While studying at Brown University, Sam Trammell got his first acting role in an off-Broadway play. He would go on to other stage roles, including a 1988 revival of the Eugene O'Neill comedy Ah, Wilderness!, which earned a Tony nomination. Before snagging the buzzworthy role of bar owner Sam Merlotte on True Blood, Trammell acted on the big screen as well as on the small screen on hits like Bones and Dexter.
Actor Sam Trammell was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on January 29, 1969. Trammell attended junior high and high school in Charleston, West Virginia. Always an intelligent youth, Trammell grew up harboring dreams of becoming an astrophysicist. After high school, he attended Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he studied philosophy. During his undergraduate years, Trammell played in a band and hung out with an artsy crowd that eventually led him to acting.
Early Acting Career
At the coaxing of a friend, Trammell auditioned for a play written by a Brown graduate student. He got the part and the play eventually went off-Broadway. He quickly abandoned his plans for graduate school, pursuing a full-time acting career in New York after graduation. The way Trammell tells it, "I just got lucky. I moved there, took some classes, got an agent and that was it."
While Trammell's friend gave him the push he needed to get into acting, his regimented character proved particularly well suited to the rough-and-tumble career path of a professional actor. He describes himself as a careful person who is extremely thoughtful about the roles he takes, yet completely dedicated once he dives into a project.
Trammell continued to act in plays on and off Broadway, quickly making inroads on the stage that would eventually lead to Hollywood. Finally arriving in Los Angeles in 1994, he made his film debut in a movie called The Hotel Manor, where he played an intern on a TV talk show. Trammell continued to put in the work needed to break into TV, winning minor roles on rather forgettable daytime television shows and Hallmark movies.
After a few years of this, Trammell went back to his theatrical roots and appeared in a clutch of plays that would attract critical acclaim. His performance in the 1998 revival of Eugene O'Neill comedy Ah, Wilderness! at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in Lincoln Center garnered him a Tony nomination.
Toggling back to the small-screen, Trammell played an ex-con in an offbeat ABC comic drama called Maximum Bob. His next role was in NBC's Trinity, where he played the youngest son in a sprawling Irish Catholic Family. In 1999, he made a few more appearances on stage in If Memory Serves and Ancestral Voices. In 2000, he ended the year with a hit performance in Kit Marlowe, an off-Broadway production about the Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe, where Trammell played the protagonist's male lover.
The next five years were dedicated primarily to roles in independent films and appearances in a slew of hit TV series such as House, Judging Amy, Bones, Cold Case and Dexter. Between 2000 and 2008, Trammell appeared in seven films, such as Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem and Followers.
In 2008, Trammell got his big break in the form of the soon-to-be hit series True Blood, on HBO. Though he references the show as his best television project to date, it started off on an intimidating note. "It's a really nerve-wracking process for everybody. You're doing something that's shot on camera. You're not doing a play, so it's smaller acting, but you're in this room and you have to play to the audience. And, you see the other actors that you're up against, and you also have to sign your contract for a seven-year commitment. It's really heady," he recalls.
In True Blood, Trammell plays Sam Merlotte, a bar owner in the fictional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. In this fantastical world of vampires in the Deep South, Sam is a shape-shifter who has a very human crush on the lead female character Sookie Stackhouse, played by Anna Paquin.
In 2009, Trammell was nominated for a Spike Scream Award for best male breakout performance. When a reporter asked about his newfound fame, Trammell said, "I was just in New York for a couple weeks, and that was crazy because you're just walking on the streets and every day people would stop me to say how much they like the show, which was really exciting."
True Blood's Southern gothic motifs connect strongly with Trammell and have allowed him to get back to his roots. "I'm from the South, so I love the Southern world and doing Southern characters, " says Trammell. Shooting on location in Shreveport, Louisiana, the cast ended up filming a scene on Lake Bistineau, land owned at one point by Trammell's great-great-great grandfather.
Though he has said he will ride the True Blood wave as long as Sam Merlotte's character allows, Trammell would eventually like to get back to his acting roots on the small stage. "I haven't done a play in about two and a half years, and I would like to go back and do a play on hiatus, if there's something good out there."
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