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Exclusive: Ian Somerhalder explains why the vamps of V-Wars will chill you to the bone

By Tara Bennett
V Wars

When is a vampire series not just another run-of-the-mill vampire series? In the case of V-Wars, Netflix's new series (dropping Dec. 5) adapted from writer Jonathan Maberry's long-running IDW series of graphic novels, the vampires aren't sparkly, sexy, prone to monologues, or even splatting in sunlight. No, the vampires in V-Wars are terrifying because they are actually grounded in our current reality. 

“It's the first vampire show that is not supernatural. It is science-based,” Maberry explains as he, and series leads, Ian Somerhalder and Adrian Holmes, sat down with SYFY WIRE before a recent book signing for V-Wars: The Graphic Novel Collection in Los Angeles. 

V Wars Book Signing at The Grove, Los Angeles

“It's about evolution, about DNA, and it's about what happens when we recognize that we are not necessarily the same as we were, and we are becoming a different species," Maberry continues. "The vampires are very likely the next stage in human evolution, which means they're leaving us behind, like we left behind the Neanderthals.”

Spine-chilling to say the least, but the series, like the books, keeps things personal by rooting the story of a viral outbreak that turns humans into vampire around the tragic impact it has on best friends, Dr. Luther Swann (Somerhalder) and Michael Fayne (Holmes). 

It’s Swann, an epidemiologist on the hunt for a cure, who tries to rescue his afflicted friend, Fayne, after he is infected. His attempt to defeat the ticking clock of fate, to find a cure for his friend caught in the crossfire of an evolutionary turning point, is the beating heart of the entire narrative in the books and on-screen. 

Having previously worked for years on the blood-sucker drama, The Vampire Diaries, Somerhalder says V-Wars was actually an attractive follow-up project because the story allowed him to play a strictly human character, and focus on a friendship that is the driving engine of the series. 

Ian Somerhalder and Adrian Holmes of V Wars

“One of the things that we agreed on is the love story of Season 1 was really these brothers,” Somerhalder explains. “Fayne dedicated his life to understanding aeronautics and being the best chopper pilot, while Swann did the same but in infectious disease, hoping one day to save humanity from something like this. But [the virus] hits them like a ton of bricks. They're ripped apart, and the journey is of them trying to find their way back to each other, or go off in completely different places and, ultimately, become possibly enemies.”

As another veteran of genre series like Smallville and Arrow, Holmes admits it was the reality in the V-Wars narrative that truly grabbed his imagination. “I really was drawn to just the realistic elements of the book and how this could actually happen. It dealt with stuff that we're going through, with the environmental issues and global warming.”

Somerhalder concurs, adding, “There are scientific reports after scientific reports coming out right now about the things that have been so safely locked in the ice that are now coming up. From an epidemiology standpoint, it's a f***ing nightmare.”

Serving as a consultant and executive producer on the series, Maberry says he’s excited that this world he’s been writing about for close to a decade now will serve as the spine to this adaptation. “They took a storyline from the books and built it in a new way. It is not exactly the same as my brain, but it works better for TV than the characters exactly from the book would work.”

And more important, Maberry says the V-Wars exploration of bigger themes about the state of the environment, the exploration of different perspectives, and the rejection of “the Other” by the masses remains intact. Relevant as ever, he hopes the topics serve to put a fire under actual humanity. “These [infected] people are becoming "the Other" to each other, and as a result, there isn't a clear pathway back to a common ground. And that's heartbreaking, and it's terrifying at the same time.”

And speaking of terrifying, Somerhalder, also an executive producer on the series, says don’t get worried that the deeper themes are going to temper the scares in any way. “We wanted to make sure that these creatures were f***ing scary,” he emphasizes with excitement. “If you were in a room with these people, you probably wouldn't make it out. In The Vampire Diaries or in True Blood, even when the vampires are turned, they could still be sexy or fun. [In V-Wars], this is a lion sitting on your couch. Like, this is not something you want to be in the room with.”

And Fayne is ground-zero for the transformation. 

“He's become a different species,” Maberry teases dramatically. 

As with the source material, the trio hope that V-Wars Season 1 is met with an enthusiastic audience. Somerhalder shares that he is directing an episode at the end of Season 1, and he’d like nothing more than to direct more episodes in future seasons as they expand the world and play out the ramifications of the virus separating humanity into two factions.

And if there’s a Season 2, Maberry says he hopes to write an episode himself, and knows exactly which one he’d like it to be. “It’s in the graphic novel," he teases.