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Ian Somerhalder Talks ‘Vampire Diaries,’ Environmental Relief

It’s interesting that a guy who stars as one half of a pair of immortal vampire brothers spends his off hours fixated on saving the earth. Between his eponymous environmental-focused foundation and his recent work with healthy food initiative Thrive Market, “The Vampire Diaries” star Ian Somerhalder has been making a name for himself in the nonprofit world by reducing his carbon footprint.

While on a small break from filming the popular CW series, Somerhalder spoke with Variety about encouraging youth to get involved, healthy eating and yes, a few tidbits of what this season of the show is like since former star Nina Dobrev departed at the end of last season.

How are you feeling about this season of “The Vampire Diaries”?

I personally think everyone thought it was going to be a huge departure after Elena (Nina Dobrev) was gone. And I was one of those people. I thought it was going to be a huge departure for the typical formula of our show. By virtue of the fact that it wasn’t a huge leap for mankind, as far as changing it up, there were some differences that sort of mixed up the formula.

What we’ve just started shooting is such a departure (from what is expected of the show). I just started shooting episode 10, which is a concept episode. The episode was really about Damon, but that’s not why I think it was the best at all. The way the story was put together … every artisan from set to producers to wardrobe to everyone was just so on-point.

It was the first time since early on in season one when it was just (creators) Kevin (Williamson) and Julie (Plec) staying up till four in the morning writing that I said ‘Wow, this episode is being so well-executed that it’s worthy of being submitted for things because it’s just so on point.’ And yes, it’s a teen vampire soap opera, I get that. But those episodes and the way they’re being written and the way they’re getting shot, I’m grateful for it.

It was a Civil War episode. I was covered in dirt and gunpowder with things blowing up around me. From a Monday to a Friday, I lost six pounds.

And the woman who directed episode 10, her name is Deb Chow. Be on the lookout for that name. She is no f—ing joke, man.

Do you like working with female directors?

I love female directors. I hate to say it, but women are so much deeper than men. They come at things from a much more layered, emotional perspective. They’re much more in tune with the human psyche.

You and your wife, “Sleepy Hollow’s” Nikki Reed, are also doing a ton of work with the Ian Somerhalder Foundation. The environment-focused foundation covers everything from habitat extinction to green technology to no-kill animal shelters.

Sometimes when I try to explain the Foundation to people, they say ‘Wow, that’s really broad.’ But it’s not, because it’s really compartmentalized.

When you look at the earth rather than as an environment, yeah it’s a round snow globe floating in space, but it’s a symbiosis between the creatures living on it and the land, sea and sun. What are we as human beings? We’re a symbiosis between the food that we eat and the air that we breathe.

This generation, ultimately, is the most pivotal generation in humankind. This generation can either sit around on their cell phones and Tweeting and Snapchatting each other or they can literally stop the greatest mass extinction since the dinosaurs. They can slow this train down by changing the way their lives are and by putting policymakers in office who can fight for this.

Do you feel it’s important to use your celebrity to be this outspoken about these causes?

People that have this much access to this amount of populus have a social responsibility. For people in my position or the Leonardo DiCaprios or the Ed Nortons — those guys have done an incredible amount of work — there is a certain amount of responsibility because we can speak to more people than the government. We can speak to more people than the corporations that have all this power. It’s not out of ego, it’s out of having a safe planet to live on.

Is this why you partnered with online organic retailer Thrive Market?

We are never going to build a healthy America with people pumping themselves full of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup and GMO corn and nuts … the food system in our country is literally poisoning our country from the inside out. Good, healthy food should not be expensive. Thrive is a way to get all those good, nutritious items at wholesale. For every membership that’s bought, we are giving one to people in need.

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