'V Wars': Ian Somerhalder and Adrian Holmes on Creating a 'Disruptive and Unique' Vampire Show (Exclusive)
By Liz Calvario
"No other vampire show that's been out there has focused on vampirism being a genetic disorder. It's possibly the next stage in human evolution," V Wars creator and author Jonathan Maberry tells ET ahead of a book signing alongside the show's stars Ian Somerhalderand Adrian Holmes. "So this show doesn't have a supernatural element at all."
The premise is more scientific, as Maberry explains: "Melting polar ice releases a virus, triggers a dormant gene, people start coding as vampires. It's not been done before and that allows us to go in creative directions that haven't been explored."
Sounds straightforward, but Netflix's 10-episode series is much more complex than that. Add two best friends -- Dr. Luther Swan played by Somerhalder and Holmes' Michael Fayne, the latter who gets infected with this virus and becomes a vampire -- and the struggle between who they were and what they have become. Their world has been transformed by a millennia-old virus that turns the infected into vampires, each one as unique as the victim's DNA and culture. But, the response from unaffected humans is like never before, leading to an all-out war.
This isn't your typical vampire show and the "bloods," as they're known in V Wars, are very distinct. "Your genetics determine what type of creature you are. We're going to have a unique array of these vampires," Somerhalder explains. "They're all going to be different...They have very unique feeding habits and the way they get their prey and what they do to their prey."
For example, there's one type of vampire that can only feed on those they love. As Holmes explains, "They have to have some type of personal connection to them. They can't just grab someone and feed or they would get sick." And not all vampires are aggressive, relays Maberry, not all of them are evil, just as not all humans are either.
When it comes down to the actual internal struggle between Dr. Swan and Fayne, Holmes describes it as two brothers who are now put on opposite sides.
"I'm trying to figure out this new role, this new platform, this new position that I've been put in as a leader," Holmes explains. "I don't want to kill. I don't want to hurt people, but I have no choice. Either I feed or I die, and that's the conflict. That's the struggle that my character has. I have now evolved into something else. And there was a line that we had that states, 'A lion doesn't commit murder, a lion feeds.' That's kind of how I think and how I feel and I'm just surviving. You go to the kitchen and you cook your food, but I'm not that guy anymore. I've now been programmed to go out and hunt."
So what does one do when their complete DNA has changed and it's telling them to act in a completely new and disruptive way? "You're not committing a crime, you're acting according to your nature. He is no longer, technically, governed by the laws that would govern you because you're human, he's not," Maberry states. However, it's not that easy -- and people are getting hurt and killed.
"The other thing is that these guys, because they are so close, you get a little bit of that [complexity] and I think we're going to understand a lot more of how close they were," Somerhalder explains. "The love story of season one is really these guys. They're ripped apart and their journey of coming back together is going to be a long and arduous one for sure."
Maberry adds that "it's actually heartbreaking to see the characters try to connect when they realize that there's a growing difference between who they actually are because they do establish the deep friendship, the deep family ties that go all the way back to childhood."
Apart from that struggle, what attracted Somerhalder to the role of Dr. Swan was the chance to portray one of the good guys. "I wanted to play someone who was just a good person and Luther Swan is a superhero," the actor, who's coming off of playing sexy and snarky Damon Salvatore on The Vampire Diaries for almost eight years -- explains. "But his superpower is just being a great dad, being a great husband, being a great scientist."
As for Holmes, it was the first time that he worked on a book adaptation. He picked up the comic while filming and had an amazing reaction to his character. "I was reading the book while we were filming and going, 'Oh my god! This is me. I'm playing that guy right now,'" Holmes says. He then knew the importance of getting Fayne right and finding the right tone for the character.
"I didn't want it to be over the top. I wanted it to be really grounded," he says of his role, explaining that there's more than meets the eye to this human-turned blood, and really wants the audience to be moved and shocked, as well as "educated and entertained."
There's also the deeper meaning of "Us vs. Them" that V Wars dives into, without "bludgeoning people over the heads with what our views are," Somerhalder says. "If you look at where we are socially, this show deals with what we're dealing with: borders, racism, disease, fear, politics, the politics of fear and how it seeps into our psyche, and the climate aspect."
With so much polarity and divisiveness in the world, the show takes that and also focuses on what psychology calls the "other." "They no longer are one of us and that is the core of the show. Ian and Adrian's characters are family and then suddenly, to each other, they are no longer the same thing," Maberry says. "They are the 'other' and that is a chilling and heartbreaking thing, but it's also what we see every time we turn on the news, every time we look at a newspaper. We are seeing people being made that other thing."
Affirming that "it's not a preaching show," Maberry relays that "storytelling has always been used as a way to talk about issues." "But sometimes when you just tell a straight story, you don't get many people listening. But you catch it inside an entertaining story and that's what this does. We don't tell you what to believe, it allows you to interpret where you would stand in this conflict."
All in all, as Somerhalder describes, the show is "dangerous, sexy, fun, and quite disruptive." He just wants people to experience it for what it is and with that, "I think we can build a very controversial, very unique show."
The first season of V Wars is now streaming on Netflix.