Riley Smith Spills ‘True Blood’ Secrets and Talks About Working with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen

By: Jess Cohen / July 16, 2014

'True Blood' on 'EW'
Skarsgard and Paquin sizzle on the mag's cover.
There’s a new vampire in town! Riley Smith has joined the final season of HBO’s hit series, True Blood. Last Sunday’s episode introduced the audience to Riley’s character Keith, a vampire who ends up (spoiler!) saving Arlene from dying! He sure knows how to make an entrance!

Working on a high-profile project isn’t new territory for Riley. He’s been on many popular TV shows, from 24 to 90210. Plus, you may even remember Riley from the Disney Channel TV-movie Motocrossed or the film New York Minute, which Riley starred in alongside Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. Though those movies premiered over a decade ago, many people still recognize Riley for those specific roles. The early 2000s were very good to him!

We were lucky enough to talk to Riley about his major new role on True Blood and he also told us what it was really like working with the Olsen Twins many years ago. Check out the interview below to get the inside scoop!

Celebuzz: What can you tell us about your character on True Blood?

Riley Smith: His name is Keith, he’s the new vampire that they’ve enlisted to help fight the H-vamps. Then he creates this chemistry with Arlene and as you’ll see in the future, there’s going to be maybe a little bit of an attraction with those two.

CB: You came in and saved the day, so she has you to thank.

RS: She has my blood now so she’s going to be dreaming about me.

CB: Yeah! So, is it intimidating coming on a show that’s already so successful and already has a well-known cast?

RS: You know, I like that situation always because number one you’re always going to be working with great actors. I mean they wouldn’t be on a show for seven years if they weren’t great and the show wasn’t good. So that’s a plus, and number two, usually at that point you’ve got a really great core audience for the show. So as long as the character’s written well and you go in and do a good job, usually the fans are very supportive, so it’s a win-win for the most part. The only thing you have to do is not get overwhelmed or be intimidated. As long as you can do those things, everything else is already laid out for you. I was excited to start the show I wouldn’t say I was nervous but definitely it’s one of those iconic shows where you know these people so well, but yet you don’t know them. So when I first got on set with them it was kind of that feeling for awhile. Now I actually know them well so it’s great.

CB: Was the cast very welcoming or was there a little bit of hazing for the new guy?

RS: They were so welcoming right off the bat! Everyone was so cool and treated me like one of them. Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer are two of the best leads the show could ever have. I want to say it starts at the top, if the leads are cool then everyone else follows in line. They were all so helpful, you know there are so many intricate things about being a vampire that you don’t really know or realize until you’re in the moment. Then these questions come up on the spot and it’s like, “Hey can I do this? Can I do that?” A lot of the times you don’t know, but Anna would always be the first one to come up to me and be like, “You can’t do this, you can do this.” She was very helpful.

CB: Are there others who you’ve become close with on set?

RS: Arlene, Carrie Preston, and I have mostly everything together and she’s a gem. Her and I have become really close. Nathan Parsons, who plays James, Nathan’s my boy now. But everybody really! Amelia Rose Blaire, who plays Willa, everybody on the show, we’ve just gotten so close. It’s been great.

CB: A lot of characters on this show have to take their shirts off, was that something that was nerve-wracking to you or did you embrace it?

RS: That was probably the biggest, most nerve-wracking thing about the show. The minute I got it my manager, the first thing he said was, “You’re gonna have to get naked, so get ready for that!” Luckily the show was cool and gave me a three episode heads up that I was gonna be getting naked. So I had a chance to get a personal trainer and it as actually a really positive thing because I really got to push myself physically to get in the best shape that I possibly could in a certain amount of time. So it was a good thing

CB: I was going through Twitter reactions to Sunday’s True Blood episode and a lot of girls made mention of your past work in Motocrossed and New York Minute. Do you get recognized most for those parts?

RS: Oh yeah, it doesn’t matter how many shows or movies I do or how long it’s been, still everyday I get recognized for them. I used to rebel against that but now I just embrace it and enjoy it, almost laugh at it. Really, I think it’s one of those things where I could win an Emmy or an Oscar and I’ll still be recognized for that. I’ve come to realize over time that when we all set out to be actors we would love to be in a movie that has a fingerprint on an entire generation. The fact that I did a couple of those, with Motocrossed and New York Minute, they actually did have that fingerprint on a generation. 15 years later people still talk about, that’s pretty cool! How many people get that opportunity?

CB: How was it working with Mary-Kate and Ashley? Was it a fun time?

RS: Those were fun times. I mean, they were at the height of their popularity. We were filming in Manhattan in New York in Times Square and we literally could not get around. It was nuts we had security and we were in Us Weekly and People Magazine every week, there was a rumor about us at all times, somebody was hooking up with somebody. That was crazy times. That was even before social media became common, there wasn’t really anything like that. I can’t imagine what that would’ve been like if that had been around. I’m kinda lucky that it wasn’t back then. But no, those were really good times. At the end of the day, the fact that I got those experiences, that’s more than 99% of the people who set out to do this get so I consider myself lucky. So now I just kind of embrace it!

CB: And teen girls everywhere are still in love with you, so that’s always good.

RS: Yeah, the silver lining with it all for me was that because it was before social media, it didn’t get completely out of hand like say High School Musical did. But because of that it’s one of those things where in the street it’s still as popular as ever but I didn’t get pigeonholed in the industry. So people within the industry who make the decisions, they didn’t really understand how popular it was, they didn’t really get it, so I never really got pigeonholed. So I got the best of both worlds because I got to be a part of that and that will live on forever, but at the same time I had the opportunity to move on, to become a man and become a serious actor.

Make sure to watch Riley on True Blood every Sunday at 9/8c on HBO! Plus, Riley’s also in a backdoor pilot on Lifetime called Deliverance CreekNicholas Sparks (!) is one of the executive producers of this project, so you know there’s going to be lots of drama! Check out the trailer HERE and make sure to tune in when it airs on September 13!