Does That Shiny New Emmy Mean Alexander Skarsgård Could Finally Become A Household Name?

If Alexander Skarsgård is not quite a household name, it has nothing to do with his talent and perhaps a little to do with his lineage. He’s the son of esteemed Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård, the one who inspired Emily Watson’s tragic devotion in Breaking the Waves and vied for the title of Meryl Streep’s baby daddy in Mamma Mia!.

Stellan has never quite become a household name either. I have a theory: It’s hard to become a household name when people struggle to spell said name. Skarsgård doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and it’s even more challenging to write, with that overring diacritic thing hovering over the second A.

That’s not to say Stellan’s handsome 41-year-old Nordic stud of a son hasn’t had a solid career. It ignited the moment he started burning up our TV screens in 2008 as Eric Northam, the sexiest vampire in the history of sexy vampires on True Blood. Since then, I’ve loved him as Lady Gaga’s tormentor-lover in the “Paparazzi” video and as Kirsten Dunst’s husband in Melancholia (my favorite movie of 2011). He’s worked steadily over the past decade (sorry, I missed him in both Zoolander movies — just not my thing), but, like the rest of the True Blood cast, he never quite crossed the threshold over to superstardom.

Then he was cast as the main character in the 2016 film The Legend of Tarzan. That was supposed to finally make him a movie star. Most actors would kill for the chance at a title role in a potential franchise, and I thought that maybe Alexander’s time had finally come.

And then I saw the movie. Normally, I don’t do blockbuster-bait, but I was scheduled to interview Alexander at the Sydney press junket for the film, and I had to have something to talk to him about. As I sat across from him under the camera, all I could think about was how gorgeous he was and how terrible the movie had been.

My random thoughts:

God, he’s hot… and so tall. I’m 6'1", and he makes me feel like a shorty.

Even with presumably next to no sleep and visible bags under his eyes, he’s the best-looking guy I’ve seen all day.

Why do Swedes speak better English than most native English speakers?

I wonder how he’d react if I asked him to bite my neck True Blood-style. Should I do it?

The truth is Tarzan was not only bad, but Alexander was badly miscast. The movie needed a beefcake-y actor who doesn’t ooze gentility. (A loincloth-ed Joe Manganiello comes immediately to mind… and lingers there.) Despite Tarzan’s posh existence as the film begins, the guy was still raised in the wilds by apes. He shouldn’t be carrying himself like royalty.

The movie also needed a leading man who was a little less serious about his “craft.” Alexander tried to bring nuance and gravitas to a role that pretty much only required him to look amazing virtually unclothed. He came across as stiff and uncomfortable, hardly the same charismatic actor who could command our undivided attention even when fully clothed on True Blood.

Although Tarzan wasn’t a box-office flop, it lost money, dashing Alexander’s hope for a franchise to call his own. True superstardom seemed farther away than ever. The last thing I expected him to do next was to play a supporting role as an unsupportive and abusive husband in the TV miniseries Big Little Lies. Nothing good could come of smacking around my beloved Nicole Kidman, right?

Wrong. Thanks to Big Little Lies, Alexander will forever be known as “Emmy-winning actor Alexander Skarsgård,” a qualifier that TV legends like Angela Lansbury, Meredith Baxter, and Jerry Seinfeld can’t claim. What a difference a year makes. An Emmy-winning future was the farthest thing from my mind the day I sat across from Alexander Skarsgard. Nope, I didn’t see it coming.

But one year later, here we are. Career momentum has swept back in, and superstardom is once again within his reach. I bet this time he’ll finally grab it, overring and complicated A be damned.

Once he’s claimed that elusive household-name status, Alexander’s resurgence should give dejected and rejected dreamer’s new hope. You never know what dreams may come true — or what next year might bring.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Jeremy Helligar

Jeremy Helligar

Brother Son Husband Friend Loner Minimalist World Traveler. Author of “Is It True What They Say About Black Men?” and “Storms in Africa”