His piercing blue eyes are one of the first things you notice about Ian Somerhalder, who was one of the first characters to be killed off of "Lost." Now he is back from the dead -- actually, he is undead -- with his role as bad-boy vampire Damon Salvatore, who steams up the action on The CW's "The Vampire Diaries." ET chats with the Louisiana-born actor to get his take on sinking his teeth into his role.
ET: Are you a fan of the whole vampire craze?
Ian Somerhalder: I am from New Orleans, so I grew up with Anne Rice. From a very young age, I knew a lot about vampires and always wanted to play one.
ET: How did you prepare for playing a vampire?
Ian Somerhalder: I don't like blood. Blood freaks me out a little bit. So when you think about being hungry, for example, think of a time when you are stuck on a plane, or wherever you were that you didn't have food, or you see people starving in the world, think about how intense that is. Imagine being a vampire and having 160 years of life experience -- knowledge of humanity, of life and death, of everything -- then on top of that your senses are heightened by 1000 percent. All of the things you hear, you have to learn to block out, and your sense of needing to eat is constant and 1000 times more than we have. It is a very intense proposition, so trying to inhabit someone who has that much knowledge of the world … it is a feat. I hope I am doing it right.
ET: How is your vampire different than other vampires?
Ian Somerhalder: [jokes] I do whatever I want. I go in the sun. I want [executive producer] Kevin [Williamson] to write an episode that sends Damon to the Caribbean.
ET: Is that because of the ring?
Ian Somerhalder: Yes. It is a lapis stone ring that allows us to go out into the sun. I can go chill in the Virgin Islands and bite some people down there.
ET: Can you talk about the relationship between the brothers?
Ian Somerhalder: These two brothers have very different views on life. Damon has decided to not dismiss his heritage, which is unfortunately feeding on people. That is what you do. It is as if a human being had decided to stop eating. Stefan (Paul Wesley) -- because of his love for people or his desire to not brutalize children -- [doesn't feed on humans] which makes it difficult to hang out. There are going to be a lot of twists and turns that are going to illustrate how different we are and the bouncing back and forth of good to bad and bad to good.
ET: Would you like to explore your vampire character's good side?
Ian Somerhalder: I think there's as much room for good in Damon as there is evil in Stephan. We all have it inside of us.
ET: What about the makeup?
Ian Somerhalder: The new fangs we have go in so there is no bridge and they don't affect your speech patterns. I could recite the Gettysburg Address as if it was nothing at all. It is unbelievable how cool it is to do scenes with the fangs.
ET: You mentioned Anne Rice earlier. Do you have a favorite Anne Rice vampire book?
Ian Somerhalder: Lestat is one of the coolest dudes ever. I don't have a favorite book. I grew up on the lake in New Orleans on the north shore, the more rural area, and looking across the lake, I could see New Orleans and think, "There are vampires over there." Sometimes when we would go there when I was a little kid, it was the not knowing. Sometimes when I was a tiny kid, it was a little scary. Now when I go back there and I am on this show, [it is great] to sit there and see it. To look at that skyline from 26 miles across the lake and think, "Are they going to get me?"
ET: Have you read the Twilight books or seen the movie?
Ian Somerhalder: I haven't.
ET: Which of Damon's powers would you like to have?
Ian Somerhalder: The mind compulsion thing is pretty cool. I can literally look in your eyes and make you do whatever I want. That actually could be really dangerous. The other thing is reading people's minds and moving almost at the speed of light.
ET: Do you watch "True Blood"?
Ian Somerhalder: ...I couldn't watch until I booked this show. I so wanted to do that show. I had a really bad meeting with ["True Blood" executive producer] Alan Ball and I blew it in the room. I was so pissed at myself, I couldn't bring myself to watch that show. Now I have a really great role on a killer show … no pun intended.
ET: What role were you up for on "True Blood"?
Ian Somerhalder: Sookie's brother [The role played by Ryan Kwanten].
ET: Maybe it is a lucky escape that you weren't cast because he is naked almost every episode?
Ian Somerhalder: Really? I already did that for HBO so maybe I skipped a good one. [Somerhalder guest-starred on HBO's "Tell Me You Love Me" on which he did a nude sex scene.]
"The Vampire Diaries" airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.