The actor stars in the upcoming Netflix series V Wars as Dr. Luther Swan, a scientist who is forced to go up against his best friend, Michael Fayne (Adrian Holmes), when an ancient disease turns people into vampires, each one as unique as the victim's DNA and culture. The role is not only his first in which he portrays a father since welcoming his own child two years ago, but it's also the first time he gets to work alongside his wife, Nikki Reed.
"When we came to do this show, we all uprooted and were living in Northern Ontario in a very small town and my wife -- being the gangster she is, even while growing a huge company and working as a maverick in the sustainability world, and raising our child, breastfeeding, sketching, working, putting all that to bed -- she also came and did a couple episodes for us," Somerhalder tells ET ahead of the series' premiere. "Did us a huge solid in turning these nuances, beautiful, powerful performances."
Not much is known about Reed's role, other than her character's name is Rachel and she might be Dr. Swan's wife who could possibly be seen in flashbacks -- judging from the trailer. As for Dr. Swan, he's a father to a young boy named Dez (Kyle Breitkopf) and does everything in his power to protect him from the madness.
"Leaving my little one at home and then showing up and there's Kyle, it was the first time I had this unbelievable love for this kid because I can immediately see my daughter in him," Somerhalder -- who shares 2-year-old daughter Bodhi with Reed -- expresses. "There's something very powerful about a father and a child's relationship onscreen. You see them, you believe them -- when you don't believe them, you don't believe them -- but when you really see them, there's something really special because it reminds you of that bond [you have with your child]."
Coming off of playing the "sexy, snarky and fun" Damon Salvatore for almost eight years on The Vampire Diaries, Somerhalder wanted to "play someone who was just a good person."
"[Damon] was kind of an a**hole but people really loved him because he was funny, but I wanted to play someone who was just a good person and Luther Swan is a superhero," the actor explains. "But his superpower is just being a great dad, being a great husband, being a great scientist. Honestly to me, great dads, great scientists, great husbands are f**king superheroes because everything around them spreads positively."
Additionally, Dr. Swan is a complex character who has to decide what the best solution is to help humankind, but is also torn between saving his friend who has now become the enemy. "It's this quest of this man who, not only did he lose his brother, but he's now tasked as a parent, whose sole purpose in life other than the first rule of natural selection which is to reproduce, the next thing you're biologically born to do is just take care of that kid."
His real-life experience as a new father translated so beautifully onscreen, adds V Wars creator and New York Times best-selling author Jonathan Maberry, who admitted to tearing up during an emotional moment between Somerhalder and his onscreen son.
"There was actually a scene in the second episode, I can't give details about it," Maberry tells ET. "But Ian is dealing with grief attached to his family, thinking about his son and I was watching this being filmed and seeing him, knowing he is a new dad and I'm a dad myself, seeing how he brought his personal experiences into that scene. My wife and I were watching this being filmed. We were both in tears and we looked around and half the set had tears in their eyes."
There will be plenty more to witness between Somerhalder, Reed and Breitkopf when the first season of V Wars streams on Netflix on Dec. 5.