In the era of vampire-themed entertainment, Paul Wesley reigns as Stefan Salvatore, the periodically carnivorous, periodically sweet golden boy of CW’s hit show, The Vampire Diaries. The New Jersey native was frank about the prospect of playing a teenager into his thirties, and pretty much everything else when we caught up with him recently. Read on to hear about his less than sanguine hopes for the Vampire Diaries’ leading romance, why he’ll never tweet minute by minute, and his post-VD plans.
Vampire Diaries is exploring new territory this season now that Elena is a vampire. Do you think that development will have lasting effects on Elena and Stefan’s relationship?
I would think so. Ultimately, it’s kind of a hilarious thing when you’re doing a TV series where the stakes are so high and you’re trying to think about it on a realistic level. She’s a vampire, so obviously it’s going to have an effect, but in the TV world, in the Vampire Diaries world, we have to suspend our disbelief. Maybe there’s a way to salvage the relationship and go back to normal, but I hope they never go back to the way they were. People change, and I know they’re the romantic love story in the entire series, but I do believe potentially that they can find a different kind of romance that isn’t as naive as it was before. I feel in season one, they were really naive lovers who weren’t aware of impending doom of any relationship. Sounds pretty negative, I know.
In general, your character Stefan has had such a multidimensional story arc. Do you find it more or less difficult to keep your character grounded as the storylines progress?
In a way, we’re playing superheroes, and when you watch any superhero movie, you just have to go with it. As much as it is a teen drama romance, it’s also this adventure. I think as an actor you need to commit to it. It’s not like I’m portraying Abraham Lincoln, you know what I mean? Were doing a vampire show. So for me, it’s exciting to become bloodthirsty and a sociopathic killer, and then go to being a hero again. I think those extremes are totally okay. It’s sort of a given. But yes, it’s obviously very difficult. As an actor, you’re sort of going, “What’s happening right now? How are we getting away with so many murders, and there’s no police investigating? Is there really no FBI thats coming to Mystic Falls, because 500 people die every month?” But I try not to think about that stuff.
The ring that lets you walk around in the sunlight is also nice little fashion statement. Would you or do you ever wear it in real life?
I would never wear that ring, but I do wear two rings. That ring looks too much like a frat or college ring. I’m not into that at all, but I do wear a ring my grandfather gave me. I wear that constantly. It’s an old ring from Mongolia, and then I wear my marriage band, of course.
What can we expect from Stefan for the rest of season four?
I think as Elena and Damon start to move towards one another, I think Stefan will lose his marbles a little bit. I always welcome that, very wholeheartedly. So they’ll be searching for a cure for Elena. It’s kind of an interesting thing to see if Stefan continues to give a shit about finding this cure or if he’s just like, “You’re totally hooking up with my brother. I don’t care.” We’ll see. I don’t know what he’s going to do. I like when he’s not predictable.
I know Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas is going to be making a guest appearance in an upcoming episode. What can you tell us about her character?
To be honest with you, I don’t think it’s a pivotal thing. I think she’s just a big fan of the show, and we’re obviously very proud of her for representing our country. I think it was just sort of a fun quick thing. I don’t think there was a character to be had, with all due respect.
You have such a loyal and massive fan base from The Vampire Diaries. Did you ever imagine anything like this when you got into acting?
Not really, because Twilight hadn’t come out yet, or maybe it had. You know you had teeny bopper stars, and I was in my late twenties and I just thought that phase of my life was over. I didn’t think I would be on a CW show. I enjoy the hell out of it. It’s a great story for my death bed.
What’s the weirdest thing a fan has ever asked of you?
People ask me to sign their arm and then tattoo my signature.
Do you practice your signature in preparation?
No. It’s a terrible signature. I feel bad for them.
What inspired you to become an actor in the first place?
I was going to an all-boys Catholic school, and I wasn’t playing any sports, because I got kicked off the hockey team, and I needed some sort of thing to do. I was bored in Jersey. So I started taking acting classes in Manhattan and it became my thing. I’d take the train up to the city every single day and do acting classes and theater, and I fell in love with it.
What actors do you admire?
I really like Phillip Seymour Hoffman a lot. I more admire directors than actors, because I think directors could make good actors. I admire great storytellers and great filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick and Ingmar Bergman. Those are probably my two favorite directors.
What Kubrick films do you love?
Everything. I don’t think he’s ever done a film that I’ve disliked. The thing I like about Kurbick is every one of his movies is so different. Everything from The Shining to 2001: Space Oddysey, to A Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket. I just think every time I see a Kubrick film, I’m just riveted. I can’t take my eyes off the screen. Then there’s this one movie Ingmar Bergman did called Scenes From A Marriage. He’s the kind of director that you watch and you feel like you’re watching a documentary or a snippet from somebody’s life. You don’t really feel like you’re watching two actors in front of a camera.
Tell me about your upcoming film, Baytown Outlaws and your character Reese.
It’s an over-the-top, violent sort of comedy in the vein of Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez. It’s definitely for a very specific audience in terms of it being really gross. I did the movie because I wanted to do something not PG. Vampire Diaries is pretty gory, but this is definitely adult fare, an R-rated film. My character is a detective chasing criminals—Billy Bob Thornton’s one of them. My character’s got a wife and kids, and that was another thing that attracted me to the role, because I play a 17-year-old on TV, and I’m 30. I wanted to play someone a bit older.
How was it getting out of the supernatural vampire zone?
It was good, but I found myself in a fantasy world anyway. [Baytown Outlaws] has a little bit of a Mad Max feel. All this shit happens and you’re like, “What, how is this happening right now?” You also have to suspend your disbelief. It’s not sci-fi, but it is fantasy in a way.
Obviously, Vampire Diaries will inevitably end. What do you have planned for when that comes to pass?
Really? No. Never! I’ll be 45 and still playing Stefan [Laughs]. Obviously, I’m going to work as an actor, but I’m also writing and producing a film right now with a really talented director and writer. We’re going to make that next year. I’m also going to get behind the camera, and hopefully do a little directing myself. For me, I’m not just interested in acting, I’m interested in the process of either making film or television. I’m definitely going to be sticking in this field, but I plan on really forging in several different outlets as opposed to just being in front of the camera.
On the topic of twitter, your tweets tend to be very deep. You talk about transcendental meditation, Richard Dawkins, and gun control laws. What’s your take on what a social media presence should be?
Interesting you perceive it that way. I always feel I’m a boring tweeter. It’s one of those things where I don’t want to bullshit my fans ever, because then they won’t listen to me. If I feel like if I have something to say, I’ll just say it. I can’t stand twitter people who go on and tweet every hour. It’s the most mundane bullshit. I don’t have anything to say unless it’s something I want someone to hear. I read something in British GQ that said something along the lines of, “A man should never tweet unless he can improve upon the sound of silence.” I may not have as many twitter followers as someone who tweets every 5 minutes, but I’m okay with that.