Paul Wesley Exclusive

Photographs: Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
Styling: Marc Sifuentes
Interview: Ronald Liem

Paul Wesley, the “nice guy” vampire in The Vampire Diaries TV series, spoke exclusively to DA MAN and showed his high-fashion style in some of the best haute designer clothing of the season.

Beginning his acting career a decade ago while still a high school student with roles in soap operas such as Another World and The Guiding Light, Paul Wesley soon had to make a decision.  After finishing high school, Wesley was accepted to Rutgers University, but after just a few months of that, he started to realize that with his passion and talent for acting, he could make a good career out of it.

He continued to hone his craft year after year, appearing in a few movies, including Roll, Bounce, The Last Run and Killer Movie, and on a plethora of TV shows such as CSI: Miami, Everwood and 24 before finally landing the lead role in one of the hottest TV shows, The Vampire Diaries.

In it, he plays the “nice” vampire brother, Stefan Salvatore, and that role (in which he is in love with the female lead, Elena Gilbert, played by Nina Dobrev) has thrust him into the heart of the Hollywood A-list, not to mention making him a bona fide sex symbol. Born Paul Wasilewski to Polish-American parents in the U.S. state of New Jersey, he is fluent in both English and Polish, having visited Poland many times.He is signed on for the second season of The Vampire Diaries (they are just finishing up the filming of Season 1 now) and DA MAN did this interview with him between takes on location in Atlanta, where he now resides.

DA MAN: Your show, The Vampire Diaries, is taking off in Asia. What’s your favorite part of your character Stefan Salvatore?
Paul Wesley:
Well, my favorite part of this character is that he’s willing to grow. Stefan is 165 years old, but he’s going through so many changes right now, especially what we’re going to explore during Season 2. And he’s a very complex character, because he has a lot of things inside of him, but he’s still a vampire, so he’s still tempted by the dark side. He has a lot of hurt and pain and suffering. And he has to manage all this while trying to be a normal person for Elena’s sake.

DA MAN: So the complexity of the character drew you to this role then?
Paul Wesley:
Yes. He’s very deep. He’s very visceral. He thinks a lot and he has a lot of empathy. He contemplates about his existential being and, to me, he just seemed so wise.

DA MAN: How do you feel about the so-called ‘vampire craze’ at the moment?
Paul Wesley:
It’s kind of unexplainable, but I thinkTwilight is a big hit and it paved the way. But vampire characters have been around for a very long time. So, it’s sort of a modern-day return to it. Romance has always been a staple, so it’s a great way to tell a story.

DA MAN: When you started shooting The Vampire Diaries did you have any idea it would become so big?
Paul Wesley:
I didn’t know to what extent internationally, but I knew we’d have a really good shot, because of the genre and the people involved. I was very confident of the writers and I was very confident working with the cast while shooting. Once we started getting into it, I knew that if we could get audiences to watch three or four episodes, we would have something—as long as we could get viewers for the first couple.

DA MAN: I heard that it was picked up for a second season. How do you feel about that?
Paul Wesley:
Amazing, because I’ve never done a show where I’ve been a regular, so the first time I heard that, it was amazing. It’s great to know. It will be interesting to know where the story goes, because they haven’t told me, but I feel very lucky—very fortunate.

DA MAN: Have you had a chance to tour around Asia to promote your show yet?
Paul Wesley:
I’ve never been to Asia, but I’d love to go. I’m fascinated by Asian culture and I wish to know more about it in terms of personal experience. It’s one of the places that I’d most love to visit.

DA MAN: You should come here. Maybe we could convince you to visit Bali some time?
Paul Wesley:
You don’t have to convince me, I’d come in a heartbeat!

DA MAN: Has your Polish background helped you in your acting in any way?
Paul Wesley:
I’m grateful to have that background. I’ve spent so much time in Europe—when I was young, and even now as an adult—and I’m so fortunate that I’m bilingual. And I really believe that my background helped me get the role. It’s helped me with a lot of things, as an artist. I feel like it really helps me be more objective and view other cultures more equally. Especially as an actor where you need to understand your character, so it really almost feels like—in a weird psychological way—you’re acting your whole life to try to fit in.

DA MAN: You’ve been acting since you were a teenager, but at what point did you decide that your calling was to be an actor?
Paul Wesley:
Well, I remember the day I decided because I was actually sort of acting and going to school at the same time. I decided to go to college first, so the day I decided was the last day I could drop out of college before it would have any negative impact on my academic career. So, I had to drop out because I couldn’t sit there and study and try to live this acting thing and make it work. I decided to forgo my academics and commit to doing this as a profession. It was a big moment for me because, after 18–19 years of studying things that had nothing to do with acting, to let that go was a very weird feeling. Then, it was very freeing.

DA MAN: Were your parents supportive of your decision to act?
Paul Wesley:
Yes. They were very supportive.

DA MAN: Which actors inspire you?
Paul Wesley:
I have many actors that I look up to, and many performances, too. I think Philip Seymour Hoffman is an amazing guy, an amazing actor, so much range. I love Daniel Day Lewis. So many of my favorite actors are actors that many people like, but I think people like them for a reason.

DA MAN: What is a movie that has had a big impact on you?
Paul Wesley:
Too many to list. I love independent films, I love mainstream and I love foreign films. I love Ingmar Bergman films because he’s such an amazing director and there’s so much symbolism in what he does. I love [Stanley] Kubrick. I think he’s incredible. It always affects me when I watch his films. Also, the old [Martin] Scorsese movies, not so much the new ones, but the older ones like Taxi Driver andGoodfellas. I remember, growing up, that was a good one for me. Anytime I watch Goodfellas—and I’ve probably watched it 10 times—I just enjoy it because I think the performances are incredible. There are just so many. And I love Christopher Guest, who did Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman and was a writer/actor on This is Spinal Tap. It’s such a good movie. Every time it’s on, I can’t help but think ‘how brilliant.’

DA MAN: What do you think about playing comedy roles?
Paul Wesley:
I was in this movie called Roll, Bounce where I was this 1970s disco roller skater and I had to wear like a glitter suit, and it was all showy… I love comedy. I did a sitcom called 8 Simple Rules—couple of episodes—and had a great time. I love comedy as much as I love drama.

DA MAN: What other projects do you have in the pipeline?
Paul Wesley:
I wish I could tell you that I have some amazingly interesting projects in the pipeline, but I actually don’t. I haven’t had time. We have such a short hiatus. I’m waiting for the right role, and I really want to be selective. There are decent projects that I would have done a year ago, but I’m a little picky now because I work all year and I think at this point in my life, I’m young; financially I don’t need to … I can just work on The Vampire Diaries. I can be a little picky about the roles I want to do. I think I am in a position where I’m lucky enough to now choose wisely. DA: How much time do you get off from The Vampire Diaries? PW: I’ll have one month in December and three months in the summer, so I actually only have those summer months to work on anything else.

DA MAN: What do you do on your days off?
Paul Wesley:
Well, I like to just relax a lot. I don’t do much, I’m not going to lie. I don’t do a lot of anything, but I like to travel. When I have time, I’ll get in my car and go somewhere. I don’t like to sit at home too much, but I also don’t like to have too many events. I have a very close group of friends. I try not to be too much of a social butterfly, not because I’m trying to be antisocial, but because I have people that I cherish in my life, like my family.

DA MAN: So you’re not into that whole Hollywood scene?
Paul Wesley:
No, I live in Atlanta now with the filming, so I don’t have a choice. But even if I lived in L.A.—and I still have a place there—I don’t think it would be for me. I like having a good time, but I think that, to a certain extent, to get caught up in that whole Hollywood thing—thinking that you’re too important—I don’t want to be that guy.

DA MAN: What’s your favorite place to go when you need to get away from it all?
Paul Wesley:
I love New York City, but not when it’s too cold. When it’s cold, I love to going skiing. I love snowboarding. I love, love, love, it. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I love going to a ski chalet with some friends and snowboarding. I just love it. If I had time, I would travel elsewhere, but unfortunately, I only have time to go to New York. When I was living in L.A., I would go to Mammoth Mountain [ski resort], which is five hours away, and I was also living in Vancouver [Canada], and I would go to Whistler [ski resort]. That’s fantastic, that area is fantastic. I grew up skiing in [the U.S. northeastern states of] Vermont and New Hampshire.

DA MAN: We had one of your co-stars, Zach Roerig, in a previous issue of DA MAN, do you hang out with him or any of the other stars?
Paul Wesley:
I hang out with Ian [Somerhalder, who plays Damon, the malicious vampire] a lot. We spend a lot of time together professionally and we’re on set all the time, so we’ve developed a very close bond. He’s a great guy.

DA MAN: It’s been said that you are a member of ‘The Young Hollywood’ set. How does that feel, especially being so much in the spotlight?
Paul Wesley:
I think one needs to take it one step at a time. I mean, you
can get caught up in it. It’s very flattering that people are interested and interviewing me and they want to watch the show and there’s publicity. It’s a very flattering, fortunate, lucky, lucky thing, but, I think one needs to maintain a perspective.

DA MAN: How would you describe your state of mind at the moment?
Paul Wesley:
Very focused. We’re doing the last couple episodes of Season 1 and we want this to be really good, and it’s very draining, but it’s exciting. I’m excited to see what the future holds. I hope to grow more as an actor and as a person.

DA MAN: Any plans for your summer break?
Paul Wesley:
I feel like hanging out. Just gonna relax, man … do my best to just relax, unwind and give myself the break that I really need. And, if a great role in a film comes up, then I’d be more than fortunate and happy to do it. But, really I’m just gonna relax and spend time with my friends and family and maybe do a little traveling. We’ll see.

DA MAN: Thanks, good luck and hope to see you soon, perhaps in Bali this summer?
Paul Wesley:
I’d love to come, that’d be great. Thanks brother, appreciate everything and it was a pleasure talking to you, man. DA

To see the full feature with more full-size images, click here for the DA MAN April/May 2010 back issue.