They say the best actors are chameleons, which may be why most people don't realize that Ryan Kwanten isn't just Jason Stackhouse on True Blood - he's also the dude from Summerland that used to yell at Jesse McCartney, and the runaway farmhand on the Aussie soap Home & Away.
Now Kwanten steps into a new role - a rookie cop who's on a revenge mission - for the indie thriller Red Hill, which opens next week in the States. We sat down with the Sydney native to discuss all the projects - and all the fake blood.
True Blood must keep you really busy - why did you decide to make Red Hill on your hiatus? I loved the script - it was so tight, and it was pitched to me as a Western. I love Westerns, I watched all the old ones as a kid, and I thought it would be so cool to act in a new version of a cowboy-and-outlaw story. Then I found out the director, Patrick Hughes, who also wrote the script - he's an amazing commercial and short film director, but this is his first feature. And I found out he mortgaged his house to make this movie, that this is his one big shot. And I thought, "Sign me up! I want to be a part of that; I want to be on the line with him!"
Red Hill was made in Australia - were you happy that you could go home to work? I was thrilled, but most people don't even know I'm Australian. You're one of the first reporters to even ask. And when I was doing Summerland, I read the part as an American, and the day we started shooting, the producer heard me speaking to the crew in my normal voice. He said, "Wait, are you Australian? Can you just be Australian when you're reading your lines? Would that be too much of a challenge?" I was like, "No, I think I can handle that."
Guns are a big part of the movie - but also a big part of Jason Stackhouse's world. Did you have to relearn how to hold a pistol as a new character? Well, the thing with Jason is, he thinks he's this marshal arts expert! He thinks he knows how to handle guns and shoot everything, when maybe, really he doesn't... I mean, can you think of a worse person to be on the police force? Or a worse person to take care of all those people in the commune? He shouldn't be doing it.
I think he'll do a really good job, actually. I think he can take care of those people and really care about them. You do? That's great. I feel like everyone thinks Jason is so dumb, but he's not! And he does care, that's why he's such a great character. He wants to do good things.
How was the fake blood different on Red Hill and True Blood? We go through more blood on True Blood than I've ever seen. Buckets and buckets of it, literally. You can see buckets of it on the set. They won't tell me what's in it, but it's so sweet when you taste it, and very sticky. I'm pretty sure it's made with lots of Caro syrup.
When did you realize you were famous? That's an interesting question! I didn't, honestly. We were filming in Louisiana and I had no idea, really, what was going on, until HBO told us the numbers. Just the amount of people watching the show. I was blown away, especially because I didn't notice anybody talking about it...
Because people watched it in secret. The first few episodes felt very risque... I can see that. But for us, because we were on set, altogether, we didn't even think of it as being so crazy. All the sex was just part of the world of the show; it's who these people were. And once you get past it, you really see who they are and why they're fighting so hard. And maybe why they're crazy. But I don't think Jason is crazy!
He's not. But Tara is. Maybe... yeah, I can see that.
Classic NYLON question: What music is in your trailer? Oh, this is the best question! I feel like I have to hype all my Aussie bands to you. Obviously Empire of the Sun, they're great. Temper Trap are fantastic. I like Portishead a lot, too.
What's next? Back to filming? No, I have to go to Australia and accept my GQ Man of the Year Award.
Are you serious?! Sorry, I don't mean to be laughing... No, it's okay, you should hear my dad. I mean, obviously it's an honor but man, I'm getting teased. And I have two brothers, they're going to be getting ammunition out of this for years.
Do you have to make a speech? I think I just have to do more interviews.
Okay good, so I have one last question. Good, hit me.
What the hell is a were-panther? You know, sometimes you have to just go with it. Maybe next season you'll find out more.