Ian Somerhalder was killed off of Lost a mere 19 episodes into the show’s first season. Luckily, he found work in the afterlife: playing not-so-nice vampire Damon Salvatore on the CW smash hit The Vampire Diaries, which is now in its second season. Somerhalder, who grew up near New Orleans — “with that whole Anne Rice feel,” he says — has long been a fan of vampire stories, but he loves playing one even more. “It’s a trip to see the reaction of people when I’m in makeup,” he says. “People are scared of me!”
Scared may not be the word. Possessing a jaw as chiseled as a puzzle piece and crystal clear blue eyes, Somerhalder’s Damon was recently named the sexiest “beast” in an Entertainment Weekly poll, besting 63 other werewolves, aliens, mutants and vampires (including one Edward Cullen) for the title.
BEING DEAD NEVER LOOKED SO GOOD.
WHEN YOU WERE OFFERED VAMPIRE DIARIES, WERE YOU WORRIED AT ALL ABOUT COMPETING WITH THE OTHER VAMPIRE FRANCHISES?
No. Here’s the reality of it: You have the super-duper runaway feature success, which is Twilight. Then you have True Blood, the successful HBO version. Then you have the prime-time network version, because 13-year-old girls cannot sit and watch True Blood with their parents. So comparisons will be made, but the show proved itself to be very different and evolved very quickly.
IS YOUR CHARACTER, DAMON, A MISUNDERSTOOD GUY WITH A DECENT HEART OR A TRUE EVIL GENIUS?
Well, I’m not a maniacal killer. Damon is truly justifi ed in his motivations. My [acting] coach coined this phrase, which really sums up Damon: “He has ill intentions but for righteous reasons.” And we’re seeing it in the world now, where people defi nitely have ill intentions, but they’re righteous in their decision to act. And so, with that, and with Damon, that has yielded an extraordinarily dangerous individual.
BUT YET HE STILL MAINTAINS A GREAT SENSE OF HUMOR.
Humor comes from pain. Humor is a medicine, and he uses it often. That’s what I always like to remember about Damon: that he’s actually a pretty lonely dude.
YOU’RE A PRETTY BIG HIT WITH THE TEENAGE GIRLS THESE DAYS.
You know what, if I were complaining about that. … The reality of it is, without our fans, we would have no show. It’s amazing and inspiring and fl attering that all this is going down. It actually puts a fi re under our butts as actors because [we] have a lot to live up to. It makes us just want to push harder and make the show better.
YOU’RE ON TWITTER. DO YOU KEEP UP WITH YOUR FANS THERE?
You know, I used to turn my nose up at Twitter. I said there’s no way I’d be doing that. WHAT CHANGED? We live in a very interesting age when you can post thoughts and relay information very quickly. That is utterly invaluable. The fi rst time I went to the Gulf of Mexico right after the oil spill happened, I was seeing one thing in person and hearing another thing on television. That just infuriated me.
AND YOU WERE ABLE TO TWEET ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCES?
Yes. It’s such an amazing tool. At this point, I’m totally grateful for it. I realized: Why not just tell as many people as will listen?
YOU’RE ALSO REALLY PASSIONATE ABOUT ANIMAL-RESCUE CAUSES.
There are millions of these [stray] animals, and there are just so many of us. We’ve got to remind people that they’re there. When someone adopts an animal, it totally changes their lives. In 20 years, if my kids grew up never knowing what a stray animal was, that would be so cool.
I HAVE TO ASK: AS SOMEONE WHO WAS ACTUALLY ON THE SHOW, WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE LOST FINALE? DID IT ANSWER ALL YOUR QUESTIONS?
I still haven’t seen the entire fi nale. I’ve been working my butt off. So I just haven’t been listening to people when they talk about it. People keep coming up to me and saying, ”What the heck, dude? What’s going on?” And I’m like, “Dude, I haven’t seen it! Please stop!”