'The Vampire Diaries' Joseph Morgan on Klaus and Damon: 'I had to make him play on my terms'
The speculation about who would be cast to play the highly anticipated villain had become feverish, which was to be expected given the "Vampire Diaries" writers' tendency to create fascinating, dynamic bad guys.
When Morgan was announced, and particularly when he joined Twitter, the excitement about the character only increased. His interactions with fans have been delightful to watch as he teases them (with a hint of Klaus-like menace) about the havoc his character is about to wreak on Mystic Falls.
In tonight's episode, "The Last Day," we'll see the way that Klaus manages to put our favorite characters into such a tailspin that they cause their own destruction, often without him having to lift a finger. As the panic over his impending ritual increases, people get sloppy and devastating consequences result.
Yesterday, we had the opportunity to watch "The Last Day" with Morgan, and today we spoke with him about his process developing the character, his Twitter teasing, and Positive Women, a cause close to his heart. Like his character, he's quite the charmer. Unlike his character, we're pretty sure he's not a sociopath.
Zap2it: How much fun are you having on Twitter right now?
Morgan: As is probably evident, massive amounts of fun. I wondered before I got a twitter account, you know, what do people tweet about? I didn't want to be one of those people you see on Facebook who have their Facebook status set as 'Just had a graham cracker!' I thought, 'Why do people like this kind of stuff?' but being involved with a show like 'The Vampire Diaries' really allowed me to kind of play with the idea of tweeting with a more 'Klaus' voice. I found that I started to develop a tone of speaking for Klaus before being on screen, just through tweeting things. A lot of them were quotes from films or poems that I liked or things that I was interested in, but it all helped to develop the character really, and that's thanks to the fans that followed me before I even appeared on the show.
They could all turn on you if you kill off one of their favorites.
I'm prepared for that! I figured I'd try to make myself as likable as possible on Twitter. I thought, as well - I wondered, well if I kill one of the main cast, if that happens, am I going to be disliked? When I arrive on set, are people going to be sort of looking at me like 'Well, that's the guy who's going to kill someone here?' I figured it could go two ways - I could either be really nice to all the cast and hope for the best, or I could pretend that I get to choose who I kill off. I thought that would be kind of funny. I went for the first one, of course.
When we first saw you on screen it was in a flashback, and this week we finally get to see you play Klaus in the present day. Do you have a preference for the Mystic Falls scenes or the 1400s scenes?
I prefer the present-day stuff. That's not a reflection on the director - and one of the best things about 'The Vampire Diaries' for me was working with Daniel Gillies, so it's certainly not a reflection on that, but I felt like doing the period stuff was developing the backstory for the character. This is the history, this is all the stuff that I need to know to get to the point where I arrive in Mystic Falls. It's also because the longer I'm in the Modern Day stuff the more I get to kind of play with the characters and the dynamics that are already going on there, and cause a lot of problems.
When Klaus and Elijah meet in the present day, have dynamics changed between them? Will there be any shred of familial affection left?
I think that like with any family, there are complicated dynamics between the two of them. I don't think it'll ever be black and white, just pure love or pure hate. I'm sure they will meet at some point in the modern day, and when they do meet, whether or not it's this season, I hope that Daniel and I create enough of a rounded dynamic that you'll see both of those emotions. I have a brother. The relationships between brothers are complicated. It's never one thing.
I hear you did a lot of research for the role. How much did you look into the information about Klaus that was already out there?
There are seven "Vampire Diaries" books. I read the first four, which are the ones that L.J. Smith wrote in the 1990s. Klaus comes into the first book, so I figured that I'd read the first three to kind of get an idea of the tone, and I'm quite a quick reader anyway so I just sort of tear through them, and then I read the fourth one. To be honest with you, the information that's there about Klaus in the fourth one, I could've just gotten from Wikipedia. I mean, I'm glad I read the books, but I could've just gone online.
Another good thing about having read the books is that it's allowed me to play with the fans on Twitter a bit. I watched the entire second season of the show and I'd seen random episodes of the first season. I was away while it was airing, but now I've been given the first season to watch, by the producers, as a gift, which was nice. I'm a massive fan of the genre anyway, so people ask me how many vampire films I watched to prepare for this role, and the answer is not many, because I've seen them all already! I didn't have many left to watch.
One thing that the producers said when they were casting the role was that they were looking for someone with the ability to out-Damon Damon. In tonight's episode, we see you interact with Ian Somerhalder as Damon for the first time. How did you approach those scenes?
Ian Somerhalder does something very specific on the show that he's very good at, and I don't think anyone could imitate him. I certainly didn't want to imitate him on the show to out-do him; I didn't think that was the way to approach it. So I thought, because he's very expressive with his eyes and he's very sarcastic, I thought that the way to go up against Ian Somerhalder in a scene, is to play with stillness. I wanted to undercut him and to intimidate Damon with how comfortable Klaus was being there, and to get into his personal space. Rather than try to outdo him at his own game, I felt I had to bring my own game to the table, and make him play on my terms.
Klaus and Elijah are brothers, and they've both lived so long. Other than Klaus's werewolf affliction, what do you think the key differences between them are?
I always felt that back in the 1400s, Elijah was the guy who was always pulling Klaus out of trouble. He was the godfather kind of thing, the voice of reason. Klaus was always a bit more of a loose cannon, spoiled child. There was much more of a playful side. You don't get to be that age without having a sense of humor about it all. I wanted that playful side, I wanted the sense that it just wasn't safe to be in the room with him. He might kiss you or kill you at any moment, and it all meant the same to him. He's sociopathic. He doesn't have the same kind of understanding, I guess, of morals and right and wrong. It's all so blurred to him.
You've spoken out a bit lately about Positive Women, a charity that supports women and girls in Swaziland. With so many causes and charities out there to choose from, what was it about this one that struck your interest?
An old friend of mine, Katherine Llewellyn, is one of the founders of Positive Women, a girl I knew in college when I was studying the performing arts at 16, 17. She contacted me about it. As I learned more and more about it, I felt like this is something that we can really make a change with, and quite quickly. Swaziland isn't big, it's got a population of about a million. Look, Ian and Nina have more than half that many followers on Twitter. We can do something about this. The more I learned about the massive amounts of people who have HIV there, the fact that rape isn't a crime is unbelievable, and just the oppression of the women in general. This charity is looking to empower them. I just felt like this cause is everything that's right in the world. This is a cause that's really worth fighting for.
"The Vampire Diaries" fans have a history of being incredibly supportive of good causes; I think you'll find them all very responsive.
They have been already. My birthday is May 16, 1981. We're going to set up a donation page, so that anybody who feels like showing the love can show it in a way which is a worthy cause. I'm going to get online and tweet all about it, and tweet a lot of thank yous to everyone, and all that. Even the first day I joined Twitter, the comments that came up, I had gone to bed and I had to get up and write thank yous because I couldn't believe the loyalty of the fans and how interested they are when you write them. It's unbelievable to me.