"True Blood" star Marshall Allman is fuming over the Funny Or Die video that exposes the "method shapeshifting" process he uses to play Tommy Mickens on the hit HBO series.
"Yeah, your laughter is my shame," he told me Thursday over the phone from Georgia, where he's filming the movie, "Jayne Mansfield's Car." I had told him I thought the video was funny. "Enjoy it all you want. The cat's out of the bag."
The clip posted Sunday and has gone viral since, drawing more than 58,000 views on that site alone. In it, Allman and his co-star, Janina Gavankar, film several takes for a scene. But Allman's method acting technique—he truly believes he can become animals like his character does—distracts Gavankar from finishing the shoot. Their ensuing argument over who is the better actor—and shifter—has spilled over to Twitter.
Allman says he can't prove who is behind the leaked footage, but he thinks he has a fairly good idea who may have had it filmed.
"I think maybe Janina was intimidated by my shapeshifting skills, and was trying to, uh, I don't know, she makes people do weird things," he said of his co-star, who joins the cast this season as a shapeshifter named Luna. "I don't want to stir up the hornet's nest, if you know what I'm saying. And by hornet's nest, I'm talking about Janina. Let's just say—let's just leave it at that. I've already said too much."
Gavankar, reached for comment Saturday, responded via email, denying she had anything to do with the leaked video. "I definitely did not invite those cameras to the set," she said. "I assumed they were part of his large entourage." (You can read the rest of Gavankar's response here.)
As he has expressed on Twitter, Allman is outraged by what he feels is an invasion of his privacy and the sanctity of the set, where actors are often asked to do nude scenes.
"I think she's secretly in love with me. I don't know. What can you do? I'm just out there trying to do the scene, trying to do my work."
In this particular scene, Tommy flirts with Luna and suggests they go for a run as animals. It required him to strip naked. Allman says that doing his first nude scene on the show last season was nervewracking, but the cast and crew have always been supportive—up to now. He also has a trick he uses to get through filming those sensitive scenes.
"I just imagine the whole crew thinks I've got the best body on the planet," he said. "But then the day they make me do a naked scene with any other guy on the show, that theory's going to get blown to frickin smithereens. We got like frickin bodybuilders, and yoga frickin instructors and I don't know who else on this show. I'll tell you what, it's motivation enough not to get into the gym.
"You're like, 'I ran twice today.' And Ryan Kwanten goes [fake Aussie accent], 'Oh, I just got done running a mile, and it's the day after I ran a marathon.' That frickin guy. I think there was body fat on him at one point, and he just yelled at it and it left."
As for his shapeshifting "abilities," Allman discourages fans from asking him to change into a dog or bird or any animal when they meet him. He's not a trained seal, after all.
"It's tough when your skill, your ability gets revealed to the world," he said. "I'm going to have to turn a lot of people down, and it's going to be a tough row to hoe. But I can't do it for them. It's publicly indecency; there are all kinds of laws against it. That's why I've kept it in the closet."
Allman and I talked more about Tommy, his relationship with his brother, Sam (Sam Trammel), and Allman's life since he joined "True Blood." But like his character, you can't be sure about anything Allman says. You've probably guessed that he likes to kid around.
You're in Georgia shooting "Jayne Mansfield's Car" with an amazing cast [Billy Bob Thornton, Robert Duvall, John Hurt, Kevin Bacon, Robert Patrick, Frances O'Connor and Ray Stevenson]. How's it going?
Going great, man. It's the best cast. It's incredible. Everywhere you walk it's like some sort of historic moment going on.
Great. Let's talk about the new season of "True Blood" that just started.
Oh man, Bon Temps is going crazy. They're taking it to another level, and they always do a good job with that.
Are you always surprised by what they come up with, and the fun stuff you get to do?
Oh, of course. I think if you [talked to] the whole cast, that's the funnest part about it. Just imagine, you get the call and they're like, "Hey guess what? This season you're a cage-fighting lesbian." [Laughs.] You know what I mean.
I was surprised when they were like, "Hey you're Maxine's new Christian boy." I was like, "What?" But it was awesome. It's genius, you know? They just open the door for so much more to play out. And I think they did an excellent job of balancing the needs for the main storylines plus fitting everybody in and kicking all these new storylines in the pilot. I think they did an excellent job of that. I think they gave us such a great place to start from.
Everyone storyline this season, when I was [first] reading them, I was going, "I don't know how this is going to play!" I was a little bit doubtful. They've completely won me over. I have no doubt that the fans are going to feel this way.
Did you know toward the end of last season, after you learned Sam was going to shoot Tommy, that he would survive and you would come back this season?
No. No I didn't. I was having a conversation with Greg at some point. We were just shooting the shit and he say, "Yeah, yeah, you know you get shot in the last episode, right?" I said, "No." he goes, "We don't know if you live or die; we don't know. But it's 'True Blood.'"
I was like, "OK, cool man, have a good day. I'll see you later." And then I went to my trailer and cried.
So you were done shooting before you found out you'd return?
Oh yeah, I think it was a couple weeks, maybe three weeks. ... I think finally after I paid them all that money they brought me back. I think it only took like 60,000 bucks, with the promise of a bonus if Tommy gets to hit on Jessica again. We'll see if that works. But for right now that was enough to appease the "True Blood" gods.
But yeah, I didn't know [right away]. I was like the fans. I went through the same experience, all those millions of people who are completely in love with Tommy and hoping he'd come back. It's tough man, I can't go anywhere [without fans following].
I wanted to ask how your life has changed since you became Tommy.
You know what's been awesome? Tommy is such a wild card that I think fans don't know how to approach me. [Laughs.] I think they see me and they go, "Oh, that's the kid from 'True Blood," Tommy!' I don't think they're first inclination is to approach me. I think usually they tweet about me from a distance or take a photo of me. Or they very cautiously come and ask me for a photo in the nicest way possible.
Not that there are fans out there who rudely ask for a photo because they think you're a pushover, but I think there's an extra bit of [caution] with Tommy. They're a little bit more like, "What am I going to get here?" After this method-shifting fiasco, they're going to be so afraid.
Will Tommy and Jessica get together this season?
Tommy hopes so.
I really want Tommy and Sam to get along. At least I think I do. But it seems like they constantly go through this cycle of repairing their relationship, then one does something that tears them apart again.
This wouldn't be different than your best friend who is in a relationship with "that" guy. You just wish they'd break up, but they just keep getting back together. That's kind of like how Sam and I are, like, "Really, he did what?" "He's doing this? Oh boy."
I think if I could impress on anybody, I would just say that I think they both genuinely want to be brothers. And they want it to work, despite themselves. ... Tommy doesn't understand why Sam practices the restraint he does, or draws the boundaries he does, because he's never understood what being healthy is. And Sam's not going to sit there and teach him. How does one learn how to have a healthy relationship when you've never had one? It's tragic; it's just tragic.
What is your favorite thing about Tommy?
You never know what he's going to do; he's unpredictable. And to follow that up, he's misunderstood. He needs a little TLC and some understanding.
So about the nudity. Is it difficult to be out there naked in front of everyone?
Obviously it was the first time, but when I made everyone on set sign a contract that if ever asked, my genitialia is a certain size. They're required to say that it's smaller than everyone thinks it is. No, I'm just kidding.
Yeah, it was nervewracking at the first part of it. But everybody has done it on the show. They're very professional and understanding about it. And then when the rest of the set vowed to get naked and shoot the scene naked with me, that was the best vote of confidence I could have ever received. Shooting a mass naked scene, it was really fun.
Did that really happen?
I wanted to ask you about "Prison Break." You spent a lot of time in Chicago when you shot that.
Oh man, I absolutely fell in love with Chicago. The Sox won the World Series when I was there. Man, I found the coolest bands. I was hanging out with a band called Walter Meego and Berto Ramon. I ate all the best food. C'mon man, it was incredible. I absolutely love Chicago.
I loved Carmine's. I had me some Girodano's. I met a lot of great people that I'm still friends with today.