Americans know Stephen Moyer for his work as the blood-sucking vampire Bill Compton on the long-running HBO series True Blood. But the dashing Brit is about to surprise us all, following in the footsteps of Theodore Bikel, Christopher Plummer, and Richard Chamberlain in taking on the role of Captain Georg von Trapp in NBC's December 5 broadcast of The Sound of Music Live!
With direction by Tony winner Rob Ashford, The Sound of Music Live! re-creates the stage version of the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, with Grammy winner Carrie Underwood starring as Maria, and Tony winners Christian Borle, Laura Benanti, and Audra McDonald in supporting roles. For Moyer, it's a chance to return to his theatrical roots. Trained at London's Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, he's acted with the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre Wales, played Shakespeare's Romeo around the world, and earlier this year, inhabited the role of Billy Flynn in the Hollywood Bowl's summer revival of Chicago.
On a break from rehearsal, just prior to the cast's very first run-through, TheaterMania caught up with Moyer to chat about the highly anticipated telecast, whether or not he's extremely nervous, and if Broadway is on the horizon. (Spoiler alert: It just might be.)
So we're a day away from the broadcast. How's the mood on set at this point?
We're alright. We're about to do a run this evening. It's our first, do you believe? We've been camera blocking for about two weeks now and had Thanksgiving off. The camera blocking was a little more complicated than we thought it would be. It's a bit scary [but we're] very excited. It's gonna be nice to have a couple runs before Thursday.
Tell me about how you landed the role. Did you audition?
No, I didn't — it was a straight offer. I was mid-rehearsals for Chicago, which I was doing at the Hollywood Bowl, and this came through. I met [producers] Craig Zadan and Neil Meron and heard their hopes and dreams about what they were trying to achieve, and spoke to [director] Rob Ashford on the phone. It was lovely to understand his take on it. It's been lovely...a proper rehearsal period where we got to explore.
Do you have any special connection to the material? Do you have a reverence for the show or film?
I don't know if it's one of my favorite films of all time, but I do love it. I certainly spent a lot of time watching it when I was a kid with my sister. When my daughter was young, she was just in love with it. She used to call the whole movie Doe-a-Deer. "Can we watch Doe-a-Deer?" The other day when I said to her we were rehearsing "Do-Re-Mi," she said "Silly, it's not ‘Do-Re-Mi,' it's ‘Doe-a-Deer.'" It's a beautifully constructed piece. I love watching Rodgers & Hammerstein shows. You tend to forget how well their books were put together; the actual libretto [by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse]. The narrative flow and the drama, apart from the amazing numbers, it all really flows well.
Are there any similarities between Captain von Trapp and your True Blood character, Bill Compton?
In some respects, yes. von Trapp's a bit broken inside. He's at the point where he's lost his love, his wife; the children remind him of her, so he spends as little time with them as possible. Bill was taken away from his wife and therefore has roamed the earth in mourning.
What's more nerve-racking — the lack of an in-house audience to applaud after musical numbers or the lack of an orchestra and the music being pumped in on cue?
That's a really good question. This is a very strange hybrid of television and theater. It is neither; you're playing out front because of where the cameras are positioned but there's no reaction. We're on a sound stage, and sound stages are built to absorb sound, so it's a very dull sound. When you rehearse in a studio, you get the lovely bounce off the walls and you don't really get that here. There are so many reasons to be nervous. There are so many things we're reliant on. You have to believe that everything's gonna be there. There's no net. We don't have a net.
You started out on stage in London. Is Broadway on the horizon?
I will and want to play Sweeney Todd at some point. It's been part of my life since I was fourteen when I first saw it, and I just love it so much. But it's been done to death of late. Funnily enough, me and Christian [Borle] and Laura [Benanti], we're a bit of a terrible trio on set. We have been thinking of the jobs we can do as a trio.
We'd love to do Merrily We Roll Along. We'd love to do Singin' in the Rain. Of course, Betrayal's on at the moment but we'd definitely be into Betrayal. I did joke last year that I'd love to do Sweeney Todd and La Cage aux Folles in repertory with the same company. I'd play Zaza.
That's a great role.
Yeah, right? Who would Christian be?
Christian can be Georges.
We can definitely do that.
And Laura can be —
Laura can be Mrs. Lovett.