British actor Joseph Morgan made his film debut in Peter Weir’s Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World starring opposite Russell Crowe. He went on to play a featured role in Oliver Stone’s Alexander and was recently seen as Lysander in the blockbuster Immortals.
He is currently starring with Paul Wesley, Ian Somerhalder and Nina Dobrev on the popular TV series The Vampire Diaries as Klaus, one of the ‘Originals’ – the very first vampire family – and the most powerful vampire in existence.
I spoke with Joseph after the ‘Bad-Ass Boys of the CW’ panel at the TV Critics tour, and he talked about his character and the series, which he hopes will go on for a long time.
Are you surprised that there was room on this show for a vampire who is even more evil?
I wasn’t that surprised, because I’m a fan of the genre and I have been for years. I thought about how I’d play a vampire, I grew up watching vampire films and reading books. Damon, Ian’s character, has it to a certain extent, but the really playful element was missing.
A guy who is not afraid of anything, so everything becomes a bit of a joke. I felt that there was room for the Hannibal Lecter, crazy, scary character who could be brought in, that kind of quiet calm.
For somebody who is so old on the show what kind of back story do you write for yourself, or do you even bother?
There’s a certain amount that’s developed for you through the flashbacks, then you fill in some of the gaps. I tend not to make up too [many] solid events that he’s been through, because that informs what I’m playing and then that is redefined by the writers.
When I joined the show I didn’t know that Paul’s character, Stefan, and I had a history together. So my first few scenes I was playing with him I had no idea that we knew each other for years, and back in the ’20s we were friends.
It’s useful to a certain extent to make up a back story, but to create anything that is too solid is detrimental when you’re playing things later on.
Out of all of the flashbacks you’ve done as Klaus, which one did you find the most fascinating to do?
Chicago, 1920s. I’ve done a lot of period drama before, but 1920s Chicago is something that I was immediately attracted to, the tuxes, the style of the whole thing, the Speakeasies, it was incredibly exciting for me.
Were you surprised to be asked back for another season on the show?
I knew that there was the potential from the beginning, so I knew that it was more like, ‘I’m doing four episodes and if I really mess them up I’m not coming back, [but] if everything goes well I’m coming back for a season.’
So I wasn’t expecting it, but I was hoping. Once I started I wanted to come back desperately, because I’m having so much fun doing it.
Do you see a spark of humanity in Klaus?
There’s a human element for sure. The more I do this, the more I have to pull away from being two-dimensional evil and give this guy motives.
That’s been a great thing about the writing, it has really helped me, because they’ve layered the character now so there are all these things with his family, where he’s bringing in all of these feelings.
The dysfunctional relationship with his father is something that is relatable to a lot of people. Relationships are often very complex and can be the motives for acts which, if they were seen objectively, could be deemed evil. But I really think there needs to be something behind all of that.
I hope they keep writing stuff like that so that we keep learning more and more the motives. I don’t think we’ll ever get to the point where we forgive everything that he’s done, but at least maybe we can understand it.
Is he going to have a love life?
A love interest for Klaus is something I’ve been pushing for a long time. There is going to be someone that he has his eye on, and it is going to be difficult for him. He’s used to getting what he wants, and he’s not going to get what he wants immediately out of this.
It’s going to be something that takes a little time, and for the first time in a thousand years he’s going to be challenged by this person.
Is it an existing character?
I can’t comment on that, and I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you. Actually, you’re not going to have to wait very long at all [to find out]. It’s really exciting.
What are you watching on television?
The Walking Dead, I’m a massive fan of it. I love that show. I’ve read all the graphic novels, and I’m putting it out there, just in case they want someone for a guest episode.
It’s not enough being a werewolf/vampire, you need to be a zombie too?
I’d rather be one of the survivors. There’s something intriguing to me about being alive in this post-apocalyptic world where suddenly we define the rules.
It’s down to us to define what’s good and what’s bad, what’s right and what’s wrong. That’s what’s really exciting to me about it.
What is your take on the allure of vampires?
First of all, they’ve been made sexier over the last few years. They were always monsters before that. I think Interview with the Vampire made vampires sexy.
I think there’s something that people can relate to, especially teenagers, about the idea of someone who holds a dark secret, who is struggling with something inside themselves, struggling to be accepted because there’s a part of themselves that they’re ashamed of, and yet they would just like to be like everyone else.