An exclusive interview with True Blood star Graham Shiels.
Graham Shiels has appeared on film, stage and television with a career in acting spanning the last 8 years. His most recent role as Liam on HBO’s True Blood, has garnered fans from around the world. Graham was classically trained at the Yale School of Drama and significant credits in theater including the highlight of performances with Tony Award winner Brian Bedford, at The Mark Taper Forum in “The Moliere Comedies.” Also Graham is an accomplished improviser and alumni of Improv Olympic West.
Graham is currently on recurring as Cody Paul on ABC’s General Hospital. He debuted as Cody Paul, a drug addicted war veteran who served his country in Iraq and had been dishonorably discharged. Cody came to Port Charles when he followed two of his army buddies, Logan Hayes (Josh Duhon) and Cooper Barrett (Jason Gerhart). After appearing on General Hospital:Night Shift during the summer of 2007, Cody Paul was sent to jail for murdering Dr. Lainey Winters’ father. After a few months off screen, Cody Paul has returned and has kicked the drug habit, and was working on the docks as a forklift operator. Thinking he could help the local mobster Jason Morgan (Steve Burton) by keeping him informed of an activity down on the docks, Cody went to Jason with information regarding Russian mobster Karpov. He has gained the trust of Jason Morgan and is currently working as a bodyguard/informant for Morgan’s organization.
Graham took some time out of his busy schedule to talk with TVSource Magazine about his role on HBO’s True Blood and his recurring role as Cody Paul on ABC’s General Hospital.
True Blood has garnered a lot of attention since its first season began.Why do you think it was a huge hit for HBO?What makes this vampire series stand out above the other original programming on HBO?
As for the success of TB I think it’s just plain different. Alan Ball has impeccable taste and the show mixes in a lot of humor into the world of a blood-thirsty, human-killing vampire. So it’s like no other vampire story ever told. I also think that’s where he differs from the books, by Charlaine Harris, because though there is humor in the books, there’s a LOT more in the TV show. Trying to tell the story by portraying these vampires as having real social conflict and feelings about fitting in is different–not just a horror/gore movie about vampires sucking people’s necks and speaking in bad generic eastern European accents.
True Blood pushed the envelope with the nudity and the language. Every episode there was somebody having sex. Liam’s sex scenes showed full backside nakedness. Was that something that was difficult for you to do? I mean some actors are not open to showing a lot of skin and True Blood is a series that shows a lot of skin every episode.
I was very nervous when we shot that. As, I’m sure, my co-star was, too. Had it not been Alan Ball, Oscar award-winning writer, and HBO, I never would have done it. And it was just my butt. It wasn’t full frontal. I’d never (never say never, Graham) do full frontal. I’ve done it onstage, though, in a Shakespeare play. But I knew in this case it served the story and that it would be handled with great taste seeing as it’s Alan Ball. Blood taste.
There was even an episode that you were in bed with Sookie’s brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten) during one his love scenes with a girl who had had sex with Liam. Was it uncomfortable for the two of you doing that scene together?
Working with Ryan was not uncomfortable at all b/c we both knew this was a fun “bit,” so to speak. It was very fun to shoot. Ryan had this great idea he should be holding my foot and that’s how he notices it’s me and not the girl–and in retrospect, I think we should have gone the whole way and he could have been sucking my toes, too!
Was there a memorable event, moment, scene, episode from True Blood that maybe was intense or funny that didn’t make it on screen?
There was a funny moment in ep #7 when we’re coming into Merlott’s to get Bill. Ana/Sookie is chewing out Andrew/Malcolm. When we were rehearsing I laughed like I was enjoying that she was taking Malcolm down a peg and then Andrew gave me an evil glare, like, “shut-up.” That whole exchange cracked everyone up. But it couldn’t make it into the cut b/c it really wasn’t what was written in terms of the intensity of the conflict. But it was very real–and so, funny.
Liam was a little more hardcore vampire than some of the other vamps on True Blood. Was there something that you drew from to flesh out the character?
Just from meeting Alan and he said these vampires live like they don’t know when they’ll ever feed again, so the moment they get the scent/feeling they’re about to feed, it’s absolute lusty/insane desire. And as far as sex goes, they treat these human fang bangers like lawn furniture.
You returned to GH a few months ago and your character of Cody Paul has become very much intertwined with the mob as Jason’s informant/body guard. Is this a position you like Cody to be in or would you like to see Cody branch out into other stories and with other characters?
I love working with Steve Burton (Jason). He’s incredibly talented and he’s just a fun guy to be around. He’s got such a level of ease in his work that I learn from him every day. So it’s wonderful to be there in the thick of the coffee importing business. I also think it plays to some of my strengths to be around situations that it may present, i.e., intimidating lesser men. And, yes, of course, I’d love to do more and more. More conflict introduced to Cody’s life (maybe the drug addiction stuff, maybe he’s an amateur MMA fighter?) would be wonderful, and, of course, a love interest would be dope because I’d get to show the freaky, yet soft and vulnerable, side of Cody Paul.
The writers touched upon Cody’s drug addiction when you returned, saying that he was in recovery. Is that something you’d like for the writers to build on and explore?
It’s something that the writers could touch back into because I think we all know how easy it is for an addict to slip. And, as I said earlier, that would be something interesting because it would add another layer of conflict to Cody Paul’s story. As an actor you always want more and more conflict. The more adversity the better–it’s kind of like the opposite of real life. Haha.
If Bob Guza and Jill Phelps came to you and said tell me what do you want for your character, Cody Paul, what would you say?
Haha. I would probably say a contract! But that’s what I want for Graham. For Cody Paul: just what I’ve said above–to bounce off more of the other characters in the canvas, to have some bad-boy romance or a love triangle, and some comedy. Basically turn Cody into James Bond–we find out Cody is actually M.I.5 and speaks with a British dialect, wears tuxedos and drives an Aston Martin.
There are daytime actors who like the freedom of being on recurring, but there are many who like the security of being on contract. If GH offered a long term contract to you, would you take it? And why or why not?
Of course I would take it. I just want to act. On a daily basis. If I get the chance to do that in Port Charles, I’m living my dream.
Besides GH, you have other projects you are working on or have done that will be airing in the coming months. What are those upcoming appearances where fans can see you next?
Well the first thing coming up will be Jim Carrey’s “Yes Man” releasing December 19th. That should be pretty darn funny. Then I’m Guest Starring in the first episode of the new season of “Burn Notice” (the #1 scripted show on cable) in January. Matt Nix, the creator of the show, said that the USA network is VERY happy with the episode and made it a point to say the performances are great. So I’m looking forward to seeing that–I haven’t yet. Then I’ll be playing another vampire in the season finale of the upcoming season of “Nip/Tuck.” As for pet projects I am writing and I also worked on a trailer with Kent King (GH’s Lainey). All that and continuing to be brought in to Port Charles every now and then.
Fan support is important to any daytime actor. Do you feel Cody Paul has left an impression with GH fans? Good or bad? Has the returned sparked more interest in him from fans?
Fan support IS important. Unbelievably. I get tons of love from all over America and Canada for Cody Paul via my MySpace page and GrahamShielsOnline. It’s all good, yo! The number one comment, far and away, is “When will you get back with Lainey?!!!” So I think people are very interested in seeing where it’ll go with Cody because they already know he has a rich history to dive into that could explode at any moment.
Keep up to date on what’s going with Graham by visiting his official MySpace page or stopping by Graham Shiels Online. You can check out all of Graham’s demo reels at Reel Access.