Michael Raymond-James, born December 4, 1977 in Michigan, was an American actor who plays the role of Drew Marshall, known more commonly as René Lenier, on the HBO original series True Blood.
Making his debut on the series' premiere episode, "", in the series' first season, Michael was a local resident of Bon Temps Louisiana.
In other words, I felt that I found what I was looking for; that I was put on this planet to tell stories, for better or for worse. You said that you and Alan purposely made him more likeable. And to everybody who had read the book, it was sort of ‘game on’ for them. Liz: Some of these scenes that you had to do, how did you prepare, you know, back story or accent? And for some reason, even though we have right up there in our banner, right front and center, on every single page, that we’re a fan site people persist in thinking that we are actually HBO. Mel: So we were also getting emails saying, “Could you please change the story? I’ll call my mom and my sisters and tell them to stop sending you guys emails. ” and, “This is such a sweet lady, and now she’s going to be out of a job! And I don’t know if you guys notice or not, but Jim Parrack is 6’5! We would try to add little things every time we’d work together. And the three of us, sometimes we would get together in one of our trailers and just read the scenes several times by ourselves without the director around, and start to make choices together, which was a lot of fun. MR-J: One that I can think of is, in the scene where Arlene and I, Carrie Preston and I had to do our dance scene at the engagement party. HBO sent her and I to have dance lessons for like a week.
MR-J: Yeah, well you know, there are moments where Alan would mention, in this particular scene, “You know, nobody’s going to know now, but when they look back, on a second viewing on a DVD release or whatever, they’ll be able to catch the ‘twisting of the mustache’ moment.” We tried to foreshadow a little bit without tipping our hand. MR-J: Well, the accent, I mentioned early on in my representation that I wanted to go out and hire a dialect coach as opposed to just show up and have one on the set that could help me. So they started looking at some people and it was really important to me to get someone not from Harvard, who had read books and these kind of things; that could make the changes in the voice and the diphthongs and all these things. So I did some research and found this guy by the name of Errol Gidry, from Mermentau, LA, who is a true Cajun, and he’s a dialect coach. So I had him over to my house for a meeting and immediately hit it off with him. That’s one of those reasons that we, as actors, we gear up and try to go to these kind of places, cuz it’s a great feeling if it works, you know. Mel: I think it added to the camaraderie that we saw on screen. We were going to choreograph this dance to this particular song which was going to be playing during the scene. I’m going to make a fool of myself.” But right before we got there, like a minute before – Carrie and I were rehearsing the step to the music with the dance instructor five minutes before we shot that scene. We’ll just get weird.” That’s why you see that really funky weird move that I’m doing with my butt out and my hand in the air.
And I just tried to steal as much of his soul as possible. So he had just given us one of those after I’m choking Sookie, and I’m exhausted. MR-J: Yeah it really did, and you know, what’s interesting is Ryan and I have known each other for a while. And I was a little nervous about it because you got 100 plus people out there. As we were being taken from the trailers to set, one of the AD’s came up and said, “They changed the music.” (laughing) MR-J: Yeah we just lost cabin pressure. ” So when I finally got there, I was just sort of, you know, how do I say it without cussing?
Even after Drew's real name is revealed, characters continue to occasionally refer to him as René, and, although Michael appears in flashbacks and visions through the third and fourth seasons, he met an untimely demise in the Season 1 episode " Michael started out doing theater and studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York, with George Loros, Jeffery Horn and Robert Castle. He has also guest starred in such series as CSI, Medium, Boston Legal and ER.
Listen to our interview with Michael Raymond-James on the December 5th True Blood Radio Show (archived below) and read along with the transcript provided. So now I imagine you can talk freely about your time on the show. And, chances are I was drunk at the time, and said, “Well, let me give this a shot.” Because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I went and I got a part and as soon as I started working on it, it was sort of like that first breath of air after your head’s been held under water for a while. And I worked pretty steadily, guest starring on tv shows, and I got the opportunity to work on the film , written and directed by Craig Brewer, with (Samuel L.) Jackson, Christina Ricci, (Justin) Timberlake, and that was great. No, I didn’t know anything about the books beforehand, but my manager called and said that there’s a new Alan Ball project and immediately that is going to get your attention. Mel: It did, you had us up until, really up until episode 11. I don’t want to leave any stone unturned, so there’s no way I would have gone on set having not known the arc of the character and the direction he was going to go. ” Liz: But you could pick up on some of the clues that were dropped; some of the hints. As an actor, you collect all these things you know, and sometimes they take a little while to shake. I don’t know.” Mel: And for someone who watched the series, that won’t freak them out at all. As soon as we started shooting that scene, and out of nowhere, you know, I was really effected by it. ” When she started screaming, a chill ran up my spine. The other one that was kinda rough, but for a completely different reason, was the scene in episode 11 where Ryan Kwanten tells Jim Parrack and I about Lizzy Caplan uses V, the character of Amy – is a V user, and we have that scene. MR-J: Oh, and it was so great to work with those guys, we had a lot of fun.
Interviews Michael Raymond-James This is Mel and Liz and we’re here today with Michael Raymond-James who played Rene on True Blood. And so, I sort of immersed myself in that world, and decided to go to NY and study, and sort of, you know, give myself over to it. It’s something that I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. So they sent the script over and had an appointment set up for me to go read for Alan, and they asked me if I could do a Cajun dialect. Liz and I were still going back and forth over whether it was going to be Rene or if they were going to give it to some other character. Mel: How did that inform the way that you played the character? Mel: For those of us who had read the book, it was really cool to be sitting there going, “Gosh, is it? MR-J: Right, yeah I think I mention in, like, episode 2, about my sister. Mel: We had a lot of comments on the forums, and then people would email Liz and I frequently, from the site itself, saying how much they like Rene, and that they had heard rumors that he was the killer, and that just can’t be. ” Mel: Yeah, and were like, “You know what, I think that shovel pretty much did the deed.” MR-J: You know, I’m sorry about that. Well it was just so much fun to see how the fans connected with Rene, and then to see that all just come crumbling down in the last 2 episodes. MR-J: Yeah I had friends of mine, whenever somebody would come up and recognize me from the show, my friends would keep me pretty grounded, and, “You know, all these people are gonna hate you at the end of the season, so..” Mel: Yeah don’t get too comfortable there buddy. Mel: Well I can tell that you’re, you’re slipping into the accent just a tiny bit. And they come out sometimes in the wildest places, usually when I’m stumbling out of a bar, drunk. MR-J: It won’t freak them out at all, yeah, exactly. And I play a tough guy on tv sometimes, but I’m really kind of a sensitive boy. Like, “I can’t believe this is happening; that I’m doing this! The reason that was tough was because it was like 112 degrees that day in LA, and like 89% humidity. And, it didn’t make it into the final scene but, at the end of those takes, Jim Parrack would jump on my back as sort of a piggyback ride as we walked back towards the truck. And we would try to do things that I’m not sure that anybody caught yet at this point. We’re excited to get a chance to talk to you, now that the series is over and the big reveal of who the serial killer was has come about. Well, our first question is, we were trying to do some background prep to come up with questions to ask you about other projects you’ve done, but there’s nothing out there. So it didn’t really dawn on me until I was like 19 and I walked past a flyer in Lansing, MI, for a student film. Who I still contact pretty often in regards to the work, the craft and also the business side of it. But I got invited by a casting director who said I should give LA a try, and I came out here. You want to sound interesting and you come across sounding like an idiot. You try to keep them on their toes a little bit, so hopefully, that worked. MR-J: Yeah, I knew before we, before the first day of shooting. MR-J: Research is something that I really enjoy as an actor and it’s something that I really throw myself into. It was horrible for me because she is such a powerful actress and a powerful presence and it really kinda shook me. I was like, “I’m so sorry for this.” So, that was a pretty rough day. Mel: The three of you, Rene, Hoyt and Jason; that was a fun trio there. MR-J: It’s interesting, you know, well, maybe it’s not that interesting but, I’m from the Detroit area where being an actor really isn’t an option. MR-J: I studied at the Lee Strasberg Theater, with George Loros and Jeffery Horn, Robert Castle, and had some pretty interesting teachers. And then, from there, after you studied and felt confident to go out and start taking on other roles. MR-J: Well, before I came out to LA, I was doing theater in NY, and I really had no desire to come to LA. (Laughs) There’s a lot of pressure in these interviews! MR-J: But I did a little bit of research and then I went in and read for Alan and we got the offer the next day. The first time I saw you on the screen, that is exactly how I pictured that character in my head. But knowing where the character’s going, we didn’t want to beat anybody over the head and let them know in episode 2 that this is what’s happening and what’s coming. Mel: You talked a little bit about the fact that you knew right away, or fairly early on in the filming process, that Rene was the killer. The one that sticks out the most is Lois Smith’s death scene, where I have to stab Gran. Mel: Well tell us a little bit about how you got started acting. I didn’t know anything about the books, or I didn’t know much about vampires. In fact I had to give an interview in Louisiana, one time, they asked who my favorite vampire was and the only one I could think of was Count Chocula. MR-J: You guys are both fans of Charlaine Harris beforehand? If that was how it was going to turn out, because Rene was so likeable. Clearly that was there in Alan’s writing, and the whole writing staff’s work. So I didn’t even have to read the books, they gave me the Cliff notes version of it. The only scene I didn’t like, and for different reasons, there’s only 2. MR-J: Yeah you know background information can be a little overwhelming sometimes, I think. But as far as work goes, all that’s out there in the public domain. Mel: But then, as the series progressed, and Liz and I had both read the books ahead of the series even premiering so we knew… Mel: So, we knew, at least in the book, what Rene was up to, but as the series progressed we found ourselves questioning whether that was how it was going to be. You know, that was something that we wanted to try to focus on. In fact, once I got the job, I was telling my mother and my sisters about it, and they immediately went and bought all the books, and all their friends bought the books and they’re sharing. I love the opportunity to do something that I love. I’m a naturally shy person, so, you know, shouldn’t have a lot out there as far as biography. Mel: If you could have played any of the other characters on the show, which one would that be?