British actor Joseph Morgan became an instant favorite with fans of The Vampire Diaries when he joined the cast in 2011 as Klaus Mikaelson, a vampire-werewolf hybrid. He is now the star of his own spin-off, The Originals, on the CW, which follows Klaus’ returns to New Orleans when he discovers a plot is brewing against him by the Original Vampire family.
In the French Quarter, he is reunited with his former protégé, Marcel (Charles Michael Davis), a charismatic, karaoke singing, vampire who has total control of the city, and every one of its human and supernatural inhabitants.
Joseph and Charles came to the TV Critics tour to talk about their new series and their friendship, which started long before the series began.
Joseph, how do you want to differentiate The Originals from The Vampire Diaries?
Joseph: It’s really less about the guilt of being a vampire and more about reveling in that, and we’re in New Orleans. So you put us in that decadent situation and we have a lot more vampire parties and crazy indulgence in our true nature.
It’s like The Lost Boys, party all night and sleep all day. I like to take that vibe into it.
Charles, you are the new vampire on the block, but Marcel is also a king. He’s also an entertainer. What did you do to prepare for the role, did you study vampirism?
Joseph: Or just do a lot of karaoke? (he laughs)
Charles: I did a lot of karaoke. I tried to bite people on the neck!
Actually, I was really into Jay-Z at the time, and I was reading his book.
What better story than his, and that of the American dream, rags to riches, from selling drugs on a corner to being married to Beyonce.
Is it going to be a challenge to establish a power struggle between the two of you as equals, when the audience is used to Klaus having no equals?
Joseph: We’re used to Klaus coming in with the ‘bull in a China shop’ mentality and dominating like a one-man army, but Marcel has an army of vampires. He has the numbers. He’s running the city, and he has the witches under his control.
I don’t really know what the secret weapon he possesses is, but I know that he has control of all the magic in the city, and he has all of his inner circle of day-walkers, of vampires, and all of these night-walkers, who are trying to earn their [way] to become day-walkers.
That in itself is a challenge for Klaus. And I think he’s going to have to employ a little bit more of his manipulative backstabbing methods to get where he wants to be to take back the throne rather than charging in there and being torn limb-from-limb by a thousand vampires.
Charles: Plus Marcel is a pretty popular guy in New Orleans. I don’t think you earn any points for killing the most popular guy in New Orleans.
Joseph: He’s far too popular.
Why doesn’t Klaus just kill Marcel?
Joseph: [Their history] is incredibly complex and, therefore, rewarding to play.
It’s not just ‘I want to be king, so I want to kill him.’There’s a struggle with myself over my friendship and feeling betrayed, and the jealousy and wanting what he has, but also admiring what he’s done with it since I’ve left, and wanting that acceptance, that affirmation that Klaus has always wanted.
You have a great rapport on screen. Did you have that right away, or did it grow as you worked together?
Charles: I’ve known Joseph for a few years.
Joseph: We used to play poker together. He took my money every week.
Charles: Yeah, he’s still sore about it. (he laughs) The first time I met Joseph, we geeked out over photography. I remembered his enthusiasm, just how open of a guy he is. It was like, ‘If there is anyone that I can have this relationship with, it’s Joseph.’
So going into the audition, It made it very easy to have an idea of the chemistry and the relationship that these people had.
Joseph: It’s so much fun on set. We actually got told the first day to stop ad-libbing at the end of the scene. We kept adding lines; each of us wanting to have the last word of the scene. It just happened naturally, luckily, for us.