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'The Vampire Diaries' Star Ian Somerhalder on Playing the Bad Boy With a Conscience

by Laura Prudom, posted Feb 9th 2011 3:00PM
Ian SomerhalderIt's hard to resist a bad boy (especially one with the power of mind compulsion), and as tall, dark and deadly Damon Salvatore on the CW's 'The Vampire Diaries,' Ian Somerhalder may be the baddest boy on prime time right now.

But while Damon is busy spilling blood, raising hell and getting cozy in the bathtub with a hapless reporter, his off-screen alter ego is busy trying to change the world through his newly unveiled charity: the Ian Somerhalder Foundation.

TV Squad caught up with the charming 'Lost' alum to talk about the challenges of playing a vampire who is starting to develop some decidedly icky human emotions, the relationships he's built on set and what the Ian Somerhalder Foundation is doing to empower the world's youth to help make a difference where change is needed most.

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

Laura Prudom: It seems like Damon's starting to feel human emotions again, which must be very frustrating for him.
Ian Somerhalder:
[Laughs] Yeah, it's frustrating for Damon and me both.

So, I'm guessing his first instinct is to be as evil as possible to compensate, like we saw at the end of last week's episode.
It is, it's like the old adage: Failure is always easier. It's always easier to quit than to fight and grapple with yourself and make the right decisions. He is undoubtedly dealing with that on a daily basis -- I think it's invariably difficult for him, and it's difficult for me, as Ian, to play that.

So, life imitates art and vice versa; I'm with Damon on the fact that it is difficult to feel that much, because my instinct with him is always just to be sort of callous and carefree -- while focused -- but still kind of a jokester and kind of a prick, to be honest with you.

But, he really is truly starting to feel. But it's kind of sad, as a missed opportunity about life and feeling, that he can only truly express his feelings when he has someone under mind compulsion and they can't respond to it or they don't question him. It's like the person who can't express themselves unless they're drinking.

How do you decide how much to show and how much to hold back with such a layered character?
[Laughs] That's the $6 million question, isn't it? It's one of those things where you say, "Wow, how much do you give off? How much do you show?" I mean, it's like that in life; that's what's such a bummer about us as humans, and also vampires -- because [Damon] does it as well -- we hide so much. We're so afraid of being vulnerable because it might show weakness ...

Ian SomerhalderHe's getting it off of his chest, but it's not really helping, because, sure, he can tell someone how he's feeling, but he's not forced to have any further conversation or repercussions or results, so he just kind of wallows in it.

He chooses a girlfriend for a little while ... Like Kevin [Williamson, executive producer] said, Damon's an eligible bachelor in Mystic Falls; if he doesn't have a girlfriend or a girl that he's with on a regular basis, people may start questioning what's going on. So, he chooses to compel the super hot, witty local newscaster, and sort of have his outlet to divulge his feelings, yet not really have to answer to them.

Let's talk about Andie Star, this fabulous journalist. She's obviously not in high school, so what's the dynamic like between them?
Well, she's really witty and funny ... She's not in high school, so it adds a completely different dynamic; she's quirky and she's witty like Damon, so they have this fun little banter by virtue of the fact that even under her compulsion, she's still quick-witted and she's adorable. It's a lot of fun to have that because right now, there's so many things that are life-threatening on the show -- there's not as much levity.

Any hint as to how long she may be sticking around or if she's going to meet an untimely end?
Well, you know, Dawn [Olivieri] -- who is a good friend of mine -- who plays Andie, just booked a huge pilot opposite Don Cheadle.

Not a good sign, then!
[Laughs] For Damon, no; for her, absolutely!

Obviously, Damon has a serious grudge against werewolf Jules (Michaela McManus), following Rose's death. Can you share anything about their interactions in the episodes coming up?
Yeah, Jules poses, obviously, a completely different set of obstacles and problems, by virtue of the fact that one bite from her could literally kill him, this ridiculous, horrible death. I think maybe a big misconception is the fact that, it wasn't that Damon was in love with Rose -- Rose's predicament and death made him feel a lot more than he wanted to feel. But it was really about Elena; it wasn't that he fell in love with Rose, it was more about what [her death] made him feel.

So, he wants Jules out of town for a number of reasons: First of all, it's just dangerous having her there, it does piss him off that she can kill him, it does piss him off that she ultimately was the catalyst that made him feel so much by losing Rose.

In last week's episode, the vampire vs. werewolf war kicked off -- what part will Damon play in future interactions with the lycanthropes?
Well, I think that it could definitely go wrong for him. I think Damon realizes, you know, there's a lot of werewolves and there's not so many vampires willing to help Damon ... So, it becomes a bit of an issue.

I also hear that Damon's throwing a dinner party very soon. What can you tease about that?
Oh, that was so much fun. Being on set with Dave Anders, who's my boy; Matt Davis, my boy; Sara Canning, who I just adore, and Dawn, who I just adore and Marcos Siega directing ... and of course Daniel Gillies, who's my boy; it was awesome. I had these five actors sitting at this table who I just adore and love being around and working with and then, we had Marcos Siega directing. It was a lot of fun, just a lot of wit being thrown around. Pretty funny, loved it, it was a blast!

Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley We also have a flashback coming up. Can you give us any hints as to what we might see?
The flashback is actually really interesting. We just had a table reading, I just talked to Paul [Wesley], actually; he said he saw some of the stuff from the flashback and he said it looked great.

What you kind of get a glimpse of is the dynamic of Stefan and Damon back then ... You truly get a different sense, you see more of the truth. I'll let you guys see first, because it actually plays against a great deal of what we thought actually happened, for myself included. You see the influence that Stefan had over Damon, you kind of get a great glimpse of why Damon might resent Stefan and really want to give him a lot of hell.

Finally, let's talk a little bit about the Ian Somerhalder Foundation and whether you have any fundraisers or projects going on right now that you'd like to publicize.
Thanks for asking -- the amount of support that has come from the world to this foundation is just phenomenal. I mean it really blew my mind. It is extremely difficult to raise money right now at a time of one of the largest economic depressions the world has ever seen. We are putting together some fundraising-type situations that we haven't really sussed out yet ...

Last weekend, oddly enough, my executive director of the foundation -- who is amazing; the foundation wouldn't exist without this woman ... she is literally saving the world and I love her for it -- she sent me an e-mail last weekend that the Ian Somerhalder Foundation was randomly trending worldwide on Twitter, which is like crazy. It was just so awesome to see that much support.

Fundraising can just be done online, you know, just going to the website. It's going to help tremendously. I mean put it this way: A 6-year-old girl emailed my executive director at the foundation; she sent me the most adorable email -- she sent her tooth fairy money to the foundation to help save the planet.

Ian Somerhalder and Matt DavisLiterally, she said, "I'm sending you my tooth fairy money to the foundation to help save the planet, please let me know what I can do. I know I'm really young and I don't really have a voice yet, but, please let me help in my school." She had all these ideas, it just blew my mind ... I mean this girl was six years old. I thought, these are the kind of amazing things that come from an idea that together, as trite as it sounds, we can all band together and fix things. We can fix things that are wrong. This girl understands that ... at her age she doesn't necessarily have a voice but she wants to learn how to have a voice.

To be honest with you, that's one of the biggest reasons I started the foundation. The most underappreciated and underrated group of people on the planet are the youth of the world, they simply are. Because of their age we think that they don't have a voice, that they don't have desires and good notions -- they do, they absolutely do.

They're starting to feel the power ... With social networking, with Twitter and Facebook, and all these things, the social networking is starting to take hold. Things like the IS Foundation are a community where people can come and actually say, "This doesn't work, how can we change this? How can we change that?" It's crazy how much synergy it's creating. I am over the moon and I could not be more appreciative to everyone if I tried. We're going to make things happen -- we're going to make great things happen.

Remember, if you share your thoughts on tomorrow night's episode in the recap's comment section, you'll automatically be entered into the contest to win one of our fabulous eco-friendly, recyclable CW Swag Bags, to celebrate the return of new episodes this week. (Full rules and a list of prizes available here -- remember to use a valid email address or Twitter handle to comment so that we can contact you if you win!)

'The Vampire Diaries' airs Thursdays at 8PM ET on The CW.

Follow Laura on Twitter: @LauinLA.

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What an amazing interview! I loved the story about the 6 year old girl and of course about TVD. I'm glad to see that Ian realizes the youth of this nation is important. After all they are our next leaders! Way to go Ian and TV Squad!

February 10 2011 at 12:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Georgina Cardenas Pr

Ian rocks! He is not only talented and gorgeous, but he has a good heart and the intelligence and motivation to do good and make things happen. He really stands out in a sea of selfish, shallow celebrities. If only all of young Hollywood were like him!

February 10 2011 at 12:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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