Paul Wesley On Directing 'The Vampire Diaries'

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Friday night’s episode of “The Vampire Diaries” was helmed by one of its own – Paul Wesley.

The actor, who plays Stefan Salvatore, took his fifth turn behind the lens to direct the “Detoured on Some Random Backwoods Path to Hell” episode, which sees Caroline (Candice King) and Alaric (Matt Davis) leap into action now that their twin daughters have been taken by Siren babysitter Seline (Kristen Gutoskie).

Ahead of the new episode, which sounds like it will be tugging at our heartstrings, Paul told about taking another turn in the director’s chair. [I spoke with you the first time you directed, and you] talked about how directing stops you from obsessively watching playback and analyzing your performance. Is that still the case?
Paul Wesley: Totally. I think I am pretty good about that as a director. I’m very conscious of time and I’d rather trust my DP. I already know the tone. I have the tone notes. I already know what the vibe should be, so to sit there and just sort of become meticulous about my own sort of mannerisms or something is, I think, a real waste of time. With that said, I don’t particularly like directing episodes that I’m in. I’d much rather direct things that I’m not in. I don’t know how Mel Gibson did it with ‘Braveheart.’ I’d much prefer not to do it (laughs).

Access: You got to direct two young girls in this one [the actresses who play Alaric and Caroline’s daughters]. I don’t think you’ve [done that before]?
Paul: I have actually. They were in one of my episodes. They had very small parts. But yes, as wonderfully sweet as they are — and they’re actually so sweet and couldn’t be any nicer — it’s very challenging because they’re just little babies and they’re so sweet and cute, but you’re so conscientious of just being aware that they’re kids, and not being like, ‘OK, guys, nope, we gotta do that again. We gotta do it again.’ I get so nervous because I don’t want to put pressure on kids. Actually, it is more challenging than you would think.

Access: Did you find techniques or did you call somebody you know that has a lot of kids that age to get some sort of tricks of the trade on how to get them to do what you want?
Paul: These kids were incredibly sweet and they never were upset. They were always happy. And I think I just got lucky with these two. But, I think when you’re at a certain age as an actor, you start going, ‘OK, well, you know, I want to put my artistic stamp on something,’ and I think with kids you can kind of be a little more specific and they don’t get offended. But then I also think it’s important for kids to not act, because I think if kids act, it usually just doesn’t work out well. So you usually want to catch them during sort of a natural moment … I think that’s the key to getting great performances. There’s this movie I love called ‘City of God,’ and it’s got all these amazing performances out of these kids and I just wonder how they did it, and I think it’s about having them be natural.

Access: Because kidnapping is at the crux of this episode — or at least a big part of it — is there something you did or said to your fellow actors to kind of keep that plotline grounded even though [there are] all these supernatural elements around?
Paul: It’s so challenging. I actually think that’s the biggest sort of thing with this show, because there’s so much supernatural jargon, so to speak. … It could be confusing unless you humanize it. And I just think it’s up to the actors to sort of really deliver the lines with some real kind of visceral – not to sort of spew them out, but to have something underneath the eyes. Like with Seline and Sybil, I was like, ‘Hey guys, don’t forget, you’re just sisters.’ Or with Matt Davis and Candice [King], I was saying, ‘Look, you guys are both parents that have children, but you’re not together. It’s like you’re a divorced couple, but parents.’ And so it’s all about just humanizing these moments, I think.

Access: Is there a moment you saw in playback that you can guide us to look out for that broke you a little bit emotionally watching it back? … I’m wondering if there’s a big moment people can look out for in this episode.
I really like this one [scene] between Candice and Matt when they’re in a parking lot and they’re arguing about their kids and I just think it’s this really sort of human moment where suddenly, these two are not yelling about – exactly what we were just talking about – witches or spells and they’re just like, literally two people trying to figure out how to help their children. And I just think that is — it’s a very human moment and they were both very raw. And I said to them, ‘Hey guys, throughout the lines, just kind of remember, it’s not about anything other than these two kids.’ It was nice. I think it was pretty cathartic for them as well, I think.

“The Vampire Diaries” continues Fridays at 8/7c on The CW.

Jolie Lash

Design Your Own Engagement Ring

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