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'The Vampire Diaries'' Ian Somerhalder: 'Honestly, my heart is crushed'

VD121a_0583b Ian Somerhalder is no stranger to television. Some of us remember his early performance as Hamilton on The WB's "Dawson's Creek" spin-off "Young Americans" in 2000. More remember his arcs on "Smallville" and the racy "Tell Me You Love Me." With a decade of TV work under his belt, Somerhalder truly hit his stride during the 2009-2010 season. Not only was he asked to reprise his role as Boone on "Lost," but he managed to do it while still appearing in every single episode of "The Vampire Diaries."

When "Diaries" wrapped on Season 1 in Atlanta, Somerhalder, a native of Covington, La., planned to relax. "I was honestly going home to Louisiana to hang out with my family, eat some of mom's cooking, and fish," he says. "Other than publicity work, that was my entire schedule for the break."

That all changed on April 20 when tragedy struck the Deepwater Horizon, a drilling rig positioned on the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast. An explosion destroyed the ship, which sank, triggering an oil spill from a deep-water oil well operated by BP. Weeks later, thousands of barrels of oil continue to gush into the water Somerhalder grew up playing in.

"I never wanted to be one of those actors with a political agenda," Somerhalder says. He's only been in Los Angeles for two hours since returning from Louisiana, where he's been doggedly working to help the cause. "But this has become Obama's Katrina in the way he's dealt with it. It's a massive disaster, on a scale we haven't even begun to fathom, and it could have been stopped by a valve that cost half a million dollars."

He struggles to contain his emotion as he speaks, apologizing several times between expressing his frustration. "I'm not a negative person," he says. "I'm just scared right now. No one really knows what's happening. From what we see on the surface, NOAA and the oceanographers can estimate what's coming out of the rig. But BP has denied scientists access to the footage of the gushing leak below the surface, so there's no way for us to know the actual realistic scale of the damage that's still happening. NOAA is a government administration! Why isn't Obama stepping in and demanding that footage, demanding a live view of what's going on?"

He curses, and then apologizes again. "I never talk about politics, but right now is a time to be angry and sad. There are countless people, children and families, who depend on that Gulf. It's their livelihood. I'm afraid for them."

Last week, Somerhalder shot several PSAs to promote awareness. "There are a lot of people who can't physically get to Louisiana to help," he says. "What's going to happen is, there's going to be a massive wildlife cleanup recovery effort, and that's where most of the help and donations will be needed." He suggests that we visit the Audubon Institute's website to learn more about the cause that's so close to his heart.

"I feel like I could cry right now," he admits sadly. "It's not just because it's my home. Just watching all these very proud, hardworking fishermen, who have never asked for anything in their lives, who support themselves and their families for generations with this one industry. Now it's likely to disappear. If it'll ever recover, we're talking decades and decades. It's beyond tragic."

It's nearly impossible to reconcile him with his callous and calculating "Vampire Diaries" character, Damon Salvatore. "I never saw it coming that by the end of the season, Damon would even give a **** about anything," Somerhalder laughs. "Damon is a character who, from conception, has never had anything to lose. But right now, suddenly, he cares about people. He cares about places. When you care, you stand to lose."

When the series returns for Season 2 in the fall, Somerhalder hopes Damon returns to some of his old ways. "I hope he gets back to biting people and having fun and getting high on blood all the time. He's been so serious lately, forging these relationships, and I think it makes him wildly uncomfortable."

It's no secret that Damon's damage is the result of the beautiful Katherine. "She wrecked him, man," Somerhalder sighs. He considers the inevitable confrontation between Katherine and Damon. "I don't know how that's going to work, but I'm curious. Damon is used to being the strongest guy around. He has no fear. Katherine is stronger than him, she's smarter. She out-foxed him."

"Damon knows he got played. There was this naivete that he had as a 23-year-old boy in 1864, and somehow, he allowed that naivete to stow away with him through 150 years of living and traveling and understanding the world. Now, finally, he's smart enough to understand the irony of that."

Though "The Vampire Diaries" is only on its first season, Somerhalder is already nostalgic for the good old days. His favorite episode to shoot, he says, was "The Lost Girls," their fifth episode and, interestingly, his castmate Nina Dobrev's favorite as well.

"It's the one where Damon turns Vicki," Somerhalder says. "It's still my favorite. I read it, and I called Kevin [Williamson] and Julie [Plec, co-creators] to thank them. Me and Kayla Ewell had so much fun shooting that episode. It was before Kayla was gone. Her leaving really put a damper on the show for me, but when we shot that episode, it was innocent and it was happy. We didn't know anyone was dying. We all thought we were safe. We were just having a blast with the beautiful, tight script."

Along with the fans, Somerhalder has delighted in every new plot twist. "The fact that Damon actually killed Elena's mom and had an affair with her, and now he has the hots for Elena? It's all so twisted and sick and I love it!" he laughs, some of his earlier melancholy shaking off.

"Oh, and when you hear the story about how everything went down between Stefan and Damon? What happened was that Stefan wanted Damon to turn so that he wouldn't lose his brother. He wanted to spend an eternity with his brother." VD120b_0671b

Always up for a challenge, Somerhalder is looking forward to more flashbacks into Damon's past. "There are always decades that interest people," he says. "For me, that's the Roaring Twenties. I'd love to see Damon in the '20s. The '30s, the '40s... oh, God. The '70s! Could you imagine Damon wearing a polyester shirt? Just this huge lapel and really fluffy, long hair? Oh man."

When asked what he thinks Damon was really like back then, Somerhalder pauses for a drawn-out moment, almost as if he's deferring to Damon for an answer. "Of course he had to get a little fun in," he says. "A little action. But she was always there, Katherine was always there. He's fiercely committed to her. What's that Beatles song?" He hums to himself. "'You ought to know that I've been good, as good as I can be.' It's like that."

He's referring to the song "Wait," which is, of course, what Damon has done for the last 150 years. It's also what fans will be doing all summer long after "Founder's Day," tonight's season finale.

"The Vampire Diaries" cast is notoriously hard to break when it comes to spoilers, but one thing he will tell us about the season ender is that it marks a turning point for Damon and Elena. "You see an interesting kind of change happen in the relationship between them," he says. "It was refreshing; something really new. Something different for Nina and I to play with."

When describing his co-stars, Ian jokes, "Well, we'd better love each other, because we're stuck with each other for 185 days a year!"

"I remember right when we finished shooting those beautiful billboard ads that were everywhere last fall, Paul [Wesley] and I went to a restaurant that's a mutual favorite of ours and we got a bottle of wine and we toasted. I said, 'Man, we could have been doing this with anybody else in the world. That would've sucked. But instead, it's us.' We've got such a great understanding of each other. Sometimes you come into people's lives for a reason. There's an attraction there, between the energies. We're lucky. I tell these guys just to remember, we are the luckiest kids in Hollywood."

Somerhalder's own good fortune makes him all the more concerned for those struck by tragedy. "The thing is," he says, "I know I'm not being all bubbly and positive right now. I want everyone to know that I'm excited and ecstatic about the show. I love it. I'm so glad it's doing well. But my heart is back in Louisiana, you know? Honestly, my heart is crushed."

Please visit AudubonInstitute.org to learn more about what you can do to contribute to the Gulf of Mexico wildlife recovery effort.

-- Carina MacKenzie (follow me on Twitter @cadlymack)

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'The Vampire Diaries': Sara Canning makes her own luck
Paul Wesley on his 'Vampire Diaries' character's addiction and more
Melinda Clarke on 'The Vampire Diaries,' 'The O.C.' and her new CW pilot
'Vampire Diaries' star Nina Dobrev on Elena's look-alike dilemma and more

Photos: (top) Ian Somerhalder as Damon in "The Vampire Diaries." Credit: CW (bottom) Somerhalder with Paul Wesley in "The Vampire Diaries" Credit: CW
Comments () | Archives (13)

He doesn't need to apologise for talking about politics. Everyone's opinion (as long as it's educated and hopefully thoughtful) is important and valid. I've never really got that whole 'I'm just an actor/musician/whatever and I don't want to talk about politics'- they're people, and people should talk about what's important to them. Or else what's the point in even having a conversation? Obviously, some people go on and on and on about politics and saving the world and being incredibly self-indulgent and self-righteous (Bono, anyone?) but I don't think that's the case here. Of course I may just be saying that as Ian and I are in a totally real, not in my head relationship (fact). Juuuuust kidding. But he seems pretty swell.

It's refreshing to see a Hollywood personality criticizsing President Obama for a change. Bush got it for years, and a lot of it was rightfully deserved, but I appreciate the unbiased honesty for a change, especially coming from a younger Hollywood actor like Mr. Somerhalder.

Look forward to seeing Ian again as Boone in the "Lost" finale!

I think its cool to see ian really caring about the oil issue . Personally i think there is something special about this guy , because i really think he presented damon really good . I really love this nostalgic complex character !

Carina! I really love this interview. I love that Ian took the time to speak so freely and eloquently on the situation in the Gulf. Because of lack of proper government support it is TRULY IMPORTANT that word of this cause be spread because it seems to be left up to us. I volunteered doing animal rescue during Katrina and I was OVERWHELMED by the number of people giving so much of their money, effort and time to do whatever they could to help out other people and animals. You CAN make a difference!!! Uh, haha, I do not know why I am starting up on a motivational speech, but whatever! To fans of Ian's reading this, get involved! Don't assume that there is not a way you can help. There is! No matter your location or financial situation. If you are unable to help out with body or dime, spread the word! Tell people you care, and why. It makes a difference, IT REALLY DOES!!!

I want to say that Ian need not apologize for speaking up about something he feels so passionately about, but! I get that because I feel sort of lame for all of my 'JUST DO IT!' cheerleading above. I think so much of the time Hollywood is expected to stand there and look pretty, but I feel like it's super important that the men and women that our society focuses so much attention on have VOICES and OPINIONS and express those. Because so much of our culture is immersed in looking up to these people for everything from the latest hairstyle to what's for dinner. You know? Haha! I am preaching on. I will stop now!!! But, totally, I am so impressed with Ian and his genuine expression here.

OKAY. Now for the fun stuff!!! Dude, TVD has been SO GOOD. I can't recall many series that I loved so much right from the start. I love the cast and the main characters are played so PERFECTLY. It is nice to hear that their chemistry extends to real life, as well. Damon is my fave because he's so multidimensional and I never know what to expect from him! It's been awesome watching the season play out and the relationships shifting and such. I am really excited for next season and where the story will go. One of my favorite shows to watch at the moment.

Thank you both for such an excellent interview!!!

ps; I still weep that Young Americans only lasted so long. No, but, haha, I do! Loved that series. <3

pps; Carina! I miss you, love!! <3

Oh, Ian. I love Damon and the Vampire Diaries. You're awesome in the show. And I really feel for you and the others affected by the oil spill. But really, while everyone's entitled to their opinion, please give an informed and well-reasoned one. What exactly is Obama NOT doing to stop BP's royal screw up? BP probably doesn't want to provide the live footage in order to cover up how much oil is entering the Gulf. But even if Obama demanded the footage, how would that stop the leak? Oh, and that $500K valve that could have prevented the leak, what did Obama have anything to do with that? Obama's not perfect but I'm straining to see how he can do anything right now, short of diving down there himself and plugging it up, to stop the leak.

I totally ate up Hamilton/Jake back when Young Americans was on TV. It's weird but kind of awesome that 10 years later, I'm watching Ian Somerhalder be completely, almost ridiculously awesome on another WB (well, sort of) series.

So sad about the LA oil spill, and props to IS for the way he's handling this.

Class. Act.

I don't watch any tv shows but i got into this show because whoever this guy is..."Damon" on the show is one of the best actors i have ever seen. I was washing dishes and the tv was on like always but i wasn't watching anything. I guess this show came on and after about 5 minutes his character was on and lordy did i drop the dishes. There is something about the way he talks, acts, looks the whole package. He makes this show for me and i adore his not good, not bad but "gray" character. He plays it to the "t" and i know it was suppose to be Elena's mom he was kissing BUT holy crap that was a chemistry filled kiss. I hope Elena loosens up a little and falls for him. Good lawd those two are perfect hotness and the sparks engulf the freakin tv. Her and his bro are cute but boring. I will follow Ian, he is a class act and a h*ll of an actor!

aah theres no way I can wait 3 months for the new season!!
such a cliffhanger too
I wonder if Caroline survives!?!?!
and Katherines back???
that will be very interesting
wonder if she has it in for Elena

Of course anyone who has seen Ian portray Damon already knows the amazingness that Ian is....I mean this guy is on an entirely different level than most humans as far as I'm concerned. He manages to make Damon completely come to life, and in a delicious, delectable way! I'm not gonna lie, his looks got me, but they wouldn't be anything without the mind and moves behind them, he leaves me breathless every time I even get a glimpse of him (not kidding). I heard a girl on another board say that Ian had ruined all men for her and I completely agree....no doubt about that! I am happy Ian is finally being recognized for the great person and actor he is. You go Ian, I like that you put what you care about out there, that makes you even more special in my book :D

we love him

I love him!! He is just the best looking man I may have ever seen.. He also did a photo shoot recently (SHIRTLESS!!!!) for the charity Smile Train. It's a black and white photo of him in this book called About Face. Just beautiful!!

I was touched by the amount of emotion he showed for the topic of the oil spill. Every actor/actress always has a charity they promote, or something along those lines, but he didn't try to "promote" he just told his opinion. It's not often you hear that. He truly cares about the people effected, and it is nice to know. He has know reason to apologize. Sometimes opinions need to be spoken. Ian really touched my heart with this interview. It shows how humble he still is.
Carina amazing interview, and article btw. I was hooked from the beginning!!!
I can't wait for Season 2!!!! :)


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