'Vampire Diaries'' Ian Somerhalder returns to 'Lost,' loves the undead & lets go as Damon

iansomerhalder.jpgMost of us first fell for Ian Somerhalder in the fall of 2004 when he rose to fame as the ill-fated Boone on ABC's "Lost" Five years later, starring as the bad boy, blood-sucking lead in The CW's new hit "The Vampire Diaries," Somerhalder took a second to chat about his career, the new series and what's to come. And, strangely enough, he did it while on location in Hawaii where he flew in to film a guest spot for the final season of "Lost"...

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk. I hear you're in Hawaii right now!
IS:
Yes and I just came from set and saw everyone. It was awesome.

Is this your first day there?
IS:
Yeah. I just flew in about an hour ago.

Is it weird to be back there after all this time?
IS:
It never is weird. Hawaii is one of those places that is so special to me and is so much a part of me, that it's like an old friend, you know? When you don't see them for quite a while and then you talk again, it's as if you've always been there.

How long will you be there?
IS:
I leave tomorrow evening, actually.

So you're shooting for one day?
IS:
Yes. I'm shooting for a couple of hours and then I take off.

I guess that's good since the "Vampire Diaries" set is definitely missing you at the moment. I just spoke with "VD" E.P. Kevin Williamson--

IS: Awesome man.

Agreed. And he said he wrote you into practically every scene of the episode currently shooting. But he was really glad this "Lost" thing still worked out.
IS: The new ["Vampire Diaries"] episode, I just read it, is awesome. It's so much fun. And yeah, it's great. I'm just going to pop back [to Atlanta] tomorrow and I'm really thankful that it all worked out. Really thankful that ["Lost" E.P.s] Damon [Lindelof] and Carlton [Cuse] put me in [this episode] and that I get to come back and see everyone. And thankful that the producers could make the dates work.

I don't know how closely you've kept up with "Lost" or if you keep track of the story, but given May's finale, were you anticipating that Boone would return or was it something that came up recently?
IS:
It was over the summer. I had spoken to Damon several times and he mentioned wanting to get me back over there and I thought that was great. I do watch "Lost" as much as I can. I'm very close to a lot of the actors. I'm proud of them. I adore them. And I love getting to see snippets of their work here and there. There will be some point at which I can sit with some box sets and just, you know. The winter is going to be coming to Atlanta soon, so...

Yes, you are shooting "Vampire Diaries" down in Atlanta. How are you liking it?
IS:
You know what, I love it there. I really do. I'm from the south, so [Atlanta] just has this familiar air to it. It's the same air that I remember growing up with. There's a lot of hospitality, the people are great. And it's a beautiful place to live. Also, I'm close to home and to my family in Louisiana. I'm closer to New York where my... you know, it's good. I'm happy.

That's great. Yeah, talking to Kevin, he seems really happy with the work you're doing. Seems like he's a huge fan of yours.
IS:
I'm a huge fan of his. I wouldn't have this job without Kevin and I'm greatly indebted to him for that. We all have a really great bond with Kevin Williamson. I love that man. When you sit and you talk with him, it's a funny thing that happens. You find yourself intently listening because Kevin -- there's a reason he's such a great writer -- the guy can articulate any thought he's having. And when you try and reply to something, he can help you articulate the point that you're trying to make. And he just has so many stories and the great thing about it is, in all of his success, he's still so humble.

Love that. And it sounds as if he wanted you to play the role of Damon no matter what. Were you approached about the part or did you hear about it and then go in?
IS: I heard about the project and went in [to audition] at the very last minute and luckily started the testing process. But you obviously know that the channels which you must go through to book a television show can be very grueling.

Oh, it sounds awful.
IS:
It is truly [awful]. I'm personally not a very good auditioner and testing for a show is so nerve-wracking, especially when you want it. That process, man. The meetings and the network and the studio and the tests and all that stuff is very intense. It was just a week of sweaty palms. And Kevin fought for me [with the network and the studio], I knew he was fighting for me and that's, again, why I have such a connection to him. We both really wanted this.

Was the vampire thing a part of why you went for the role? Are you a fan of "True Blood" or "Twilight"?
IS:
I'm from New Orleans, there's a lot of history to that city and my mom was always very into [gothic-themed book author] Anne Rice, therefore I got really into Anne Rice and the whole mythology of vampires. I always wanted to play one. I actually auditioned for [HBO's] "True Blood" with Alan Ball, who is obviously another just amazingly talented human being.

That's cool, this is a genre you're familiar with and that you wanted to be a part of.
IS:
That's the thing, the whole mythology for vampires, again, has always been so interesting to me. Damon is the most fun character I have ever played. I couldn't imagine playing anyone else right now. When you lose the constraints of being a normal human, you open up a great deal. You have tons of fun options to play with. If you want to do a scene hanging from 50 feet up in a tree, you can literally do that.

And you're not going to fall out to your death.
IS:
Yeah, if I fall out, I'll land on my feet and walk away. Or, Damon will at least. Ian would probably shatter every bone in his body.

And Boone!
IS:
Exactly. [Laughs] I know. But you know, it is just so much fun playing a guy who has a blast doing what he's doing. Now, whether or not he's doing what we agree with, or we deem as evil or wrong, judging him is beside the point. Just kind of going along for the ride and having fun is what I love to do.

Obviously Damon is the bad boy vampire, but do you see him as having any redeeming qualities? Any humanity?

IS: Yeah, the redeeming qualities that Damon possesses, we may not see for a while. When you peel back the layers a little bit, you start to understand why Damon is doing what he's doing. Again, you don't have to agree with him or his methods, but you start to see bits and pieces. The question is, is there any humanity left in him? As much as he would like to say absolutely 100% not, maybe there is.

Will Elena be the character to bring it out?
IS:
You know, when Damon's in the presence of Elena, that is when you definitely see a change in him. There is something so profoundly attractive to Damon about this girl, not only just because Nina Dobrev is strikingly beautiful and extraordinarily talented, but because there's a lot of Nina in Elena and Elena is very sweet and [she's] going to be a complex character. Something about her reminds Damon of something that was very important in his life, and that's why you see a bit of difference with him when he's around her.

But there's also a relationship between Damon and Caroline. Kevin said that when he saw the chemistry between you and Candice Accola, he started writing to it immediately.
IS:
If Kevin told you that, cool, because I was told not to talk about that, but if he already talked to you about it...

Yeah, he seems really excited about that relationship.
IS:
I love working with Candice. Caroline, at first glance in the pilot, you see her as kind of manipulative or maybe even predictable. But Candice is a really talented girl and Caroline is such a cute character, because yeah, the interaction between her and Damon, it even surprised me. It's a lot of fun to play and we do have really great, fun chemistry together. You have this strange dynamic between this really sweet, innocent girl in high school and this guy who is 175-years-old. He teaches her. And there are funny things. Damon, he's a real cynical guy, but if you can, just for a second, imagine an 175-year-old man talking to an 18-year-old girl, you see what I mean?

He's had a long time to develop his game.
IS:
Yeah, a long time. But it's also funny because the little bits of wisdom that come out of Damon's mouth when he talks to Caroline... I just love reading them. I love getting those scripts and being able to do those scenes. I look forward to more, hopefully there will be some more.

"The Vampire Diaries" airs tonight at 8 p.m. on The CW


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