'Vampire Diaries': Ian Somerhalder on romance, bromance, and changing the world

tvd-somerhalder-gallery-cw.jpgThere's no denying that both Salvatore brothers on "The Vampire Diaries" are good-looking and charming enough to make a girl forget about the whole blood-sucking dilemma.

But while Stefan's ( Paul Wesley) idea of a romantic evening involves making out on a Ferris wheel after hours, Damon ( Ian Somerhalder) has a different way of showing Elena ( Nina Dobrev) that he cares.

"Well, there's no better way to say I love you than breaking her brother's neck," Somerhalder tells Zap2it. "What happened to flowers and chocolate and love letters? For Damon it's snapping your brother's cervical vertebrae, therefore severing his spinal cord and killing him."

Wow. It's a wonder he's still single.

When I hung out with Ian this summer, he told me that Damon's vulnerable moments are the most difficult for him to play out as an actor. I had to ask him how he's holding up, since Damon's soft underbelly has been exposed more in the last three episodes than in the entirety of Season 1.

"How do I put this?" he says, before pausing and choosing his words carefully. "I don't feel stagnant, or muted, but it feels a bit counter-intuitive. There's some really cool stuff coming up for Damon, though."

That neck-snapping incident was so startling that a good portion of the show's fans lost hope for Damon and Elena ever hooking up. Will he ever win her over again?

"I don't see how," Somerhalder says, "but that's the idea. She hates him now, but she won't forever. It'll get figured out." Despite his heartache, Damon hasn't given up on Elena -- in fact, his feelings for her may help him transcend a centuries-old rivalry. In the past, Damon and Stefan allowed Katherine to come between them. This time around, their love for the same woman might actually help them bridge the gap.

"Damon and Stefan are going to have to set their differences aside to protect what they love, and that's Elena. Damon is pretty envious of Stefan at this point, but he's going to bury that. Damon sees the bigger picture. There are some serious problems in town that could possibly affect Elena, who is his top priority."

"Look," Somerhalder continues. "Damon got his heart ripped out twice within like an hour, but he still has something to fight for. There are three things he cares about protecting: Elena, his brother, and the town."

To keep fighting the good fight, Damon and Stefan first need some answers. Unfortunately, their manipulative psycho-ex Katherine is the only one who can offer them. In the next episode, she'll take us back in time once again. tvd-stefan-damon-large.jpg

"The flashback stuff is really cool - it's always cool. We learn a great deal from Katherine," he says. "There's a lot of exposition about what happened, but then again, like with Damon last year, you have to consider the source of your information. With Damon, you get some of the truth, but not the whole truth, and Katherine, like Damon, is very convincing."

Of course, Damon and Stefan don't have to act alone. Damon and Alaric ( Matthew Davis) have proven a formidable team when it comes to protecting Mystic Falls and the Gilberts.

"Damon and Alaric are the oddest of bedfellows," he jokes. "Matt Davis and I love being on set together. We just have so much fun. We totally have a bromance going on. He's my bro, you know?"

The frenemies have more in common than they might want to admit. "At the end of the day, Alaric and Damon are kindred spirits. They're two of a kind. They were both in love with these women who wanted nothing to do with them. They have this sort of commonality of pain."

They've recently gained another unlikely ally who knows the sting of lost love. Jeremy ( Steven R. McQueen) has somehow turned to Damon for guidance... despite the fact that Damon killed him not too long ago.

"Jeremy's probably a little pissed off," Somerhalder says. "And he could definitely be deemed as self-destructive, but right now he's tired of sitting by the wayside. He realizes that, coming out of the haze of addiction, he's got a lot to give. There are a lot of things he's concerned about, and above his own safety there's the safety of the town and his sister. He's a part of this now. We've all got to take Katherine down, whatever it takes."

Though Katherine may be public enemy number one, Damon hasn't forgotten those mysterious Lockwood men. "Mason poses a major threat to Damon. Damon's not going to sit around, no way," says Somerhalder. "There definitely will be some conflict there, some clashing. Who's to say what Mason's intentions are? But either way you shake it, Damon doesn't like him and doesn't want him around."

While Damon may not be a fan of the wolfpack invading his hometown, Somerhalder has taken to devoting his off-screen time to helping needy animals in his own hometown of Covington, La.

In support of the largest humane society in Louisiana, Somerhalder is headed home on Nov. 13 to host a benefit dinner. "It's called Bash on the Bayou. I can't wait to see everyone there," he says, "but if people can't come, I just tweeted last night that there's another way to help out."

If you donate $50 to St. Tammany Humane Society, Somerhalder will sign a personalized headshot just for you. For the details on how to donate online, over the phone, or by mail, visit this link.  Somerhalder's fans have already been successful in helping out St. Tammany, since the organization won $20,000 from Chase Community Giving in July.

"I can't tell you how thankful I am," he says. "When I pull up to the humane society and the car makes noise on the gravel, all the animals freak out, and you realize just how many animals are there because of the decibel level. Then you walk by and they're so adorable. They just want love. They don't want to attack you, they want to lick you. They just want interaction. To think that because of this money and because of the efforts of so many Vampire Diaries fans, those animals will be able to find homes and treatments - it's amazing."

Somerhalder is still thinking big when it comes to changing the world. Stay tuned for more opportunities to work with him to make a change. "You can't do any of this alone," he says. "The support that I get from the fans is so f***ing humbling. It's unbelievable how amazing these people are. We're gonna save a lot of little baby animals. We're going to make a difference."

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Photo: The CW
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