Words by Mr Mark Jacobs
As far as ghouls go, Mr Paul Wesley, 29, is a particularly good-looking example. But the star of the hit teen drama The Vampire Diaries, in which he plays Stefan Salvatore, a Mr James Dean-type bloodsucker with a heart of gold, prefers Count Orlok from the 1922 horror Nosferatu: "Because he was so mangled and warped. I almost feel as if when older people hear the word 'vampire' they cringe and think, 'Oh great, teen bullsh** and pretty girls running around.' But a vampire used to be hideous, a monstrosity. That's interesting to me."
I brought my sisters to a signing. They know me as idiot Paul, brother, moron, so when they saw these girls getting excited that I was there they couldn't fathom it
Mr Wesley, who boasts natural fangs of his own (he attributes them to night-time teeth grinding), was already an acting veteran when he secured a role in The Vampire Diaries. As a teenager he transferred New Jersey high schools to accommodate a role in the daytime soap opera Another World, and later dropped out of university to work full time. The risks paid off: an avalanche of TV roles followed, including recurring parts in Wolf Lake, Everwood and Army Wives.
Prolific is one way to describe Mr Wesley's career so far, but it isn't just down to luck, with his perseverance playing a big part. "One year I had a really bad experience where I didn't get a pilot that I really wanted and it psychologically damaged me. I had to retrain myself to have the confidence to go in and do what I do as an actor," he continues. "I know there are always going to be ups and downs - I don't care if you're Johnny Depp or Ryan Gosling - you're always aspiring."
When The Vampire Diaries debuted in 2009 it was considered an improbable success despite its eye-candy cast and the pedigree of its creator, Mr Kevin Williamson (Dawson's Creek, The Faculty, Scream). It was also accused of being derivative of another teen vampire drama that was at the peak of its popularity. But Twilight is completing its cycle, meaning Mr Wesley is firmly in the business of starring in the next slavishly followed pop culture phenomenon. "We were able to carve a little niche," he says, adding that his character's tormented greaser style is beginning to affect him: "I've started wearing black biker boots non-stop, which is all Stefan wears..."
The Vampire Diaries, 2011
Mr Wesley as the vampire Stefan Salvatore in the supernatural drama series
People's Choice Awards
From left: The Vampire Diaries co-stars Mr Ian Somerhalder and Mr Wesley at the award ceremony, LA, January 2012
Television: Out of the Box Celebration
Mr Wesley with The Vampire Diaires co-star and wife Ms Torrey DeVitto, LA, April 2012
Naturally, for a show with a teenage target audience, there have been mall riots, including a particularly intense signing session in Atlanta, Georgia (where the show is filmed) in 2010. "They really love my character," Mr Wesley says of his fans, and then laughs. "It's overwhelming. I brought my little sisters to a signing. They know me as idiot Paul, brother, moron. When they saw all these girls getting really excited that I was there they couldn't fathom why anyone would be interested."
And what of his plans for the future? "We have six-year contracts. I hope the show will go on for that long but it's such a peculiar business," he says, adding that he would eventually like to get behind the camera. "I always thought The OC would be on for years and then it got cancelled after the fourth season. We're all looking at other things to do in the future and searching for different roles," he continues. For Mr Wesley this looks set to be in Hollywood: we'll see him next as a DEA agent in the upcoming Southern hit man action-comedy The Baytown Disco opposite Mr Billy Bob Thornton.