Until recently Ian Somerhalder could not bring himself to watch HBO’s True Blood. “I had a meeting with [creator] Alan Ball, and I just couldn’t get into character,” he recalls. “It was terrible. I wanted it so badly.” Of course, the fact that Somerhalder is calling from the Atlanta set of The Vampire Diaries, a new hour-long drama on The CW in which he stars, eases the pain. The actor, in fact, seems downright giddy. “I have an amazing role,” he says. “There’s no one else I would rather be playing.”

In Diaries, which is based on a series of youngadult novels by L.J. Smith, Somerhalder plays Damon Salvatore, an undead bad boy who returns to wreak havoc on a small town much to the chagrin of his better-behaved vampire brother. “It is so much fun to play Damon,” says Somerhalder. “He has no mortal restrictions, no physical limitations.” Plus, at 150 years old, the character has one hell of a backstory. “We actually do some Civil War fl ashbacks,” he says. “We get to see the characters in a different place and time.” (Fun fact: Somerhalder, who grew up in New Orleans, participated in Civil War reenactments as a boy.)

In a pop-culture landscape littered with vampires (Somerhalder, for the record, hasn’t seen Twilight), Diaries stands out thanks to its powerhouse pedigree. Kevin Williamson—the Scream scribe who brought teen angst into the 21st century with Dawson’s Creek— writes and executive produces along with Julie Plec, his longtime collaborator and a writer/producer for Kyle XY. Marcos Siega, who has directed Dexter and True Blood, helms the series’ fi rst episodes. The result is a smart, funny, scary and compelling show that’s equal parts horror and heart—almost as if Scream and Dawson’s Creek somehow melded.

“Hey, if people want to say it’s a combination of [those], so be it!” says Somerhalder. “They are both phenomenally written pictures of the teenage experience.” Catch The Vampire Diaries Thursdays at 8 PM on The CW.


Neighborhood: “I love the East Village. When I’m in the city, I hardly ever go above 14th Street. A perfect day is grabbing an empanada and sitting in Tompkins Square Park.”

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