In prepping to audition for “The Vampire Diaries,” Ian Somerhalder employed an unusual approach. “I found out about the meeting at 9 o’clock the night before, and I was in Vegas, a five-hour drive away from L.A.,” he recalls. “I taped my sides together in the car and drove across the desert in the morning. That’s how I worked on my script.”
While this may not be the method most recommended by in-the-know acting coaches, it appears to have worked: Somerhalder nabbed the role of nefarious Damon Salvatore, a devilish bloodsucker who spends most of his time tormenting his younger, more earnest sibling (Paul Wesley). Somerhalder brings a wicked sense of fun to the role; with his well-timed smirks and smooth line delivery, he steals nearly every scene he’s in. In a way, he makes it all too easy to root for the bad guy.
“Damon is, by societal standards, bordering on the level of a sociopath,” says Somerhalder with a chuckle. “But here’s an interesting thing: My coach, Ivana Chubbuck, one phrase that she coined about Damon is that Damon has ill intentions but for righteous reasons. People like that are beyond dangerous. On a positive note, what makes that really fun is he truly believes in what he’s doing and he loves it.”
After reeling in a decent chunk of viewers with its moody early episodes, “The Vampire Diaries” was picked up by the CW for a full season. For Somerhalder, this lessens the sting of failing to book a part on that other vampire show, HBO’s runaway hit “True Blood.” The actor auditioned for the role of troublemaking Jason (which eventually went to Ryan Kwanten), but it didn’t go so well.
“I wanted it so badly, and I blew my audition with [show creator] Alan Ball,” Somerhalder says bluntly. “I had rehearsed this stuff so many times and it worked. And then I got in the room and I just blew it. I was bummed about that, and to be honest with you I couldn’t watch ‘True Blood’ until I booked ‘The Vampire Diaries.’ ” He chuckles bemusedly. “Then I realized, ‘Wait a minute. I have my own vampire thing now.’ “