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Lost star Ian Somerhalder has shared an impassioned message to Australians amid the catastrophic bushfires that have savaged the east coast of the country and left several people - and many more animals - dead.
In an exclusive chat with Yahoo Lifestyle, the 40-year-old actor and environmental activist offered his heartfelt condolences and pointed the finger squarely at the ‘unprecedented’ global climate crisis.
“I am so sorry that your country is literally on fire. I live in Malibu [California], I live in a fire-torn, scary place and the drying out of our climate and the fact that these droughts are unmistakably driven by climate destruction, I am very sorry to see that,” he says.
“[Australia] is a very special place and my heart hurts for the wildlife, the flora, the fauna and everyone there,” he adds.
Elsewhere in the chat, the multi-talented star opened up about being a dad, launching a bourbon brand and his new Netflix series, V-Wars.
Vamping it up
For Ian, playing a vampire is almost in his blood. He starred as undead bad boy Damon Salvatore for eight seasons of the hit supernatural TV drama The Vampire Diaries. He’s even married to a fellow (on-screen) bloodsucker, actor Nikki Reed of the teen vampire film series Twilight.
And now, the father-of-one is fronting yet another fang-tastic project, V-Wars. Except there’s a twist: for the first time, Ian is taking on the role of a human and not only that, an all-out hero.
News of his dramatic turn as leading man Dr Luther Swann came as a shock to his fans, Ian reveals.
“People are like ‘what the hell! He’s human!’” he laughs.
Jokes aside, swapping reckless but ‘fun’ Damon for Luther, a scientist and father racing to halt a virus that’s turning people into carnivorous beasts, was a welcome change of pace for the actor.
“After playing [Damon] for eight seasons I was very much looking forward to playing a character who also had superpowers but his superpowers were just being a great dad, a great scientist and a great husband,” he explains.
Playing a vulnerable human, Ian says, really ‘raises the stakes’ - if you pardon the pun - and is one of the things that drew him to the project.
“If you get hurt, you get hurt, if someone gets killed on the show they get killed and they do not come back,” he explains.
Ian’s passion project
Ian says he relished the opportunity to bring his own experience as a dad - he shares two-year-old daughter Bodhi Soleil with wife Nikki, 31 - to his character.
“Once you become a parent your sole purpose in life is to stay alive to protect this kid and Swann’s journey is to get his son and keep him safe and that narrative is unimpeachable,” he reveals.
The plot of V-Wars, which is based on a book series by author Jonathan Maberry, also allowed Ian to shine a spotlight on his other passion, the environment.
In the show/novels, the vampire ‘virus’ is safely contained within polar ice caps but, due to increasing global temperatures, is released when the ice melts wreaking havoc on the world.
While V-Wars is technically fiction, some scientists are concerned that a similar thing could occur in real life.
“Climate change ... could awaken Earth's forgotten pathogens,” US publication The Atlantic wrote in November 2017. “Many of these pathogens may be able to survive a gentle thaw - and if they do, researchers warn, they could reinfect humanity”.
The threat of these so-called ‘zombie diseases,’ is, however, disputed and largely unconfirmed but the similarities between (reported) fact and fiction is a coincidence that is not lost on Ian.
“I say, ‘this is so great for the launch of our show,’ but I say that with a tear in my eye,” he says.
Power to the people
So, is V-Wars a pointed message urging certain world leaders to listen and take rapid action?
“No, actually and you know why? You cannot connect to world leaders without one thing and one thing only: people... It’s the people who make the big powerful changes and not the presidents or prime minsters [because] where people go, business will go and where business goes climate goes,” he explains.
Ian himself is a savvy businessman, heading up several successful and eco-conscious brands including a wine named Dark II Dawn.
Then there’s the soon-to-be-released bourbon that he’s been ‘working on for years’ with his The Vampire Diaries co-star Paul Wesley.
But for Ian, who has run his nonprofit organisation the Ian Somerhalder Foundation since 2010, it’s about more than just putting his name on a product and making money.
“We give back for-profit dollars and reinvest them in regenerative farming practices,” he says, adding that he hopes his ventures will inspire other companies to do the same.
V-Wars premieres on Netflix on December 5, 2019.
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