It’s noon in Atlanta and “The Vampire Diaries” star Paul Wesley is only just getting up.
It wasn’t a raging party or a mad case of insomnia that forced the 27-year-old — AccessHollywood.com’s newest Rising Star — to rouse from his slumber at lunchtime. Truth be told, the New Jersey-bred gent has only slept a few hours, the result of getting off work at the alarming early 4:30 AM.
“It’s not abnormal,” the surprisingly awake Wesley tells Access shortly after rising from his slumber. “It’s a very common thing for a vampire show.”
And thanks to some stellar ratings for The CW’s newest hit drama, centering on high school teen Elena Glibert (Nina Dobrev), her vampire suitor — Wesley’s lovelorn and brooding Stefan Salvatore — and his reckless and just plain evil vamp brother, Ian Somerhalder’s Damon Salvatore, Wesley has plenty of late night shifts in his future. On Thursday, The CW cemented that schedule after announcing it had ordered nine more scripts for the series.
When news came down that the show was a hit for the young person’s network, attracting more than just a crowd of insatiable blood-sucking drama lovers, Wesley found his personal stock rise among those that knew him. His parents and little sisters were right there, as they’ve been all along, cheering on the twenty-something with those cliff-top eyebrows and the kind of jaw line only an angelic sculptor could have crafted, but former pals and acquaintances reached out too – in droves.
“Maybe it was like a reminder or something,” Wesley said of why so many faces from his past got in touch. “You know, you forget people, you forget your experiences with people and so maybe seeing the show… [It was] ‘Oh! Maybe I should try and get a hold of him.’ A lot of people did get a hold of me which is actually really nice because who knows if I ever would have spoken to them again.”
The Thursday CW drama, which is entering its third week on the network, has so far focused on ages old vampire Stefan and his quest to get close to Elena, a 17-year-old who is a dead ringer for his dearly departed ex, Catherine. Wesley, who prior to “The Vampire Diaries” appeared on Lifetime’s “Army Wives” and “24,” has captivated audiences and the girls of the fictional local high school in Fell’s Church, VA. Unknowingly to his fellow high schoolers, Stefan’s actually 150 years old, but the mysterious quiet loner with the “sexy back” as one of the girls put it, has made him all that more alluring to his female classmates — and it appears, the fans as well. Securing and nailing the part, however, didn’t come easily.
“I had to work so hard to get this role… that when I did finally get it and I got on set, it was sort of one of these things where I just felt so challenged that I almost never settled in and went ‘OK, I can enjoy this. I can relax,’” Wesley, who is currently filming the sixth “Vampire Diaries” episode, said. “He’s a very complex character… and I’m starting to really figure him out.
“People are really responding to Stefan and I’m just now starting to go, ‘This is nice, this feels good, this feels really like, nice to have people appreciate this character,’” he added.
While the show has taken off and Wesley’s star is on the rise, he hasn’t yet experienced the spoils and paparazzi-filled perils that come with fame, especially on an Atlanta set.
“People come up to me, but it’s always just very civil,” he said. “I know that like, Brad Pitt or Robert Pattinson or any of the ‘Twilight’ kids, they literally can’t leave their house, and I certainly don’t feel that in the least bit. I just feels normal, it just feels totally normal.”
For now maybe, but things are on the up for the actor. And next year, he’ll also appear in “24’s” two-hour season premiere, after filming several episodes as the husband of Jack Bauer’s daughter, Kim, played by Elisha Cuthbert.
“It was a pleasure to work on the show because it’s such a prestigious show and I just wanted to be involved in any way possible,” Wesley said of his small role, which began last season. “I love Elisha. She’s so sweet and I got to meet Kiefer Sutherland which is great because I’m a big fan.”
And now when he’s back in LA, perhaps, Access suggests, the two will bump into each other, series star to series star.
“I doubt Kiefer Sutherland watches ‘Vampire Diaries,’” Wesley chuckles. “Actually, then again, you never know, he was in ‘Lost Boys,’ right?”
Indeed, Kiefer was in that hit ‘80s vampire movie. And with Wesley’s help, “Vampire Diaries” could soon be just as popular.
“This show is so evolving so quickly and so nicely and I’m telling you, I don’t care how old you are, I don’t care if you’re Kiefer Sutherland… It’s just really special and really good,” he said. “I’m so excited for people to see how the show progresses because I think it’s going in more and more of a ‘True Blood’ sophisticated direction and it’s getting darker and the characters are getting more complex. It’s really exciting.”