'The Vampire Diaries' Star Ian Somerhalder Talks Directing, Damon's Abandonment Issues

Somerhalder talks with THR about making his directing debut on the long-running CW drama, and previews the twists in store for his character.
The CW

The Vampire Diaries is getting yet another familiar name behind the camera.

Fresh off series co-creator Julie Plec making her directing debut, and star Paul Wesley (Stefan) having his second turn behind the camera, co-lead Ian Somerhalder (Damon) is making his helming debut with Thursday's "The Downward Spiral."

As Somerhalder takes this step forward in his career, his Vampire Diaries alter-ego is reeling from news that his presumed-dead mother, Lily (Annie Wersching) is actually alive and trapped in the 1903 prison world.

"Here's a woman they thought was long dead, having died a totally natural, human death," Plec recently told THR. "And there she is, what, 65 years later than they thought she died in prison world. Which means she's either wrongly victimized, or entirely deserving of her incarceration. So those are questions that are going to be asked and will start to be delivered next [episode] when we get to know more about her … Damon has to ask himself, what do I need to learn about this person before I tell my poor little brother that has mourned her since he was 10 that she might be an evil, evil person trapped in bad places. He's got a bit of a struggle at the top of the next episode trying to figure that out."

The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Somerhalder about his first time directing, how Damon is handling his mama drama and more.

What has the directing process been like?

It's pretty awesome. I've turned in everything, it's out of my hands. I just get to talk to [people] about it now, and hope it doesn't suck. The process of all of it is really quite extraordinary. It's really working with these incredible people. The artists and the on-the-ground producers — be it the line producer who's also our producer, the unit manager, the AD, the props, set design — those are truly the unsung heroes of this show and every show, because they're the ones who give you the ability as an actor, and an ability as a director to go and make those moments happen on screen. Our DP, our first assistant director, these people really guided me through this process. It was kind of incredible. Michael Allowitz, who was our first AD for years and years of the show, who became a director — one of our biggest directors, actually, came on for a couple of weeks to be a co-producer and help guide me through this whole thing. It was just incredible he did that for me. It's an incredible team. The only way to make anything work is a team, and this is no exception. I'm really, really blessed to have that.

What did you find was your biggest challenge?

The greatest challenge you have is just time. How am I going to get everything I need in the right amount of time? Particularly in your first time out … they gave me this opportunity, I wanted to be on time. I didn't want to go over, I didn't want to cost them extra money, I didn't want to be a pain in the ass. I wanted to be a pro, I wanted to get them the performances, and get the shot in the least amount of time and conflict — elevating everyone with good morale, respect, and appreciation to get all those things. At the end of the day, you needed to make your day, get those things done, you need to get the performances, and you need to get the best shot. Now, I may not have gotten all of those, but we tried hard.

How was directing yourself?

It was the most incredible thing ever. Totally so much fun. In my element, it was such a great, great thing. Never been happier.

Given Julie and Paul's recent stints directing, what kind of advice did you get from them?

It's about preparedness. It's about being prepared. And having fun. I love this group of people, and have loved this character for so long, and played him for so long.

Read more The Evolution of Julie Plec: From Development to Directing 'The Vampire Diaries'

Now that you've experienced directing, are you looking forward to doing it again?

Absolutely. I wish I could do it every week.

Looking toward the episode, now that Damon knows his mother is alive, what is his mindset?

Ultimately, two of the women in his life — his mother and Katherine (Nina Dobrev) — have abandoned him and they didn't love him. That's a tough thing to go through — for all these years that your mother and the woman you thought you loved, it wasn't real. Everybody in the world just wants to be loved. When you find out you're not, it can do a lot to you. But as an actor and a director, it's really juicy stuff. 

What kind of debate does he have with himself as he mulls letting Stefan know the truth about their mother?

Damon makes really bad decisions all the time; he does things without thinking about them. I think this is one of those times where he [says], "I want to wait until I know exactly what's happening," which is smart for him to do that.

Read more 'The Vampire Diaries': Julie Plec Breaks Down "Insane" Salvatore Reveal, Surprise Return, Wedding, More

Julie teased that there was a big storyline coming up for Damon and Elena (Dobrev). What can you say about the state of their relationship?

It's very up in the air. There are some things coming along — some big, real-life questions and decisions; it'll be cool. They can't always be [completely] happy.

The Vampire Diaries airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on The CW. Check back next week for more scoop from Somerhalder.

Twitter: @marisaroffman