Having starred as Damon Salvatore in The Vampire Diaries for eight seasons, actor Ian Somerhalder has a long history of playing one of horror's most popular monsters. The actor is returning to the world of the undead for the upcoming Netflix series V Wars, based on comics by Jonathan Maberry and Alan Robinson, which will offer fans of Somerhalder some familiar elements from his previous series but largely offer audiences an all-new experience. While some fans might think that Somerhalder would be reluctant to return to a world which he spent so many years in, the different approach to the mythology and his character's role in it will remind fans that the journey will be incredibly different from anything they were expecting.
In the series, a fast-spreading disease that turns victims into blood-sucking fiends pits two best friends against each other in a fight for humanity's future.
ComicBook.com spoke with Somerhalder about his passion for the series, what makes V Wars different from his previous roles, and what his future might hold.
ComicBook.com: Ahead of the debut of the series, what do you want fans to know about V Wars?
Ian Somerhalder: I'm sitting in the car with my producing partner right now, and in between conversations and phone calls with you guys, we're still dialing in effects shots, and merchandise, and distribution stuff, and it is such an immense amount of work. And I say that with a smile on my face because we're lucky to get to do it. But I think that if anyone knew what went into this, they would not be so critical in their thinking.
There's just a lot of shit that people produce and just throw out there, but we took almost a year, painstakingly, going through these frames of the show to make it everything we knew it could be in setting up this world. Because it's about the world that you're setting up and you can only set up so much in 10 episodes. In a network format, you have a really long runway. You've got 22 episodes and that's pretty major. That's a long-ass runway. And with this, you don't have that, but it's non-linear TV. So, you're distributing it all at one time, and there's something so cool about that.
You get to find such a level of fluidity in the show because you're releasing it all at one time. From a comic perspective, it's really unique because, by virtue of the fact that we have five books to mine from ... Jonathan Maberry was so bright in devising the way that this story is put together. But the comic and the references, not just the character references, but the visual references and the story references are just so memorable. They're so amazing.
Seeing that we have five books to mine from, and to even continue the story, the graphic novel side of it, it's just so dope. I'm so excited to have this level of IP, with a writer like Maberry and his group of writers that he put together. I'm just over the moon.
Once you wrapped up work on Vampire Diaries, were you apprehensive to get involved in the world of vampires again?
In all honesty, when my agent and manager brought this to me, of course, initially I went, "Guys, there's no way that we can continue in this genre." And then they very quickly reminded me, as did my wife, that this was a completely different take. This was a totally different view of this genre, and it's a grounded view with a best-selling author with five amazing books, and a graphic novel to back it up and to pull and mine from, and this character wasn't a vampire. This character is a scientist, which, I wanted to be a scientist when I was young.
After playing Damon Salvatore for so many years, all I wanted to do was to find and play a character that was grounded, who was a superhero, but his superpowers were just being a good dad. Just being a scientist, being a good husband. Because to me, man, scientists, great fathers, and good husbands are fucking superheroes. Because everything around them spreads in a positive manner.
Luther Swann encapsulated all of those things, but once you peel the onion back, once you start looking behind the curtain, you start to find the complexities unraveling in this man, and this was just such an interesting and amazing character, that could span season after season after season with this really dynamic story, and tell some really, really, really, really socially relevant stories. To me, that was everything. That meant that we could tell relevant stories.
If you think about it, and this is what I loved seeing in the comics, there's really dope visuals with this. The things we're dealing with right now in society, borders, racism, disease, the politics of fear ... how it's put into society is vast and it's happening right now as we speak. We're not bludgeoning people over the head. There's this one character in the comics, in the graphic novel, called "Little Drip," and he's this rapper, and he's a Blood, he's a vampire, and he's rapping. He sounds like Tupac, super insightful. Really, really, really hard-hitting bad-ass messaging. It's one of my favorite storylines in the whole graphic novel and I can't wait to explore that. A Blood rapper who's basically preaching the good word like Tupac was about the problems facing him and his people, and society's desire to keep him down. It's really powerful shit.
The best genre stories draw you in with fantastical elements and then find ways to mirror society in grounded and unexpected ways.
Obviously this is not what we really come across in Season One because it's the genesis of this all. This is the very beginning. It sets up that world. First seasons of shows, they're tough. You're just getting your footing. You're finding out who these characters are. You're doing everything. You're trying to get the look of the show, the feel of the show, the aesthetic of the show. The characters, you're trying to find all those nuance moments of building these characters. Like I said, this isn't a 22-episode show, so you don't have as much of a runway as you do on a 22-episode show, or even an 18-episode show. You can't flounder quite as much because it's so obvious. You can't falter as much. Really, it's a very condensed schedule.
The best you could do is put your best foot forward and really just try and mine the most honest performances and aspects of that show, of that episode. Those throughlines and those storylines that yield the most emotion and fluidity because it's non-linear. It's like you could watch this shit all within six hours or eight hours, and that's a powerful way of telling a story. Even though you have different directors, you're still finding that fluidity as the episodes flow with one another. It's like an album. It's like a conceptual album, it will all just flow together.
Obviously this show has its comic book roots, but are there any other comic book characters you'd like to play somewhere down the line?
Man, there's so many badass characters out there now. You look at this Marvel universe, oh my God, I would have loved to have played alongside like a [Robert] Downey Jr. There's amazing, incredible actors in this world now. It's just a multi-, multi-, multibillion-dollar business. The performances and the unique nature of these performances are so fun, but it takes a Robert Downey Jr. or a Chris Hemsworth, who have crushed it. These guys are really bringing these characters to life in these big giant formats, but with heart and soul.
I'm so focused on just getting V Wars off the ground and making this something. Not to sound like a douche, but this is three TV shows I've had ... even my first show, Young Americans, it was WB show, it only went one season, but it caused a lot of chatter. But Lost and The Vampire Diaries were these tent-pole, watercooler shows. I don't have any intention on not producing one of those shows and creating such social dynamics, and hard-hitting, wonderful emotional juxtapositions, visual juxtapositions, and controversial storylines, that, again, don't bludgeon people over the head, but create so much conflict and joy within the viewer that they just can't not watch it.
I just don't want to do anything that I wouldn't want to watch anymore. I don't want to produce or star in anything that I would not say, "I can't wait to watch that show." And with the success of Vampire Diaries, and, hopefully, with the success of V-Wars, that is the position I get to take in my life and my career, and I'm grateful for that.
You're not going to hear me complain, but I've spent 14-15 months of my life on this show, and the last 11 months of my life in post-production on the show with our amazing team, crafting the show in the edit, and giving it everything we've got. I put my heart and my soul into this show. I mean, it put me in the hospital, I cared about it so much, and worked my ass off the whole time. I really want to share it with people and really use Season One to catapult us into the world that we can really expand and just turn into such a dynamic, amazing story that spans season after season.0comments
V Wars debuts on Netflix on December 5th.