In The Originals, returning to The CW October 6th, Joseph Morgan plays Klaus – the original werewolf-vampire hybrid first introduced as a big bad in The Vampire Diaries‘ second season. Over the years audiences have watched Klaus evolve from outright villain to villainous antihero, learning his backstory, meeting his family, and eventually following him to New Orleans for an entirely new series. Undoubtedly, it’s Morgan’s keen balance of menace and charm that allows audiences to invest in him both as protagonist and antagonist within a single mythology.
At Comic-Con last weekend I sat down for a roundtable interview with Morgan. He talked about how fatherhood has changed Klaus, the possibility of finding redemption, Klaus’s self-destructive nature, his level of self-awareness, the return of his dreaded father Mikael, and more. Hit the jump to see what he had to say.
JOSEPH MORGAN: Since he’s become a father – I mean, he’s changed drastically from when he first found out he was going to be a father to the point where he was actually a father and I think it’s changed him for the better. I think he’s grown more compassionate, but possibly more vengeful to those who would harm his daughter, which is something I think we can get behind. Season two we’ve started filming, as you guys probably know, and I think in the absence of Hope he’s worse off. He’s not a better man. He’s a more violent man, certainly. She gave him something to aspire to and having that taken away from him, he’s on a downward spiral.
I see Klaus as very self-destructive. Do you play him that way as an actor? He sees betrayal all the time.
MORGAN: I was determined to sort of root it in something from the beginning, and I was given clues about his character when I first came onto Vampire Diaries. He talked about his relationship with his parents, so I’ve always based it on the idea that he is desperate for love, which he never received in his childhood, and for the affirmation that he so desperately wanted from his parents. So he’s untrusting when that care is offered to him, though, because it’s been taken away so many times. I think it’s important, whoever you’re playing, that you understand their motives and root for them. Even if nobody else roots for him I have to because, I have to find a way to believe in what he’s doing. For me, yeah, I would absolutely describe him as self-destructive as well and that’s certainly something I’ve looked to find motive for. Why does he do that? Why does he sabotage himself in that way? I think ultimately deep down he doesn’t think he deserves love and that’s why he takes it away from himself.
MORGAN: [Laughs] I mean, it’s going to be a mixture of fear and rage and disbelief, I would say. Klaus put the white oak stake in him and watched him burn up, so I don’t think it’s going to be a happy reunion. It’s interesting for me to play, certainly, because that’s one character that he’s always been afraid of. And there’s a sense, I think for anyone, when they’re chided by their parents to regress, to become a child again, to feel like a child. No matter if he’s stronger than his father or he’s equally matched, I think there’s always a sense of feeling like that young boy again. I think it’s going to be difficult for him to deal with that, but interesting for me to play because it’s another side of him that we haven’t explored too much. We have a chance again, in The Originals, to go further and deeper into these layers and see a bit more.
You talk about Klaus being self-destruct, but he also has that line that it’s self-preservation. How aware do you think he is of his bad habits?
MORGAN: It’s a good question. Sometimes I think he’s very aware. Sometimes he speaks in a way where you believe he’s really insightful, he understands exactly what he’s doing and yet he’s still doing it. But sometimes I think there’s a red mist. He just sees red and everything clouds over and he wakes up and there’s a pile of bodies. I don’t know. I think it varies. I think on his good days he’s very aware and even able to catch himself, but he has a feral side. He’s half werewolf, and I think that is the side that gets in the way of that. That’s the emotionally turbulent side that will stop him from analyzing himself to the point where he can help himself.
MORGAN: A lot of it was sort of hinted at in the Vampire Diaries and then we were able to really explore further. One thing I love doing is the flashbacks, because we get to – one of the things I guess you try and do when you p[lay a role is develop the backstory, work out what this guy's been through to make him who he is today. We get to play that. And it's like pieces of the puzzle. You hope by the end maybe you could put it all into chronological order and go, "Oh, I get it now. Now I understand. he's not so bad. he's alright, he's just been through some stuff." For me, definitely putting those pieces in has been great, and doing The Originals means that the flashbacks are focused on the family normally, so that's been hugely informative for me and enjoyable to play as well. And dressing up, it's fun.
How's it playing with Daniel?
MORGAN: Gillies? It's great. He's one of the main reasons I wanted to do the show. He and I did my first episode together, all of my scenes were with him until the end. I don’t know what to say, he's premiere. I love him.
Is there an ideal vision you have for Klaus for season two or into the future?
MORGAN: I don't know at the end of season two. People talk about The Originals being the story of his redemption possibly, of it potentially being the story of Klaus's redemption and I like the idea of that, but I don't think it's going to happen by the end of season two [laughs]. But ultimately I’d like to see Klaus redeem himself, possibly die in the process. I think that would be a nice twist on it. I said to Julie and Mike, our producer/writers, whatever happens with the show I want us to have an end. Whenever that end is not to just trail off. It would be great to have this complete story from beginning to end where we follow these characters. So for me that’s the important thing, but for the end of season two who knows? Your guess is as good as mine. I know something, with the writers we have and the directors we have, he’ll be in a different place than he is now. They know how to create an arc and a journey and put him through something. So for me I’m just enjoying the ride.