On the hit CW drama The Vampire Diaries, Welsh actor Joseph Morgan plays Klaus, the most evil and dangerous villain that Mystic Falls has seen, in the show’s two seasons. After completing the sacrifice ritual and re-awakening his werewolf side, the vicious Original vampire and his brother, Elijah (Daniel Gillies), disappeared into a ring of fire, leaving everyone in the town full of supernatural creatures wondering what to do next. Now, with the show’s producers revealing that Season 3 will be the season of the Originals, Klaus is sure to make a reappearance, at some point.
During a recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, Joseph Morgan talked about his desire to do American television, the point where he realized what an important part of the story Klaus was, the fun of playing a sociopathic villain, and what he would like to see from Klaus in Season 3. He also talked about his role as Lysander in the upcoming action fantasy Immortals (due out on November 11th), and what it was like working with Mickey Rourke. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Question: How did your involvement with The Vampire Diaries come about? Were you specifically looking to do American television?
JOSEPH MORGAN: Yeah, I was. I’ve been in Los Angeles for about two years. My first year here, I just went up for movies and the occasional guest role in something. I did a couple of films, but I really started to feel, towards the end of last year, like I wanted to branch out into American television, specifically because you get to develop a character for a longer period of time and you get to develop a relationship with the audience. You really get to grow and evolve with the character, and that was something that was fascinating to me – the possible longevity of playing a part like that. So, when this part came along, it was not only because it was on American television, but also because it was of a genre that I’m very much a fan of. Vampires are a genre now. It was very exciting, for a number of reasons.
Was there a point when you realized how big a part of the story this character was? When you sign on to play a character that’s had a season’s worth of build up, is it more fun as an actor, or is it more nerve-wracking to live up to?
MORGAN: It’s nerve-wracking and daunting, for sure. I feel like this is a tremendous platform for me to launch off and, if I do what I think I’m doing, it’s going to be wonderful and a huge event and so exciting. But, there’s also the opportunity to fall flat on my face in front of everyone. You don’t want people saying, “Well, that was a let-down.” I was very aware of that, not when I first read for the role, but when I started researching the role. I looked online to see if Klaus was in The Vampire Diaries books, which I hadn’t read, at that point, and I found pages and pages about, “Who’s going to play Klaus?,” and all of that stuff. And then, watching the second season of The Vampire Diaries, from Episode 6, they start mentioning him a few times an episode, so there was a massive build-up and an element of pressure involved in playing the role.
How do you see Klaus, as far as what kind of person he is? What do you think it is that makes him the biggest and most dangerous villain that Mystic Falls has ever had?
MORGAN: First of all, I see him as sociopathic. I feel like there’s no line between wrong and right with Klaus. He does what he wants. That’s something that’s terrifying about him. He just fills his needs and desires. He’s the most terrifying character ever to visit Mystic Falls because, certainly from what we’ve seen so far and what we’re going to see, there’s no moment where you go, “Oh, he’s not that bad after all.” He’s constantly upping his game and making the stakes higher. Just when you feel like he can’t get more frightening and you go, “Okay, that must be the last terrible thing he does,” he does get worse. The element of surprise and the casual amusement with which he goes through this journey make him very dangerous.
What has this cast been like to work with? Is it more fun to hate each other on screen when you really like the actors that you’re working with?
MORGAN: First of all, playing a villain, in my opinion, is a lot more fun. You get to say a lot more. There’s often the stoic anchor-hero role who’s the tent-pole of the drama. I’ve always had an incredible interest in the villains, which are a lot more fun to play. It’s always more interesting when you’re doing things with someone you like because you’re much more open to suggesting things. Also, it’s fun. It’s like if you’re sitting with your mates and you’re bantering, or you’re winding each other up and insulting each other in a playful way, but having fun with it. If you’re working with someone who you get on with and you’re supposed to hate them on the screen, then you get this playful challenge thing where you’re trying to one-up each other and that’s really interesting. Sometimes it can become like tennis. The harder you hit the ball back, then the harder the hit it back to you. You just try to constantly out-maneuver each other and it’s a lot of fun.
What do you think Klaus thinks of the Salvatore brothers? Does he feel that one is more of a thorn in his side than the other?
MORGAN: Maybe. Damon he just thinks is a loose canon. These guys are 160 years old, and he’s been around for probably 10 times that. At worst, they’re a nuisance to him. I don’t think he really sees either of them as a serious threat. Stefan (Paul Wesley) is more predictable for him because he’s in love with Elena (Nina Dobrev) in a way that is honorable. He can predict what Stefan will do and can manipulate that. Damon is a little more difficult because he is so unstacked. He doesn’t seem to value his own life very much, so he will turn up and say, “I killed your witch, and you can kill me if you want,” and just see what happens. That is probably a little more of a nuisance to Klaus, and also a little more impacting as well. He really puts himself out there and Klaus definitely has a fascination with that. I think there is also a fascination with Katherine because of that.
What would you love to see Klaus do or explore in Season 3?
MORGAN: I’d love to go back and find out how Klaus came to be. It would be really interesting. I feel like we have to go there, eventually, and find out how the Originals became vampires and how the curse was placed on Klaus, making his werewolf side dormant. That’s something I’d love to explore. Elijah talked about how, when my step-father found out that our mother had an affair, he slaughtered my werewolf father and all of his family, causing a war between species. I think it would be really interesting to explore that and explore Klaus’ reaction to that, and the volatile relationship between him and his step-father. I’d love to go back and see them as a family together, when it all began.
In playing a vampire, do you have to always stay focused more on the human side of the character, in order to keep him real and more relatable for the viewers and for yourself? Do the flashbacks help inform that portrayal as well?
MORGAN: The flashbacks help incredibly. They did, for me. They gave his backstory before I arrived in Mystic Falls, so I got to not only learn some of the history, but actually live it. That was really helpful to me. And, yeah, it is the human aspect that you play, definitely. You never want to play too vampiric or generically evil, so you look for emotions or character traits that you can relate to. The directors and producers of the show always encourage us to be as natural and as real as possible, and play the reality of what we’re doing. That was a way of justifying Klaus’ behavior and making him more three-dimensional.
How was the experience of working on Immortals, and who are you playing in that film?
MORGAN: I thoroughly enjoyed working on Immortals. My character is very different from Klaus. Klaus is at the top of the food chain in Mystic Falls. He’s the person with the highest status. And, my character in Immortals is the person with the lowest status. I play Lysander, who becomes a traitor of his own race. I leave my people and I go off to join King Hyperion, played by Mickey Rourke, who’s raising this army of God warriors. I go there, but it doesn’t turn out to be everything that I want it to be, and I find myself stuck with him, and yet not getting anywhere in his world. I’m treating so badly because I’m a traitor who betrayed my own people and he doesn’t see me worthy of his trust. So, I end up with the worst of both worlds, almost like a dog that is dragged around, mocked and kicked, and not respected by anyone. It was just a completely different experience.
What was Mickey Rourke like to work with?
MORGAN: I loved working with Mickey Rourke. He’s a wonderful kind of crazy. He’s so generous, as an actor. He’s just fantastic. He’s someone who throws a huge curve ball to you. You never know what you’re going to get, on set with him, but it was so exciting to be in that position where I could just do whatever I wanted because he did, in terms of the performance. I’m so excited to see that film. Tarsem Singh was such a fantastic director.
Are there any types of roles or genres that you’d love to explore, but haven’t had the chance to yet?
MORGAN: I love The Walking Dead. I’m a massive fan of that show. I loved Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead, and 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later. I would love to be involved with a film that shows the breakdown of society and a small group of survivors in a world that has crumbled. That’s something I would like to explore.