub in Herongate, where I’m from. It’s really great to get back when I get the opportunity. There are so many beautiful villages and places to visit and the people rock.