On The CW’s hit supernatural drama The Vampire Diaries, actor Taylor Kinney plays Mason Lockwood, brother of the recently murdered Mystic Falls mayor, who showed up in town to be there for his nephew, Tyler (Michael Trevino). Equal parts mysterious and sexy, Mason is affected by the Lockwood curse, which turns the family into werewolves, if they take the life of another. On top of that, Mason is also working with the evil vampire Katherine (Nina Dobrev), in town to wreak havoc on Salvatore brothers Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Damon (Ian Somerhalder), along with high school student and identical doppleganger Elena Gilbert.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, Taylor Kinney talked about having wanted to play a supernatural character since he was a kid, making his werewolf different from anything in True Blood and Twilight, how he sees Mason as a good guy who just sometimes does bad things, and that things are going to really heat up between him and the Salvatore brothers. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
How did you get involved with The Vampire Diaries? Coming off of a show like Trauma, what made this the project you wanted to be a part of, and were you intentionally looking for something that was very different?
TAYLOR KINNEY: It’s a crapshoot, when you get off of any job. I was in San Francisco for Trauma, and then got back to town and got situated, and started looking at things and passing on things. I think I was around for a month and a half, and there were other projects that were up, but it’s all a waiting game. And then, The Vampire Diaries came up, and I was really interested and read for it. Ever since you’re a kid, you want to play a supernatural character or an action hero, so I jumped at the chance and it happened really quick. I met with people on Tuesday and then I flew out on Thursday and was shooting by Friday.
It took a minute to do all the homework, get acclimated in the city, learn about all of the cast and the characters and who’s what with what powers. That took a little getting used to. I remember my first day on set, looking around and having pretty awkward questions about who’s a vampire and whether I would know if they’re a vampire and if they have any powers that I don’t know about. It was trial by fire, but I got so into it. That’s the fun of it. As soon as I heard about it and read for it, the interest grew. It’s completely different from a medical drama, and it’s fun.
With all the vampires and werewolves in shows and movies right now, what makes Mason Lockwood different, and do you feel like you have to measure up to those other characters?
KINNEY: I had seen the first Twilight last year, so it was recent, in terms of how long it’s been out. And, I’ve seen some episodes of True Blood and saw the werewolves that they have. With how the transformation takes place, each show is different. I just wanted to do something new and fresh, and I know we’ve accomplished that with Mason. No, I didn’t take anything from what they were doing on True Blood or Twilight. That’s a testament to Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec, the executive producers and creators who didn’t want to make it campy or cheesy. We wanted something new, and I was excited about that.
Did the physical aspect of playing a werewolf intimidate you at all, or are you normally a pretty physical guy?
KINNEY: Yeah, I’m a country boy. I grew up kicking around the woods, riding dirt bikes, playing football, climbing rocks and all that good stuff, so that’s always been fun. On any other job, I’ve always liked stunts and I’ve always wanted to be as much a part of the stunts, the fight scenes and the choreography as possible. I want to do as much as the producers will allow. On this, that’s some of the most fun you can have on set and doing the work. I revel in all the physical stuff, the fighting and the jumping around. That’s cool.
Without giving anything away, what’s coming up for Mason Lockwood? Is there anything specific about him or his involvement in the storyline that you’re looking forward to fans getting to see?
KINNEY: Just the surprises. Even since I started, the development of the character and the writing always changes things. We get the scripts and it’s something new and you’re like, “Oh, this is cool.” The relationship with Katherine was a curveball. No one saw that coming. The tension between Mason and the Salvatore brothers is going to escalate. It just grows and grows. As much as there’s the lack of possibility of them being good friends, it just gets better and better with each episode.
Will viewers learn how Mason and Katherine came to be working together?
KINNEY: There’s always variables and questions. Not everything is so cut and dry. We saw, in the last episode, that they’ve known each other for a year, but you don’t necessarily know the entire background. Viewers will understand more as the episodes go on, but I don’t think they’re going to see an exact courtship just because Katherine is a mysterious character. Part of her charm is that you don’t know that much about her, she doesn’t give that much away and you don’t necessarily know her intentions. She can be charming and come across as really honest and with good intentions, and then completely turn, even in that relationship. Mason is with her, but I think they both have a couple of cards up their sleeve.
How much fun has it been to work with Nina Dobrev, playing two characters?
KINNEY: People are really into it. They’re like, “Why are you mean to Elena?” You don’t really think about it, but those two characters are completely different, and working with Nina as Elena is a completely different experience than working with Nina as Katherine because of the dynamic between the characters. I love doing scenes with Katherine. I’ve only done scenes with Elena every now and then, just in passing, but then again, I’m not the most courteous of characters towards Elena. I’ll take Katherine over Elena.
Even though viewers see Mason as a bad guy, now that he’s with Katherine, how do you view him? Do you think he’s really a bay guy, or is there more than that to him?
KINNEY: Yeah. I don’t think anybody thinks they’re bad, just in life, in general. People make bad decisions, or they get into bad behavior or bad habits, but I think everybody has redeeming qualities, even Damon. I don’t think Damon walks around thinking, “Oh, I’m so bad.” You just get caught up with something. So, maybe Katherine is the greatest girl for Mason, or maybe she isn’t, but he’s in love and all goes out the window with that. There’s the old adage, “All is fair in love and war.” The things he does may be motivated from a place that he cares for this girl that makes him do things that upset a lot of people. Mason is a good guy, but he does bad things sometimes. I dig him.
What has been the most enjoyable thing about doing this show, and what has the biggest challenge been?
KINNEY: The most enjoyable part is probably all the research. I don’t think I’ve had more fun getting into character and looking up history on werewolves or old wolfman films and learning about the pedigree of it. It’s a cult thing right now, so just to be part of pop culture and what’s going on in the mainstream television and film world with this genre is humbling. So, the most exciting thing is just to be a part of it. And, the most challenging thing is just getting dialed in with the character. Anytime you start something, you have so much noise with where the character is going, what you know, what you don’t know and how to play with that. It takes a little bit of time to get dialed in, where you know that character and you know what’s going on, where you want to go with it and how to interact with people. To get that dialed in, to a place where you’re just feeling it on your own, is always a challenge.
What’s it been like to work with Michael Trevino and establish that family bond with your characters?
KINNEY: He’s great. He’s really gracious. We’ll walk together on set and someone will see us from behind and get us mixed up. People really do think we’re related. When I first got to town for work, we spent a bunch of time just running around and playing pool and we saw a couple of flicks, just to help me get adjusted to the area. We struck up a good bond, and you apply that to the role and the characters and it comes across well. He’s been doing an awesome job. Tyler has got a lot in store. I know the viewers are asking about that, and he’s got some surprises coming up as well.
When you work on a show like this, ,where characters are killed on a regular basis, does it make you worry about job security? When you signed on, did you know that you could be killed, at any time?
KINNEY: Yeah. To be honest, as an actor, job security is not a trait. Even coming into this business, you do a film and you know you’re going to be doing it for three months, but then it’s done. It’s not like it continues. When I was on Trauma, the first order was six which turned to 12, and then there were rumors of getting cancelled. I’m used to that. But, the cool thing about a supernatural show, or a show like The Vampire Diaries, is the surprises of it. When we get scripts and everyone sits around for a table read, we all cross our fingers around the table until we know who’s going to go, what’s going to happen, who’s going to die and who’s going to come back to life. Mystic Falls is a magic world, so people die, people come back to life and crazy things happen. It does give you a sense of unease, just because it’s such a privilege to work and be on any show, let alone a hit and something where you get to have as much fun as I do on this show.
Is there something that you’d like to see Mason do or go through before your time on the show is done?
KINNEY: Yeah, I’d like to see Mason have a new superpower where he can fly, or something that hasn’t been seen on any other vampire show. But, I don’t know if that’s going to happen.