The single actor, who lives in New York, says he wanted to be an architect before he got serious about acting. But the family business beckoned. His dad is veteran actor Stellan Skarsgård, 67; three of his brothers are actors, Gustaf (Vikings), 38, Bill, (It), 28, and Valter (Black Lake), 23, and his sister Eija, 27, is a former model. Plus, “someone told me architecture was all about calculations and math, so that dissuaded me,” he says. He was cast in his first recurring role on a Swedish TV show at 23 and landed a part in the 2008 HBO mini-series Generation Kill, on which he first appeared shirtless for a US audience.
He’s since been shirtless or fully naked in most of his roles, which – in typically Swedish style – he has no issue with. “Of course I don’t mind,” he says. “I spent seven years on True Blood, and there was a lot of graphic nudity on that show.” The sex scenes? “The crazier the better!” he says.
One thing he can’t embrace: accolades for his smouldering performances. “I’m quite Swedish in that I get uncomfortable talking about accomplishments,” he says. When he won a Golden Globe in 2018 for Big Little Lies, he didn’t even know where to put it: “I was like, ‘Ugh, this is awkward and embarrassing. I can’t flaunt it!’ ”