In the next episode of The CW series The Vampire Diaries, called “Somebody That I Used to Know,” Enzo’s (Michael Malarkey) efforts to protect Bonnie (Kat Graham) end up putting her life in jeopardy, and they learn that Rayna (Leslie Anne-Huff) may hold the key to her survival. With time running out, Enzo and Bonnie reluctantly team up with Damon (Ian Somerhalder), who is desperate to save Bonnie’s life and repair their broken friendship.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, actor Michael Malarkey talked about what’s most surprised him about his character’s journey on The Vampire Diaries, why he’s pleased with this season’s trajectory, when and how he learned about the plan for Enzo and Bonnie, how crazy things are going to get on the mission to save Bonnie’s life, what losing Bonnie might do to Enzo, and what it’s like to be directed by one of his co-stars (both Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder have directed episodes). Be aware that there are some spoilers.
Collider: Enzo has taken a very interesting journey over the seasons. When you think back to what you were initially told about this guy and who he was when you first started on the show, what has most surprised you about the journey that he’s taken and where he is now?
MICHAEL MALARKEY: That’s a great question. I suppose it’s just how long the journey has gone on. I thought this was going to be a short little stint, flying out to the States, shooting this vampire show for a couple of episodes, and flying back to London, but I’ve been here now, moving into my fourth season. I’m a very live-in-the-moment kind of guy, so I take each season and each episode as it comes and I’ve just been enjoying the ride. But I suppose, looking back now, I feel like he’s just become such a three-dimensional character who’s gone through so much pain and turmoil. Finally, in this next episode, we find that he has a real genuine, grounded relationship with somebody and it really means something to both of them. I feel like, tracing his trajectory up to this point, it really justifies the relationship. I hope that everyone can see that and agree with me, in the next episode, ‘cause it’s quite a lovely episode.
Enzo has been a bit of a villain at times, but he’s also been a sympathetic character at times. How do you view him, especially now?
MALARKEY: He’s as much me as I’m him. It’s hard to look objectively at a character that you’ve been playing this long. I don’t sit and judge his actions. I just get each new script and go, “Okay, that’s what I’m doing. Let me connect all the dots, justify it and make it work. Let me figure out how to say it in this accent.” I just take it as it comes. I don’t ever judge my characters. But, I’m very pleased with this season’s trajectory. It’s been like a river.
Do you prefer when he has a balance of the dangerous side and the softer side, and he’s not leaning too far to one side or the other?
MALARKEY: I think it’s healthy, as a person and as an actor, to be able to have all those different sides ‘cause then you tap into them more yourself and you feel more like a complete human being. I feel like when I’ve just been playing the villain, sometimes it can feel a little one-sided. I know in last season, I got a little frustrated with it ‘cause he was hell-bent on revenge, and that bled a little into my personal life and I became a little one-sided. This season has been a lot more multi-dimensional. Things are good.
When did you learn that the writers were planning to take Enzo and Bonnie in this direction, and what was your reaction to their relationship?
MALARKEY: It was at Comic-Con that I found out, actually. We get these Do Not Reveal sheets with things that we can tease, and the Comic-Con one said, “In the flash-forwards this coming season, we will see who Enzo ends up with.” I was like, “Oh, fuck, man! You know, so why don’t I know?!” So, I was lurking around (executive producer) Caroline Dries, at one point, and she was like, “Okay, fine. Listen, you’re going to be paired up with Bonnie, but don’t tell her yet. I don’t know if she’s ready for the information.” But anyway, that’s when I found out. I was happy ‘cause I respect Kat [Graham] a lot. And the scenes that we did have together in the past were always really fun to shoot. What’s great about working with Kat is that she puts a lot of work in. Her scripts are covered in notes that nobody can see. She’s very present in the scenes, which means that each take is going to be slightly different. If you’re a half-way decent actor, you know that acting is reacting, so you give back what you’re given. With our scenes, each take is different because we’re responding to different things that the actor is giving. When the actor is not in the moment and delivers the exact same performance every time, it’s frustrating because you feel something different, but they dish it back the same, so you feel like the scene is dead. But when you’re both present, that is what we do this for, to really live in that moment and make a real scene. Kat and I were both leaving after working on these scenes just buzzing and feeling good about the work. That’s great. It’s why I do what I do.
Enzo and Bonnie are such fun character to watch, especially together, because they’re both sort of loose canons on the show. They don’t really have any blood family, and they’ve both been betrayed and hurt by a lot of people. So now that they have this relationship, what can you say to tease what’s next for them and the mission to save her?
MALARKEY: Oh, my god, you have no idea how crazy it’s going to get! It’s pretty intense. It’s of Shakespearean propositions. Enzo is poisoning the love of his life without his own knowledge of it. That’s huge! What a terrible thing to happen to two people who have just finally found something, after years of not having anything. But, that makes all of the scenes very high stakes and very intense. There’s a crazy twist coming up, that you’ll find out very soon.
Enzo and Bonnie are unpredictable enough, but when you add Damon into the mix, things get really interesting. How are the three of them handling things together?
MALARKEY: There are a lot of good one-liners and looks between those three. Oh, man, it’s a very complex thing going on with the three of them. You have Bonnie and Damon’s entire history, and you have Damon and Enzo’s entire history, and then you have this new but very real romantic history between Bonnie and Enzo. You’ve got this whole three-pronged clusterfuck going on. It makes for some great drama and some really, really tasty scenes coming up between the three of us.
If their efforts to save Bonnie ultimately fail, what would losing her do to Enzo? How deeply do you think it would affect him?
MALARKEY: Hugely. Because he’s spent however many years he’s been alive in and out of an orphanage, on the streets, dying of tuberculosis, being a vampire, having nobody, thinking he’s found his family with Lily and the Heretics, to not having that, and then finally finding something genuine, I feel like he’s at the peak of something right now. I feel like, if she were to die, he would probably spiral uncontrollably, and maybe even switch his humanity off and become a nutcase. That’s what I would surmise. We don’t know exactly what happens yet. We’ll see.
Anytime there’s a relationship on a show, that’s probably what you hear the most fan feedback about, and people have responded largely positively about the way the relationship between Enzo and Bonnie has turned out. Was there a moment where you realized that the viewers liked seeing these characters together?
MALARKEY: Well, there’s always going to be haters and lovers. It’s the nature of life. It’s not only on Twitter. There have actually been people who were Bonnie and Enzo fans before this link up even happened. The fandom is peculiar, in that respect. I’m paired up with people from The Originals. People are like, “Oh, my god, I’m so ‘shipping them!,” and I’m like, “We’re not even on the same show! We don’t know each other!” I feel like there was a great initial response when that happened. Also, when you shock the fans of a show, it’s a good thing. Even when it’s a horrible thing, like the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones, that was the best episode that season with the shock factor. This is the opposite spectrum with the love angle, but that shock had people going, “Oh, my god! Oh, actually . . .” They went through that entire thought process in a matter of seconds, when they first kissed. There are still some people who are probably haters, but it’s not about that. It’s about creating good drama, and I think you’ll see a lot of it in the next episode.
Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder have both directed episodes of the show. What’s it like to be directed by one of your co-stars, who probably knows the show and characters better than anybody? Does it make you feel more reassured that you’re in good hands?
MALARKEY: It’s like being directed by your buddies. Obviously, they don’t direct together ‘cause that would be like Bert and Ernie. Actually, they kind of look like Bert and Ernie. Can you print that? No, I’m just playing. It’s great. The thing that’s good is that they’re coming at it from an actor’s perspective. They’re watching the performance as much as they’re watching the aesthetic, and probably more, in some cases. That’s not always the case. A lot of TV directors are really good at painting pictures, and getting the shot and the images, and they just expect us to do our job and deliver on each take. Whereas, Paul will come up to me and be like, “I see what you’re doing there. Try this.” And he’ll give a very specific note. I love notes. It takes you out of your comfort zone, stops you from just doing what you’d normally do and gives you something to think about. It’s a blast.
The Vampire Diaries airs on Friday nights on The CW.