How Vampire Diaries puts a new spin on bloodsuckers

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Paul Wesley, the star of The CW's upcoming The Vampire Diaries, has been quoted as saying, "Chicks dig vampires," a line he now says was scripted for him for the network's upfront presentation to advertisers and the media. Now that he's giving interviews to promote the show, Wesley wants the world to know he doesn't really talk like that.

Wesley plays Stefan Salvatore, the vampire who comes to Mystic Falls, Va., and falls for local gal Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrey). His brother, Damon (Ian Somerhalder), would love to just suck the natives dry, but Stefan wants to protect his love, maybe other humans too. The show is based on L.J. Smith's series of books (which predate the Twilight series, FWIW).

"Stefan hates being a vampire," Wesley said in a group interview last week at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour in Pasadena, Calif. "He doesn't want to be a vampire. He has a conflict. He does not want to take human life, and he just wants to experience life as a normal human being, whereas his brother is completely basking in this. He loves vampirism. He's enjoying it. He's more gluttonous in that regard."

But just because he's got a crush on Elena doesn't mean he's necessarily a sweetheart. "No, absolutely not," Wesley declared. 'No way. He's a vampire. He is constantly struggling with the dark side. He's constantly eager, and he has a need to feed on human blood. It's constantly there. It's not easy for him not to do it. I'm making Stefan have anger, a temper, but passion and love and tenderness toward Elena. But he's vicious and violent. He loves her, and he'll die for her, but he's a violent creature."

The show will include flashbacks to the Salvatore brothers' earlier days during the Civil War. Wesley is preparing to don 19th-century duds for scenes to be filmed in the near future. "As a matter of fact, that is going to be something we're going to explore," he said. "I think that'll be interesting."

Wesley has alrady suited up in the wire harnesses for some vampire flying stunts. "It's been great, because both Ian Somerhalder and myself, we're both very eager, and not only eager, but prefer to do it ourselves," Wesley said. "Obviously, [not] if it's ridiculously dangerous, but that thing where I jumped off the roof, it was like 40 feet. It was a freefall until the last five seconds, and I loved it. It's great."

Don't expect Stefan's vampire physique to be a hulking Blade/30 Days of Night-style monster. Wesley is already retooling his workouts to make Stefan leaner. "I feel like they're these sort of svelte creatures whose nutrition is essentially blood, animal blood," Wesley said. "So I knew that I couldn't eat all these different carbs and sugars, because it just didn't feel right physically and mentally. So I've been for sure limiting my intake, just because I feel like that's what Stefan does every day. For the first time in my life, I've been doing cardio. I played sports my whole life, and now I'm doing it every morning. It kind of sucks."

The good news for Wesley is he can avoid some of the hassles other vampire actors have faced. Since Diaries vampires don't have wrinkly foreheads or some such prosthetic, Wesley skips the early makeup calls.

"Makeup's never fun," he said. "I don't care what anybody says. Makeup is never fun. Neither is working with children or animals. That's the thing. Nobody wants to show up at six in the morning to get makeup. Good news is we don't have a lot of makeup. We really don't. We have these contact lenses that we put in. I wore contacts my whole life, not a problem for me, so it really hasn't been very bad. The teeth, we do have prosthetic teeth."

Vampire Diaries would even allow Wesley to hit the beach if he wants: Stefan isn't a gothy pale face. "They don't really have any pale qualities other than when they turn and their teeth come out and their eyes turn red," he said. "So I never really have to worry about that. I can sort of go out in the sun. I mean, continuity-wise, I have to worry about that, but I don't have to be pale."

The Vampire Diaries premieres Sept 10 at 8 p.m. on The CW.