Look out, Bon Temps — there’s about to be a new vampire heartthrob in town!
You may know him as Riley Wallace in ‘90210’ or recognize him as The Bombmaker from ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ but nowadays Riley Smith is gearing up to glamour fans with his exciting new role — as a member of the undead.
Joining the cast of HBO’s ‘True Blood’ for its seventh and final season, the actor will take on the part of a sexy, rock 'n' roll vamp by the name of Keith. That’s right, ladies and gents…a vampire who is in a band. Now THAT’S something we can sink our teeth into. (Let the swooning begin!)
TVRage was lucky enough to chat with Smith in an exclusive interview earlier this week to discuss his fang-tastic new role and tease what Truebies can expect from the show’s final season.
TVRage: What can you tell us about your character?
Riley Smith: I’m playing Keith, who’s the new vampire for the seventh and final season. I’m going to get introduced in Episode 4 and then I’ll be with the show for the remainder of the season. Right now we’re actually filming Episode 5. I’m also going to be Arlene’s love interest, played by Carrie Preston, and I think that’s pretty much all I can talk about at this point.
TVRage: It’s also been released that you’re in a band, which I think a vampire rock 'n' roll band sounds pretty much like the best idea ever. Is there a real life human band you can compare yourselves to? Are you the un-dead Beatles or Rolling Stones?
Smith: You know what, the funny thing is, they made a big deal about that when they announced the character, but I haven’t even seen an instrument since I got here. There was one reference to me being in a band and then that was it. There’s been no other mention of it sense. I actually asked because I was going to take drum lessons. I’m supposedly a drummer, so I was like, ‘Should I take some drum lessons or anything?’ and they were like, no I don’t know if we’ll ever even see you in a band.
TVRage: That was going to be my next question, if we were going to get to see you play.
Smith: That would be awesome. I was kinda hoping for it, but I don’t know if it’s going to happen. It was more of a backstory…when I get introduced it sets it up like, 'Hey, this is Keith here and he’s in my band.' That’s literally the only mention that we’ve had and I’ve been shooting this for two months now.
TVRage: And like you mentioned before, Keith is immediately attracted to Arlene upon seeing her. Can you give any hints as to how the two of you first meet?
Smith: We meet on a mission where the vampires are trying to save some of the cast that are in trouble. That is how Keith and Arlene meet. Keith is saving Arlene from a serious situation and that’s their meet-cute, so to speak. And that’s what kind of brings Keith into that world.
I don’t know how much the audience knows so far about what’s going on, but there’s a big part of the first three episodes of Season 7 that’s leading up to this major thing that occurs in Episode 4 and it’s going to be a big situation. Episode 4 was a huge — I think it was like a 25-day shoot for us. There’s a huge fight and a lot of the main characters are in some serious trouble, so I’m recruited by James [played by Nathan Parsons] to come help and that’s what introduces Arlene and Keith. And that’s how they meet and they create their own relationship, which we’re just now starting to get into.
TVRage: What was it that initially attracted you to this particular role?
Smith: I have always wanted to play a vampire. I’ve always wanted to have fangs and was running out of time on this show, so the opportunity was perfect. They’re in the last season and this role kind of came up out of nowhere. I’m on hold right now for a TV pilot, a potential series that I did at the end of last year called ‘Deliverance Creek,’ written by Nicholas Sparks Productions. So I can’t really do anything contractually anyway until we find out if this show gets picked up, so I was just hanging out making music.
Then it just so happened that the casting directors of my pilot also cast ‘True Blood.’ They called in like the twelfth hour and said we think you’re perfect for this role. If they want you, we will make it contractually work out and I went in literally the next morning. I had no time to study. I went in, met with all the creators of ‘True Blood,’ did a couple scenes for them, and before I even got home I got a call and they said the show was yours…Literally, the next day I was in a wardrobe fitting. It was like, 48 hours before that I hadn’t even thought about being on the show, and now I’m the new vampire, so it happened very fast.
TVRage: Have you always been a fan of the show?
Smith: I have, yeah, but like anything, I got busy and lost track of some of the episodes, so basically that first weekend after I got the job, I spent the entire weekend in front of my TV catching up and re-familiarizing myself with the show and the characters and the storylines. It’s been a whirlwind, but it’s been great just be apart of it, especially the last season of a show like this. I feel like anybody who’s ever watched it, is going to watch the last season to see how it ends. And we have so many great storylines for the last season, I think everybody is going to be ecstatic with how it turns out.
TVRage: How has it been so far playing an undead character? Was it more of a challenge than other roles you’ve played?
Smith: Yeah, there’s a lot of technical things I’ve had to figure out and learn and be taught...Anna Paquin, she was the first one to really step up and everytime I had any questions, she was giving me advice, telling me how it goes. There was one particular scene where we were shooting in a bar and I was like ‘Can I have a drink or can I not drink?’ and Anna was like, ‘No vampires can’t drink. Only blood.’ You know, just little things like that I’m having to familiarize myself with that I didn’t know. But everybody here has been so nice and so hospitable and just very open to helping me get on my feet quickly.
TVRage: Have you gotten to use your fangs yet?
Smith: Yes, I have! I can’t even tell you how many hours I spent sitting in my trailer practicing my fang out because it’s actually quite technical. A lot of times you fang out without the fangs first and then you do it again with the fangs and then they in post-production edit that together. So it feels really awkward and weird to be doing it. And you want head movement, but not too much head movement. You want to make noise, but not too much noise. So learning how to fang out happened really quick for me, but yeah it was definitely a lot more technical than I imagined. But I love the fangs. That’s what I always wanted. I’ve already been asking if I can take them home with me when we’re done with the series.
TVRage: I’m always curious, besides ‘True Blood,’ are there any other shows you’d like to guest star on?
Smith: For me, I’d love to get on ‘New Girl.’ I’m a big fan of the single-camera comedies and I don’t necessarily do those, but I’d like to someday. So I’d really love to get on ‘New Girl’ and ‘Modern Family,’ some of the lighter shows like that. I feel like I’ve done a lot of the heavy stuff and I seem to always get those, so someday I'll get some lighter, half-hour, single-camera stuff.
TVRage: And as far as other projects you have coming up, you mentioned ‘Deliverance Creek,’ which is a period piece around the Civil War.
Smith: Yeah, it’s a period piece. It airs June 21 on Lifetime and I’m asking everybody to please watch and tell everybody because basically I think our series kind of hinges on that. They’re going to weigh out how it does and how the response was to the public and then I think they’ll decide if they’re going to pick it up based on that. And I’ve seen it. It turned out really great. I’m really happy with it. I think all of the performances and the direction and everything is just beautiful, so I’m hoping everybody likes it as much as me. And I love that group of people, so in a perfect world, I’ll get done with this and then I’ll head to Austin, Texas and start filming my own series, so that’s certainly what I hope happens.
‘True Blood’ kicks off its seventh and final season Sunday, June 22 at 9/8c on HBO.