Once known as Lost's Boone Carlyle, actor Ian Somerhalder is now more easily recognized as Damon Salvatore, a point in the love triangle that anchors the CW's hit series, The Vampire Diaries. Despite the seemingly endless supply of vampire-themed entertainment in the world, the show has sustained impressive attention from both critics and fans, with its recent second season premiere bringing in over 3.3 million viewers. We spoke to Somerhalder from the set in Georgia about the BP oil spill, Twitter, his most unusual fan encounter, and why Willem Dafoe is his favorite vampire.
INTERVIEW: Did you spend the whole summer shooting? Or did you have a chance to do anything else this summer?
IAN SOMERHALDER: We've been shooting now for a month. The other two months of the summer were dealing with BP and traveling for publicity; that's really all it was.
INTERVIEW: So, the oil spill affected filming in Georgia?
SOMERHALDER No, no. I'm from the gulf coast of Louisiana. It was my home and it was completely destroyed. I'm literally from the bayou and the lakes and the gulf that were completely affected, so I was home. I based myself out of Louisiana for the summer. I was with my mom and my family just fighting it and trying to build awareness up and taking it on a national level; basically just helping in whatever ways we could. But yeah, that was pretty much my summer.
INTERVIEW: Do you feel lucky to have a public face and personality to lend to the cause?
SOMERHALDER: I was just trying to illuminate what was going on down there and get people involved. I'll tell you, I cannot thank the "Twitter-verse" enough–and I fought tooth and nail not to be a part of this Twitter thing, but about a year ago I broke down. I am grateful and indebted to the Twitter-verse for being so unwavering in their support, and really helping spread information. It was just incredible.
INTERVIEW: What led you to break down and start Twittering? I'm actually looking at your account right now, and you seem to do it a lot!
SOMERHALDER: To be honest with you, I don't know. It was one of those things I thought I would try. It's kind of a cool place to get thoughts out. A lot of things that happen in the world make me a bit crazy. I won't say "environmentalist," but I care deeply about the environment and it was a great way to spread information, and to also update people with what's going on with the show...Like, I can have a thought or take a cool photo on set and I can immediately put it online where unbelievable amounts of people see it. They do this verified account thing, because there are so many people pretending to be you, and once that happened and people knew it was me, it was just pretty cool.
INTERVIEW: There's a lot of vampire-themed entertainment in the world right now; it's a craze that's really shown a lot of staying power. What do you make of that? Do you watch other vampire things?
SOMERHALDER: No, unfortunately, I don't. I live in it, and eat, sleep, breathe it. I think True Blood is a phenomenal show–when I can catch it, I love to. I think the writing and the filmmaking and the actors are doing a killer job. I've never seen any of the Twilight movies, never read any of the books. I haven't seen it purposely because I wouldn't want to have the subconscious comparison in my own head.
INTERVIEW: What do you feel differentiates The Vampire Diaries?
SOMERHALDER: I mean, the reality of it is the unbelievable box office success of [Twilight] is what allowed us to have the show. That's the bottom line, so I appreciate them, but I haven't gotten to check out much vampire stuff. All the Christopher Lee vampire stuff is great, but my favorite vampire movie is Shadow of the Vampire. I think Willem Dafoe was just phenomenal in that movie; its not the stereotype to what we're used to seeing now.
INTERVIEW: What do you see as the difference between those vampires and the stereotype you just mentioned?
SOMERHALDER: These very aesthetically appealing and beautiful individuals–vampires–do represent the ostracized outsider, but not in the sense that [Shadow of a Vampire] did. It's an interesting question, and I've asked myself a zillion times, "How can you put that into words that is comparable to anything that we know?" and I think that Willem Dafoe did that. Before vampires were aesthetically appealing, they were physical anomalies and ostracized outsiders whom we banished to the dark, and they didn't have the appeal that they do now. And I appreciate what Willem Dafoe did, and I got that feeling. I gravitate more toward that side of vampirism, but I'm digging the way we get to tell stories on our show. It's been a lot of fun and for being on network television we try to push it as far as we can there's only so far we can go, but we have such a phenomenal fan base we love them and appreciate them for everything.
INTERVIEW: I can imagine you guys have some pretty intense fans. What is that like for you interacting with them?
SOMERHALDER: I got accosted by a six-foot-one Wonder Woman [at Comic Con]. I was sort of pushed against a wall, so that was pretty cool. The fans are awesome. I think our panel went from last year being 1,000 people to at least 5,000, which was really really cool.
The Vampire Diaries can be seen on the CW at 8 PM every Thursday.