William Sanderson Is the Law in 'True Blood'
Today's cuppa: Scottish breakfast tea
There may have been no law at all in "Deadwood," but the Louisiana town of Bon Temps has a sheriff on duty, and the man behind him is a very familiar face to HBO viewers.
Below find one of my syndicated feature stories available this week..
By Kate O'Hare
William Sanderson is working on his second critically acclaimed HBO series in a row, having gone from David Milch's "Deadwood" to Alan Ball's "True Blood" -- but the veteran performer hasn't let that go to his head.
"I'm a journeyman actor," he says, "lot more humble than when I talked to you before (about 'Deadwood'). I don't do all the episodes of 'True Blood.'
"I haven't seen all the scripts, so I can't say if I live or die, but I certainly am more humble. I think it's providential, to get this job at my age."
For three seasons on "Deadwood," set in a late 19th-century mining town in South Dakota, the Tennessee native played the endlessly scheming hotel owner E.B. Farnum, a man fond of his lace cuffs but somewhat lax in his overall personal hygiene.
In "True Blood," airing its second season Sundays on HBO, set in the fictional modern-day town of Bon Temps, La., Sanderson plays Sheriff Bud Dearborne.
Unlike Farnum, Dearborne has a more presentable appearance.
"I get to shave," Sanderson says. "And he's a normal person so far."
Dearborne may be normal, but along with the usual civic disturbances of a small town, he must also cope with the added complication of vampires who have recently come out of the coffin after Japanese synthetic blood freed them from having to kill (mostly, anyway).
Based on author Charlaine Harris' "The Southern Vampire Mysteries" novels, "True Blood" also stars Anna Paquin as telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse, who is in love with vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) but has also attracted the attention of vampire Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard).
Sookie's best friend is bartender Tara Thornton (Rutina Wesley), whose cousin is Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), the short-order cook.
"They all have tremendous energy," Sanderson says, "and I'm a graybeard trying to survive, keep up with them. How do I keep up with them? Rabbits' feet, four-leaf clovers, horseshoes, prayer?
"I pray a lot, asking God to help me."
Viewers have yet to see Dearborne's best friend, but they have met one of his subordinates, Detective Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer, seen below, in the center, between Sanderson and Stephen Moyer). HBO viewers already know Bauer, who guest starred in season two of the cablenet's crime drama "The Wire."
"Chris is a great actor," Sanderson says, "Yale Drama School. I can't say enough great things about him. He's going to have a great season.
"He's very bright, and his interpersonal skills, forget it. He's smooth as silk, everything I'm not. It's intimidating, but I used to be a celebrity. That's the way I introduced myself.
"I'm busy trying to claw my way to the middle here."
Sanderson isn't the only "Deadwood" alumnus who's found a new home with the younger generation. Jim Beaver, who played miner Ellsworth, has had a recurring role as a demon hunter alongside Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles on The CW's "Supernatural," along with playing the father of young Irish actress Elaine Cassidy on CBS' "Harper's Island."
"Jim doesn't have gargoyles of uncertainty coming off his shoulders," Sanderson says. "But we're happy here. I say the same thing I said on David's show: If there's a happier actor on the show, I want to meet him.
"But they're not going to name any streets after me, and I'm not introducing anybody at the Academy Awards, but we're paying our bills."
Sanderson also did a little broadcast television this year, playing "interrogation expert" Oldham in the 10th episode of "Lost."
"Three years ago," he says, "they talked about a recurring role, continuing, and they had the dates. Didn't work out.
"But at least more people ask me about that than anything, so I have some fun, but there's never enough, never enough.
"I could have said all of this in five minutes; what will I do after 'True Blood' "?
As to what the most fun is in working on the show, Sanderson says, "I would say, when I get to talk to Alan Ball, that's fun. He gives you tips. You try to see yourself as something besides a derelict, which I've played a lot.
"But the most fun -- the paycheck. I hate to be obvious. It makes up for ... you might can tell; I have no confidence in my work, but some other people do, thank God.
"In acting, I beat myself up, because you can always do better, and it just drains you. It drains you. I just try to keep up.
"The most fun's when I have a scene with Anna or Chris Bauer, because they make you better.
"Like Ian McShane on 'Deadwood,' that's where the most fun is, because he's a great actor, and you only had to react to him. The fun is always between 'action' and 'cut,' as Susan Sarandon said.
"Somehow I've been able to survive, always thinking it'll be the last job."