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V Wars star Ian Somerhalder on returning to the world of vampires and the joys of working with his wife Nikki Reed

As the new Netflix series is taking the world by storm, we caught up with Ian to find out more...

By Tina Burke
From Lost, to The Vampire Diaries, Ian Somerhalder has been one of the most recognisable faces to grace our TV screens over the past 15 years.
He won a legion of fans as Boone Carlyle, before taking on perhaps his most iconic role as the dangerous, yet endearing, bad-boy vampire Damon Salvatore.
Between filming major TV shows, picking up awards and campaigning for the environment with the Ian Somerhalder Foundation, the 41-year-old actor fell in love and married fellow Hollywood star Nikki Reed.
The couple share one daughter, Bodhi Soleil, and have a pod deal with Warner Bros TV to produce new content for the network under their production company Rare Birds Productions. Nikki also stars alongside Ian in his new series, much to the delight of fans.
The actor has taken on a new leading role as Dr Luther Swann in Netflix's adaptation of V Wars.
The series, which is based on the graphic novel by Jonathan Maberry, follows physician-scientist Swann and his best friend Michael Fayne (Adrian Holmes) as they face the evolving crisis of a deadly outbreak that fractures society into opposing factions of humans and vampires.
Ian's latest role in V Wars on Netflix. Image: Netflix
The series is already receiving praise from Netflix fans around the globe, with many already calling for a second season!
We caught up with the actor to find out all about his role, his return to the vampire genre and to reflect on his life-changing decade as we approach 2020.
First things first, what attracted you to the new role? Were you nervous to tackle another vampire series?
Initially there was a lot of trepidation because of it being a vampire show, you know? And I very quickly realised that – with some help from my manager, my agent, my wife – that it's really a unique opportunity. There are five books, there's graphic novels, the comics are not only a visual reference but also a story reference, a character reference, there's really just a fascinating amount of source material and, you know, it's quite a departure from The Vampire Diaries.
I'm so thankful for Vampire Diaries, for how much fun I had and how I got to play this really unique and amazing character, and I guess after playing Damon for so many years I really love that character – he was sexy, he was snarky, he was funny, he was dangerous, he's kind of an asshole but everybody liked him because he said some funny shit, but he also really enjoyed what he did, you know what I mean? He loved being Damon and that was so fun to play.
One thing that I found when playing Luther Swann... I was so excited to play a guy who is kind of a superhero, but his superpower is just that he's a great dad, a great scientist, a great husband. Because to me those people - great dads, great scientists, great husbands - are superheros. Everything around them spreads positively and I love that this character embodied all of these things.
What we learned is that audiences don't want an ordinary hero, they want an extraordinary hero, and so we really wanted to make sure that the metamorphosis of this character, and the journey he was on, was legitimate. He really has this metamorphosis and he's forced to become this thing he never would have imagined becoming .
Ian as Dr Luther Swan. Image: Netflix
Did you find that was the most challenging part of playing Luther? To make sure you nailed that metamorphosis?
It's so funny because there were other characters in the show who had more of the levity to do cool, fun, snarky lines and I thought 'oh wow, that's not me anymore'. As a producer I wanted to make sure we get all those great performances. The real challenge in this wasn't finding the character, the real challenge of this was producing as a legitimate creative producer on the show, someone who works tooth and nail to make these things happen and to drive and push creativity around these characters and storylines.
When I first started on the show our daughter was nine months old and the one thing I didn't know was - I worked very hard on The Vampire Diaries, for sure, really hard – but I didn't have a child then, and so nothing could prepare me for the challenges that are being a good creative producer, while starring in the show, and still being a present dad. Because at the end of the day the only person who can play the 'role' of her dad is me, and I refused to be absent or to be gone. So that was really a challenge.
And just getting on film what you need, with the money you're allotted and the time that you're allotted is always a challenge for anyone making television. People forget that you lay this down on film, then you've got to get it to the post production side and we were in post for this show for 11 months, which is kind of unheard of.
There was a period for about four months where I was literally going to sleep every night at 3 or 4 in the morning because we were just in the doldrums of post-production on the show. So I'm super grateful that we had this amazing team to be doing it with, I loved the whole process. I really want to get viewers on this, I want to get into a second season.
Ian was an actor and producer on the new project. Image: Netflix
When the V Wars trailer was first released there was a surprise reveal that your wife, Nikki, is in the series with you and the fans went wild. What was it like to work together on this project?
When I signed on to do the show our baby was eight months old and we packed up and moved to Canada to shoot this first season.
My wife is a designer now – she's got this really successful jewellery line and has sort of become this maverick in the sustainability world for fashion – so she's been building this company and raising our baby and in order for us to keep the family together we went together and she packed up and moved us, while she's working so hard. And then she agreed to do a few episodes for us.
What was amazing to see was this woman who was breastfeeding this baby, and doing her sketches and amazing things - she'd already have all of her scenes prepped - just this highly prepared, professional woman.
She would finish breastfeeding, put her sketches down, and walk on set and deliver these profoundly deep and cool, nuanced performances, give everyone a hug and leave [laughs].
It was really amazing to see that, you know? Really incredible. So we're very grateful to her for giving us that piece of her time and energy. It was really cool to watch her work, and on so many levels too.
Ian with his wife, Nikki Reed. Image: Getty
As a producer, director and actor you've worked really hard on this project for a long time. What are you the most excited about as it premieres?
You know, this is a different take on vampires and I think this is the first time we've ever seen vampires that don't have some kind of supernatural element.
This is science based, because of climate change, because the ice is melting everywhere and deteriorating rapidly and the loss of our permafrost is exposing bio mass, pathogens, viruses and bacteria that we haven't had to contend with for millennia or hundreds of millennia.
One of the really interesting things is that this show really deals with so much of what we're dealing with in society now, right? Climate change, borders, racism, disease, politics, the fear of politics, our devices, this sort of "age of the algorithm" and the fact that our world is rapidly changing, it doesn't matter what side of the aisle you sit on these are facts.
The crazy thing is that in this rapidly changing world we're going to be forced to adapt. [In the show] this disease hits so hard and travels so quickly... It's kind of like a 28 Days Later thing, without Danny Boyle [laughs]. What I'm excited for is to show people a sort of grounded take on vampires.
Something you touched on before is the amount of existing literature and source material for the show. V Wars already has a dedicated fan base. Were you worried about living up to expectations or was it more encouraging because you knew there was already a group of people who want to see the show?
Oh my gosh no, it's amazing. If anything it's so awesome to have so much source material. What's also amazing is that Jonathan Mayberry [V Wars creator and author] is the most giving and amazing writer, so he just wanted to help build our understanding of these characters, which is so badass.
He was so eager to be there, and he says he loved when the story diverts a little bit from what he wrote because he gets to be entertained by it. For a writer of his calibre to have that outlook is just really special and I loved my conversations with him and the fact that he was so involved.
V Wars focuses on the scientific side of things. Image: Netflix
You have a lot of Australian fans who love your work and love the opportunity to meet you at events like comic con, do you see yourself making another trip down under again soon?
First of all, we love Australia. I love that country, my wife and I loved it so much that we went back within five months, and I am so sorry that these fires have plagued your beautiful country and really destroyed so much of it.
We live in Malibu, so we know what it's like, every morning I wake up and I don't know if something is going to be on fire. I'm just sorry you guys are having to deal with this and your country, the wildlife, people's homes and the environment it just can't take it. Last year when the fires were raging in Malibu, we were actually stuck in Australia because we couldn't come home and it was really a scary time but we made it through, and I'm really grateful that we got through it. But yes, we love Australia and we plan on being there as much as we can.
I would love to shoot part of a show there at some point. I'm basing a lot of my business operations out of Asia in the next few years, and it would be amazing to be in Australia shooting and to be able to go back and forth.
It's been a pretty massive decade for you. Coming in to 2010 you would have been wrapping up your time on Lost, moving on with The Vampire Diaries, and now V Wars. As well as everything you do outside of acting. When you look back on the last 10 years, what are the achievements and the milestones that you're the most proud of?
It's pretty incredible, right? It's been pretty amazing for sure and I've definitely been blessed. I think the work we did on Vampire Diaries, entertaining people for so long and staying on the air for that long, was really quite an accomplishment.
Along with doing amazing stuff with the foundation, and to sort of get to do what we do at this level, to leverage entertainment to create quantifiable change in the world is such a powerful thing.
I mean, my greatest achievement is my child, that's the single, greatest achievement, our baby.
Being able to get married and have a beautiful, amazing, healthy child and to have such an amazing and supportive partner who is far more talented and better at most things than I am [laughs] is incredible. I get to learn from her in so many respects.
V Wars is now streaming on Netflix.