Paul shares with the Hollywood Reporter his take on Julie Plec and Ian Somerhalder directing and Steven R. McQueen’s exit from the show.
The Vampire Diaries returns from its winter hiatus Thursday with Elena (Nina Dobrev) MIA thanks to Kai’s (Christopher Wood) shenanigans in an episode directed by star Paul Wesley.
“That bind is pretty fun, I have to say,” The Vampire Diaries co-creator Julie Plec told The Hollywood Reporter. “Kai is so nutty — the teaser is him talking for like three minutes straight. He’s babbling about, ‘We’re here together, and gosh, you’re pretty.’ Just going on about [everything], and Elena being, ‘Oh my God, I don’t think I’ve ever been in the hands of a sociopath before.’ She’s been with some evil, evil people, but this kid is so unpredictable, and yet completely predictable, because he will always make the mean choice. So she has to fight back in her own smart ways. It’s a game of who’s trying to outsmart the other. He’s trying to experiment on her with his magic, and she’s trying to use her strength as a vampire to defeat him. And into that comes the hero squad, led by Damon (Ian Somerhalder), and it all kind of goes down at … the high school, which is kind of fun.”
The hour is also special because The Vampire Diaries star Wesley returned to his perch behind the camera to direct. (He previously directed the 2014 episode, “Resident Evil.”) Wesley spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about his passion for directing, and what he lessons he applied from his first experience.
How did your approach change from your first to second time directing?
Well, there were two things: first, I was certainly not as nervous; I was a little more assured. Second, the first time out of the gate, you have this idea of how things will go, and then when one little thing doesn’t go the way you planned — which is just inevitable — you don’t really know and you don’t have experience handling a change. So this time, I was much more malleable if my DP or an actor said [something], I was much more open. I was open before, but I was much more comfortable changing on the day. And it made me realize, the best directors have an idea, but it becomes a really special collaborative effort. Which I always knew, but it was much more apparent this time around.
Were there any challenges you faced that were unique to this particular episode?
I think the way you approach an episode is based on the content. This script was much different than the previous script I had directed. Vampire Diaries is a pretty complex show. The cameras are always moving, it’s a beautiful looking show. There’s a ton of stunts, there are a lot of visual effects. My last episode had some visual effects, but this one was more stunt-orientated. And again, the script was a different energy, a different take. Every episode should not be directed with the same [mindset]. You have to honor the style of the show, but each episode has a unique voice. So for me, this was a completely different episode. It’s night and day, as far as the last episode I did. It’s a much more faster paced, high intensity. But at the same time, there are some emotional moments, especially towards the end of the episode — there’s this sort of climactic thing that is riveting. The trick for me with this episode, the fun, the challenge, was the tempo, the tempo. Keeping the audience entertained, but then taking the time to find the little moments where they have a deep level of connection with this character, whether it’s empathy or fear, or whatever.
How did directing yourself go this time?
To be honest, I didn’t find it as challenging as I thought I would. I made this pact with myself to not over-analyze. Because there’s a schedule you have to keep. As a director, one of your jobs is to make the day, and to make the shots you need. And I think one of the problems with an actor directing themselves, potentially, is that most actors are narcissists and egomaniacs. And they’re like, “I’m the director? I’m going to do seven takes, because I can.” And I just said I wasn’t going to do that. It’s not fair to everyone, and it’s not upholding my responsibility.
I didn’t watch playback of myself, and I didn’t do it the first time, either. I really just did my scenes. I knew when it felt good to me as an actor, and then I would check in with my DP, Darren [Genet], and would say, was the focus good, did we get the shot we talked about? Great, let’s move on. So it wasn’t really that tough for me.
You directed one episode last year and one this year. If you had your way, would you expand that?
I’d like to do more than one a year. It’s such a fulfilling and enriching experience for me. It opens up another level of excitement for me. I really want to branch out and do other shows. Obviously my schedule makes that tough right now. TV directing, and directing in general, is for me equally exciting — I’m not just directing because I’m on the show and why not? It’s something I plan on pursuing on an aggressive level in terms of my passions.
Atlanta does seem to have a lot of shows currently in production there.
Yeah, though the issue is when I’m in Atlanta, I’m shooting Vampire Diaries, and I can’t do anything else!
Makes sense. Stefan and Caroline have a bit of an adventure in “Woke Up With a Monster.” What can you tease about that?
Stefan and Caroline, they go on this road trip, and then Caroline goes on her own little mission, and then Stefan diverts and goes on his own little mission. They both have their own agendas, so they don’t have a ton of interaction. They do, but they’re separate storylines in a sense.
What can you preview about the other storylines?
Kai — Chris Wood — has a lot of stuff with Elena. The interactions are pretty amazing. Caroline has a lot to do in my episode, and Candice Accola is dealing with some things with her mom. Those were the two storylines that are the most pivotal in episode, and the most compelling and effective. And if people can get through the episode, then they’re really in for a great treat at the end. The last 10-15 minutes, I want to make sure people watch it. There’s not a lot I can tease, but I really want to make sure people stay with it; make sure you watch it live.
Julie is directing her first episode this year. How has that been?
It’s really great. She’s very decisive, she knows what she wants, she moves it right along. She’s very confident, which is very important for a director, because the actors rely on you. I felt very safe; she was great.
Did she ask for any tips since you’ve done it a few times?
She didn’t come to me for tips. Julie’s been editing for the past six years, she’s in charge of hiring the directors. She went in there with a game plan. I don’t think Julie needed any tips from me! [Laughs.]
Ian’s also directing an upcoming episode. Have you spoken about directing a show you’re also acting in?
Not much. He sat in on a production meeting I was having for my episode to listen in. I’ve directed two episodes now that he’s been in, so I’m sure he was able to observe what I was doing on set. But we didn’t talk about it too much. I’m interested to see how he handles the set.
The show is also losing an original cast member with Steven R. McQueen’s exit. What was your reaction when you heard the news?
It’s an interesting thing. Steven is a sweetheart. The show has been on for six years. I think, inevitably, change is a necessity. I’m not saying Steven in particular, but I think it has to happen. I remember in season one, we lost Kayla Ewell (Vicki), and then season two, it was [Sara Canning’s] Aunt Jenna. It’s what makes the show exciting. And I hate to say it, because if I was killed off — and I’m not saying he’s killed off — it would be hard for me to have an objective opinion. I’d be pissed off. But I think it’s important for a show, especially a vampire show, to maintain a level of the audience not knowing what’s happening next, we don’t know who’s going to go. It’s a bummer it’s Steven, because he’s such a sweet kid, and I really enjoy having him here. But he’s also young and extremely good looking, and I’m sure he could get on another show in 30 seconds. So I’m not worried about him. But it’s a weird end to a chapter.
The Vampire Diaries airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on The CW. What are you looking forward to seeing? Sound off in the comments section below.
I am so excited! I have missed the show during the hiatus! Be sure to tune in tomorrow night for an all new episode of the Vampire Diaries … Woke Up With a Monster.
Kai holds Elena captive while he learns to control his newly acquired magic; Liv and Alaric prepare Jo for the impending merge ceremony with Kai; Caroline travels with Stefan to North Carolina in search of a cure for her mother’s cancer; Enzo demands to know what Stefan is hiding.
Paul was at the Soho Apple Store to participate in the Meet the Filmmakers panel discussion for his film Amira and Sam.
Shockya has a new exclusive interview with Paul about his new film Before I Disappear.
Enduring a dramatically intense and drastic situation with someone who has played a major part in the shaping of your past, present and future can not only strengthen your bond and make you better understand each other, but can also help you embrace your life goals. But during that enlightening experience, your realization of your full potential can also unfortunately alter your connection with someone else, who may not necessarily want to see you change your life plans. That striking realization and evolution is powerfully presented in the new independent drama, ‘Before I Disappear.’
Paul Wesley, one of the film’s actors and producers, developed a strong personal and professional bond with the movie’s writer-director-editor, Shawn Christensen, who also starred in and produced the feature, when he was just a teenager. Their friendship led to an emotional and collaboration on the relatable story, which focuses on the filmmaker’s struggling protagonist’s newfound determination to improve his life, in an effort to repair his estranged relationships with his sister and niece. But in the process, he inadvertently damaged his bond with Wesley’s character, who’s one of his bosses, which gravely impacted their future connection.
‘Before I Disappear,’ which unfolds over one emotionally turbulent night in New York City, follows Richie (Christensen), a seemingly hopeless introvert, who has decided he has had enough with his existence. He’s unable to cope with the fact that he has lost the love of his life, Vista (Isabelle McNally), and continuously tries to write her a letter, explaining the reasoning for his actions, but is unable to find the right words to express his feelings. As he attempts to end his life, he gets a phone call from his estranged sister, Maggie (Emmy Rossum), who he used to have a closer relationship with when they were younger. Although they haven’t spoken in years, Maggie has found herself in a complex situation, and needs Richie to pick up her 11-year-old daughter from school.
Feeling guilty over the way they ended their relationship, Richie reluctantly agrees to help his sister, and goes to pick up his intelligent niece, Sophia (Fátima Ptacek), and escort her home. However, hours after dropping her off at the apartment she lives in with Maggie, Sophia calls her uncle, informing him that her mother hasn’t returned home yet, or even called her to let her know what’s going on. So Richie heads back to the apartment to figure out what happened to his sister.
Despite Sophia’s insistence that they go back to his apartment so that she can study for a test she has scheduled for the next morning, Richie instead brings her to both the bar and bowling alley where he works part-time jobs. He finds himself caught in a troublesome battle between Bill (Ron Perlman), who runs the bar and has acted like a father to Richie over the years, and Gideon (Wesley), the successful young businessman who owns the bowling alley and wants to protect him, despite the fact they don’t truly know each other. Along the way, Richie realizes that even though he doesn’t want to betray either of his bosses, in an effort to keep both his jobs, Sophia has taught him that family and doing the right thing are the most important aspects in life.
Wesley generously took the time recently to talk about filming ‘Before I Disappear’ over the phone during an exclusive interview. Among other things, the actor and producer discussed how he became involved in the feature after Christensen decided to adapt his Academy Award-winning 2012 short film, ‘Curfew,’ into ‘Before I Disappear,’ and showcase how Richie’s improving relationships with Maggie and Sophia altered the bond he had with Gideon; how it was important to actually shoot the film on location in New York, as the city played a major part in the ever-changing relationships between Richie and his family and friends, but how filming independently on a short schedule at times provided obstacles in getting the full coverage they needed; and how Wesley supporting Christensen’s writing efforts throughout his career helped him realize what a talented and genuine person the filmmaker is to not only work with, but also have as a friend.
ShockYa (SY): You play Gideon in the new drama, ‘Before I Disappear.’ What was it about the character and the film’s story that convinced you to take on the role?
Paul Wesley (PW): Well, the story was created organically. The film’s director and screenwriter (Christensen) is a really good friend of mine. Gideon wasn’t really conceived until much later on, when Shawn essentially wanted to expand the short into a feature. He wanted to create intersecting storylines, so Gideon was a creation that occurred much later on in the screenplay process.
I was drawn to Gideon because he’s incredibly layered in the sense that he’s the “bad guy” in the story. But he has a really big heart, and is a hopeless romantic. I really related to the idea of a character who’s a hopeless romantic.
SY: Speaking of relating to Gideon, in the sense of being a hopeless romantic, what was the process of relating to Gideon and his overall motivations, since you’re both from New York City and in your early 30s? How did you get into his mindset as you began filming?
PW: It was pretty intense. For me, as I was preparing to play this particular role, I was going through some difficult things in my own personal life, so I was able to use that as inspiration. I don’t always do that, as I don’t have a consistent method for my acting. But I just happened to have that as a resource for this role.
I grew up in (New) Jersey, but went to clubs and bars at a really young age. I had a fake ID when I was 15, and would use it around Manhattan, where I had an apartment. I can still relate to his mentality, as a lot of my friends come from that world, and are still a part of it.
But more than anything, I wanted this guy to be someone who’s in love, even though he has a tough demeanor. The key I wanted to give to Gideon is that he has a lot of heart. His ultimate purpose in the movie is to find the love his life, which I find to be a really noble reason for a character to exist.
SY: What was the experience of shooting ‘Before I Disappear’ on location in New York, especially since it’s your hometown? Do you prefer filming on location?
PW: It depends on the project, but for this movie, it was definitely important. Sometimes you make these New York-based stories, Toronto really stands in for New York, and you use stages. But with this film, Shawn always said that New York is one of the main characters in the story. When you watch a lot of Woody Allen films, you think, that couldn’t have happened anywhere else, other than in New York.
We shot this film without a lot of money. Considering the quality of how it came out, it was a miracle, since we didn’t have a big budget. We shot in the middle of summer, so it felt like it was 120 degrees, and we were boiling. We were mainly shooting in Brooklyn, and the whole experience really added tot he final film. I can’t imagine shooting it anywhere else. It created a lot of obstacles, but for me, it made it that much more realistic. I had to work much less, in terms of using my imagination.
SY: Speaking of filming ‘Before I Disappear’ independently, what was that experience like, from both an actor and producer’s perspective? Did it create any challenges on the set while you were filming?
PW: Oh, it created a lot of challenges. We shot the film in about 19 days, and Shawn said he’ll never make a movie like that again. (laughs) Since I didn’t direct the film, it’s not as hard for me to say.
When you have financiers in a way pressuring you to get a movie done within a certain amount of days, and then getting it cut within a certain number of days, and then get it into different festivals, it’s much different than going off with your friends to shoot. During that process, you can sit in the editing room, and then go to do reshoots. It’s a completely different thing than if you have a bunch of people to satisfy. In that sense, you may as well just wait until you can make a big budget film, which is almost impossible.
I think Shawn took the brunt of it. I don’t know if he’s a masochist, but he decided to write, direct, star in and produce the feature, and he also edited some of the scenes. I was like, “Man, you’re crazy.” (laughs) I was actually filming my TV series (‘The Vampire Diaries’) simultaneously, so I wasn’t on the film’s set as much. But an extra 20 days (of principal photography), and an extra three months of pre-production, would have been nice.
When it comes to movies, you can have $100 million, and still not make the film you really want. At the end of the day, it’s about whether there’s a spontaneous energy and creativity on the set. That determines if it does or doesn’t work.
SY: You’ve been friends with Shawn since you were a teenager. Were you two always looking for a project to work on together? During what part of the film’s development did you sign on to produce and act in it?
PW: Well, the first film Shawn ever sold was a screenplay back in the day, and I think I was about 18-years-old at the time. He wrote the screenplay when he was on tour with his band (Stellastarr). The movie’s a beautiful story called ‘Sidney Hall.’ When I read it, I was like, “This is amazing.” I immediately gave it to my manager, who then sent it around town, which helped get him his break as a writer. He’s done well for himself as a writer ever since. Since then, I’ve always been a fan of his writing. I don’t know if Shawn always then felt indebted to me, or what. (laughs)
We always talk about films, and I’m a big fan of his work. I always read Shawn’s screenplays before he releases them, and I give him my thoughts. We’re working on another project together right now, and it’s really exciting, but I can’t talk about it that much yet.
There are very few genuine people in this world who are not only truly talented, but also nice people you really want to be around. Shawn’s a great friend and a good guy. For me, life’s too short to work with people you dislike, or who feel won’t really challenge you. That, for me, is really what was interesting about the project.
SY: Since your scenes showcased Gideon’s interactions with Richie, what was your working relationship with Shawn like once you began filming? What was the experience of rehearsing with Shawn before you began filming?
PW: There wasn’t a lot of rehearsal, but there was a little bit. We would get together and workshop the scenes. There was also a bit of rewriting after we workshopped the scenes.
For me, the biggest challenge was that I’ve known Shawn since I was about 16, and he’s older than me. I’ve always looked up to him, and I’ve been the kid while he was the adult. I met him in acting class, and he was going to (the) Pratt (Institute) and still living in Brooklyn. I was still living in Jersey with my parents, so I always looked up to Shawn as an older figure, in terms of wisdom.
So in the film, it was a reversal of our real-life relationship, as Richie works for Gideon. While Gideon likes Richie, my character’s the boss. So that was the main area I had to mentally shift for, and make myself feel as though I was his employer. So that was the biggest challenge for me.
SY: IFC Films has released the drama in theaters and On Demand. Do you think the On Demand platform is beneficial for smaller, independent films like this one?
PW: Yes, but it’s a mixed bag; a part of me loves it, and a part of me hates it. Ultimately, you want the theatrical experience. But if you can sit down to watch a movie in the comfort of your own home on your computer screen, what’s the point of having the theatrical release? That’s a drawback, in the sense that you want the movie to be seen theatrically, but at the same time, you know more people are going to see it On Demand. So it’s a catch 22 in a weird way; not as many people will see it in theaters, but they’ll see it the right way if they do.
Five years ago today I launched Paul Wesley Web as my small tribute to actor Paul Wesley. Here we are five years later and the site is one of the most popular fansites dedicated to Paul. I want to thank all of our visitors for their support! And of course a giant thank you to Paul for continuing to share his talent with us which inspires this site.
And to celebrate this milestone we have added new themes to the main site and gallery … they were designed by Claudia @ Never Enough Designs.
Paul attended the 2014 Trevor Live event … he looked handsome in a black suit.
Paul Wesley Web > 2014 > December 7 | Trevor Live
We have the first set image of Paul from his new film “Mothers Day” The pic is of Paul & his co-star Eva Amurri Martino who plays his wife. Super cute!
Paul Wesley Web > Mothers Day > On The Set
Bonnie tries to replicate her favorite traditions, while reminiscing about happier times with her friends; Sheriff Forbes brings holiday cheer to Caroline at Whitmore College; Alaric turns to Damon and Elena for help when Jo goes missing; Tyler approaches Liv and Luke with a risky plan; Jeremy helps Matt carry out a plan to take down Enzo; Stefan is forced to break some devastating news to Caroline.