What do sex-crazed vampires and bored US marines have in common? They're both the subject of shows on Channel 4 which star Alexander Skarsgard. The Swedish actor, son of Mamma Mia! star Stellan, is set to become as big as his father, thanks to his roles in HBO series Generation Kill and True Blood, which are currently shown on Wednesday nights.
Alexander, who plays True Blood's Eric Northman and Sgt Brad 'Iceman' Colbert in Generation Kill, may be a rising star now, but the truth is he's already had one successful acting career. He retired back in 1989 when he hit the ripe old age of 13.
"I did my first movie when I was seven, and then I worked for about six years, doing movies and television in Sweden," he begins. "Then I quit."
"Back then, I did a movie for television, and it had a huge impact. Suddenly people recognised me wherever I went, and it made me uncomfortable.
"I didn't know how to handle it, and I was very self-conscious and stressed out about the whole situation. So I quit."
His father, Stellan Skarsgard, has starred in films such as Ronin, Exorcist: The Beginning, Good Will Hunting and Angels And Demons, so you might think Alexander would have been able to get some tips from his old man, but his celebrity preceded his dad's, who, back in the late 80s, was a jobbing actor in Stockholm theatres.
"He wasn't that big a star when I grew up. The thing that took him to Hollywood was Breaking The Waves, the Lars von Trier movie, in 1996. I was already 20 years old by that point," says Alexander. "Growing up, he was mostly a stage actor, and although he did movies as well, they were small Swedish ones.
"I've got younger siblings, and it was different for them; they did more of the travelling around the world, being on sets and all of that exotic stuff. For me, it was running around backstage at the theatre."
If you haven't already seen either True Blood or Generation Kill, they're well worth the time.
The HBO stable can generally be considered a mark of quality. The US broadcaster, owned by Time Warner, is responsible for some of the very best TV of the last 20 years. The Sopranos, Deadwood, Sex And The City, Six Feet Under, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage and The Wire. They're now some of the biggest-selling DVD box sets available, with millions of fans around the world.
Continuing the connection with The Wire, Generation Kill was also penned by David Simon and Ed Burns, creators of the aforementioned Baltimore-based series. They adapted the seven-part series from Evan Wright's 2004 memoir, written about his time with an elite Marine unit, the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The 1st Recon often spearheaded military operations, and despite not being deployed in the way they had been trained -- as a reconnaissance team -- they were extremely effective in breaking down Iraqi defences, making way for fellow soldiers on their way to Baghdad.
"Everything on the show happened in real life," says Alexander. "One of the actors [Rudy Reyes] is a real Marine, and plays himself on the show. We had two other guys from 1st Recon with us for the duration of the shoot, which was seven months in South Africa.
"They were behind the camera for every single take every single day, making sure that everything was legit and was real. It was very important to us to show exactly what happened, and not make it into a Hollywood movie where everything is dramatised, and things are added or removed."
Generation Kill and True Blood are currently on Channel 4 on Wednesday evenings