The Vampire Diaries' Ian Somerhalder on What Makes Damon Sexy and the Deadly Halloween Episode

IanSomerhalderDiaries225.jpgWhen you think of smoldering television vampires, you think of Ian Somerhalder who portrays Damon, the sexy-but-evil Salvatore brother on the CW's hit series Vampire Diaries. When you think of philanthropic leaders, you probably don't think of Ian Somerhalder -- at least, not yet. The 31-year-old Louisianan was the first celebrity to involve himself in the Deepwater Horizon clean-up in April and as of last week, the actor was busy organizing a new foundation to launch on his birthday that will help the habitat. When the model turned actor turned philanthropist phoned Movieline last week, he discussed his own childhood interest in bloodsucking demons, this week's Halloween bloodbath, the secret to playing a sexy vampire and his do-gooder streak.

Growing up around New Orleans, what was your first experience with the vampire genre?

My mom was always a giant fan of Anne Rice. I remember that she used to talk to me about the vampire lore that surrounded the city. I grew up on Lake Pontchartrain and I remember looking out over it, seeing the city glittering 25 miles away. I remember thinking, 'My god, [the vampires] are over there.' You know when you are standing on top of a really tall building and you almost have this weird sense to jump? That is what would happen to me when I was in New Orleans. I would hope that the vampires would come and scare the sh*t out of me.

Since vampire lore is so ingrained in the city, what kind of feedback have you gotten from New Orleans about Vampire Diaries when you go home?

Well, Vampire Diaries is a much different approach to vampire lore. There are so many different ways to address it really. Interview With a Vampire is a highly budgeted film that had a lot of time to film this very, very concrete story. Vampire Diaries is geared towards -- not necessarily a younger audience -- but our actual audience does happen to be younger. And our setting is not New Orleans, which is this very, very dark, old city. Our flashbacks are generally geared towards rural areas, not talking about a specific city like old town London with Jack the Ripper. So I don't know how our show holds up to New Orleans' vampire lore. It's apples and oranges really.

But you've gotten feedback from New Orleans?

Yeah, people generally enjoy the show. Fans enjoy the show. My family enjoys the show. I enjoy the show. I think it holds up well.

My favorite part of Vampire Diaries are the flashbacks. Is there a time or place that you would really like to see Damon explore?

I think the Twenties would have been a phenomenal time for Damon. It would be really cool to see him in some Speakeasy, sipping bourbon with some amazing turn-of-the-century character like Buddy Bolden. Or I could see Damon in the Sixties having an affair with Marilyn Monroe or Kate Hepburn.

That would be a great episode.

I just think he hung out with cool people. I would love to see Damon at a Rolling Stones concert in 1969 too.

You are one of a handful of actors famous right now for playing a sexy vampire. What do you think is the secret to successfully embodying a sexy vampire?

I don't know. I think in all of our lives, no matter what we think consciously, subconsciously everything relates back to sex. I mean, it's a joke. From the clothes we wear to the cars we drive to the jobs we have. It is crazy that everything reverts back to sex. And Damon -- much less so this season because he is playing less games and protecting himself and his town and Elena -- just sort of exudes sex. <span

class="pullquote right">There is definitely something scary about not knowing whether an individual is going to kill you or f*ck you.You know what I mean? It's a scary proposition.

When you read about models-turned-actors, writers often use the phrase "discovered" to describe how this certain echelon of performers was plucked from near-obscurity to be made famous. Do you feel like that is an unfair stereotype?

I just want to make it clear that I have been working since I was ten years old. I have been doing commercials on camera since I was ten. I was not a model of such great success that it ever parlayed into my acting. I studied acting with one of the most preeminent acting coaches in the country and pounded pavement for years and worked my a** off. I never had any backlash from the model-turned-actor thing. If anything, I did as many commercials as I did modeling jobs. So it didn't help or hurt really.

What can you tell me about the big Halloween episode? Kevin Williamson mentioned that there would be a huge bloodbath.

There is some bloodshed. Katherine is a piece of friggin' work, man. And as horrible as Damon was in the first season when he first came to town, Katherine is worse tonight. She will stop at nothing to get what she wants and it does not bode well for some town folks.

IanSomerhalderDiaries225.jpgDoes tonight's bloodshed have any relation to the rumor that one character is being killed off for good?

You will find out about that pretty soon.

Since your character was killed off of Lost, do you have any advice for this hypothetical actor/actress who might be disposed of in tonight's episode?

Yeah, don't take it personally and save your money.

Speaking of money, when did you first become interested in philanthropy?

I was never not, but I also was not in the position to do much about it. I have so much respect for the biggest philanthropists in the world. After spending some time with the man who is the CEO and chairman of one of the largest nature conservation organizations on the planet, I realized that I could start an organization that would protect biodiversity.

What are your biggest concerns now?

Oceans are one of the most important things in the world now and that is a national security threat of the United States of America, to be honest with you. That is why seeing the habitat destroyed is so short-sighed by us. It's destroy, destroy, destroy and it's time to be giving back. That is why I am starting a foundation on my birthday. I am going to ask everyone to contribute to it because it's much more fun and gratifying to get a million people donate a small amount of money than to get 100 big investors. There will be something for everyone -- whether a person doesn't give a flying fig about the environment but loves animals, or what have you. I will be partnering with some of the biggest corporations on the face of the planet and it will be cool.