Daniel Gillies’ Panel at the Chicago Convention
What is your favorite thing about playing Elijah?
Well, it’s changed. In the beginning, I liked the idea that he posed a threat. As things have ensued, I like that he’s instrumental in the new order of the vampires.
What is your most outrageous fan experience?
I’m waiting for that to happen. It’s open season.
Do you like Elijah’s good or dark side better?
I never really look at the sides. He does what needs to be done, takes care of business. He’s more calm and direct. I wish I was more like him. But playing the darkness is kind of fun.
Describe Elijah’s relationship with Klaus.
Tempestuous. It’s the marvelous mischief of Joseph Morgan. He’s so good. He’s kind of Napoleonic, his unquenchable thirst for power. Elijah’s more rational; the voice of reason. I like that [that he’s sort of like an adviser for Klaus]. I love the two energies together. Apart from the fact that I love Jo – it’s so fun to do scenes with him. It’s a classical motif; two brothers and a power-struggle. But I don’t think Elijah is as concerned about having power as Klaus is, he’s more interested in finding stability.
What’s your favorite thing to do during your downtime?
Hang out with my wife [Rachael Leigh Cook] – [Audience: “aawwwww”] plus my 3 dogs and 2 cats. Mostly the dogs, sometimes my wife.
How do you guys do the scenes where you rip out the hearts?
It varies. It’s the CW, so they can’t do it too graphic. Sometimes they use these false, latexy heart things. Sometimes they build cavities onto the body that you can bust into… sometimes it’s CG [Computer generated; CGI]. This [topic] is disgusting. Why do you want to know this — what is wrong with you? [Directed at the person who asked the question.] (laughs)
If you weren’t playing Elijah, who would you play?
Joel Goran. [The doctor on Saving Hope]. (laughs)
What was your audition process like?
I auditioned at the end of… 2010? Wow it’s been that long! I remember going into the CW and seeing 20-30 of the best-looking people I’ve ever seen in my life. They had us audition with this great material that I don’t even think ended up being used in the show. I thought I did good, but I heard nothing from the network. I was told they wanted someone in their 40s-50s, so I was told no. Then they came back and said they were looking for someone under 35. … I’m 36 now. (frowns) I wish this story was more interesting.
What would you like to see happen with Elijah on the show?
Well that’s not fair. That’s a trick question as I already know what happens! (laughs) I’d like to see him go to the Bahamas and buy a casino. I want to see him marry Eva Longoria and have 18 children with her. (laughs) I don’t know. I’m not telling you anything [about what happens to Elijah]!
If you weren’t an actor, what would you do?
[Audience laughter] What is funny about that? No really, I want to know. (laughs)
Probably be a writer. I like writing and directing. I’d have been okay in design. I like shapes and designing stuff.
What show would you like to see Vampire Diaries do a crossover with?
(thinking) Such a good question…. What about Three’s Company?
Why is Elijah the only Original without an accent?
Now that’s not strictly true. Every human being has an accent. …If they can speak – that was insensitive. (laughs) Well… I was the first so I got to make the choice. I mean, they’re vampires that have been around for a thousand years [essentially get to pick their accents]. I had thought to do the accent very American, but then I thought about it and put a bit of a European edge to it – and New York City because I imagine, if I was a vampire, I’d live in New York City. He has a very deliberate and specific accent actually; I worked very hard on it – to make it original. Really, we all have extremely different accents. Jo’s is Welsh. Rebekah’s and Kol’s are Australian; Finn is very proper British English. They just sound similar to the American ear.
How did you get started acting?
I don’t think I ever thought to do anything else. I got into law school at 18 but I realized that was not something I wanted to do. So I took a year off and worked crappy jobs. I met a girl who convinced me to apply to a very prestigious acting school with her. …I got in, but she didn’t. This school only accepts about 20 people per year, of which only about 10 graduate, and I think there are 2 of us acting. That’s the way it goes, though, you spend 20-30k on acting school, and could end up doing something else. The school is like a military school for actors. I think it also made a difference since I didn’t have a back-up plan. I think if you don’t have a back-up plan, you have to stay with your first plan.
In a fight between Klaus and Elijah, who would win?
(laughs) I don’t know. Isn’t a hybrid supposed to be stronger than a vampire? I imagine him being more savage than Elijah – but then again, I imagine Elijah can be pretty savage, too. I don’t know. Who knows? You’d all probably know more than I do. They’re both kind of badass. But between me and Jo? He’d kick my ass every time.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Well, when I was about 21 or 22, I was on this show in New Zealand. It was a lead, big time; my acting career had just started. I just got the sense that I should go to North America, and I had a Canadian passport. I packed up and bought a one-way ticket to Canada. The show actually threatened to sue me – I’d signed up to work for a year or two with them.
The thing about acting: If you aren’t in North America – U.S. or Canada – you aren’t making much money doing it, even lead roles. I had the feeling that if I got started in a role there that I would get stuck in a comfort zone and never leave. I just had to get out. It was probably the bravest thing I’ve ever done… and, judging by all of your reactions, possibly the most boring. (laughs) [Audience laughs]
If you could go back to when you were a little kid, what would you do?
Apologize. (laughs) I was just so naughty [as a kid]. I was into everything. I was bad. I was like Charlie Sheen; I ingested large amounts of cocaine as a kid.
How does Elijah’s personality differ from your own?
Elijah’s just cooler and more interesting than I am. He has this purpose, wisdom, nobility… everything I’m not. I’m kind of a mess and without my wife I would probably be even more of a mess. [Audience: “awwwww”].
Who takes the longest to primp before a scene on set?
[In a feminine voice] “Paul Wesley!” (laughs) He has got marvelous hair though, and he looks so pretty.
He’s a marvelous actor, too.
Do you have any information for us on the release of Broken Kingdom?
We just finished the last bit. It’s going great! There’s going to be a limited theater release in July/August. It’s going to be showed at a couple of film festivals as well. The movie is so beautiful. And it’s a tribute to everyone who helped me to make it.
What is your most embarrassing moment on set?
I’m always a little embarrassed on set. (laughs) That’s not true – only when stuff is going on. It’s not very glamorous, they’re telling you to stand here – move there. I’m not embarrassed once they call “Action”.
What is your favorite Elijah hairstyle?
(laughs) Just wait until you see the Elijah fro – it’s a thing of beauty. Elijah corn rows. – Sorry. – (laughs) The long one is so funny [from flashback episodes]. Everyone was telling me that I looked like an elf. The first wavy one was a weird one. It’s definitely one for comedy. I’m actually in the process of acquiring it now.
It was funny, when I first got on the show and nobody knew who my character was, they were all saying things like “who is this guy – he’s got terrible hair”. I just didn’t want to look like these really amazing guys; I wanted to look like something different. The criticism was brutal until they started to like the character. (laughs)
I think that people in the US, if it’s not a look they’re used to, it’s immediately not sexy. The foreigners loved it before the people in the U.S. People here in America go for the sexiness you know before the unknown.
That was just terrible, just forget it. (laughs)
What brand of cologne do you wear?
Hugo Boss – Blue. Actually, right now I’m not. I ran out, so now I’m using this crappy one. I don’t even know what it is. I’m not even sure it’s cologne [smells himself] – it could be Pledge. I’m a very clean surface.
How did the cast welcome you on the set?
Threw rocks at me.
Actually, Nina [Dobrev] – back when she was naughty and she smoked – she was just so immediately sweet and disarmingly charming and mature. I knew Ian [Somerhalder] and Paul [Wesley] from before. I had done – and my wife has done – projects with Ian before. I actually knew Paul from waaaay back – back when he was Paul Wasilewski. Oh yes, Paul Wasilewski. When I first moved to Canada, I waited tables. One of those days, I served Paul – why am I staring at this poster [of Paul on the wall – every time he talked about Paul, he would talk to his poster on the wall] – it’s so weird. He knew I was an actor; we spoke and chatted. He left me a really nice tip. He was super young, like 19. But Paul’s just a good dude.
If you could choose any actor, who would you most like to work with?
Have any of you seen the movie A Separation? It’s unbelievable; tearing up thinking about it. It’s an Iranian film about their culture, specifically the women. It busted my heart. The husband – [his performance] just so flawless. He made you feel like there was no camera in the room, just that real and raw. Middle-Eastern actors, they’re just so irrevocably human. You’re watching people – they just pull you in. If you haven’t seen it, you have got to see this movie.
Who else? Philip Seymour Hoffman. Meryl Streep and Liv Ullmann. I love movies from the 70’s. There are so many greats. Michelle Williams – a badass – just blows my mind.
What is the best book you’ve read in the last year?
(laughs) I actually read quite a few books this year – a lot more than the year before. I read a great book Complications by Atul Gawande to study my character [on Saving Hope]. Gawande writes about his residency for becoming a surgeon. Man, are medical people heroes. Actors are not. He’s really great, it’s a fantastic book.
Also, if you haven’t read Geek Love by Katherine Dunn… it’s incredible. Go get it; it’s so great.
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Cuba. I very much want to go to Cuba right now. But, I want my wife to be able to go with me, and it’s not a great place for Americans right now. [Cue the audience: “awwww”]
What is your favorite movie quote?
Have any of you seen Dangerous Liaisons? My favorite quote is from that movie: “Pain is like the shame, darling; you only feel it once.”
If you could have one superhero power, what would it be?
Holy shit. To be Joseph Morgan!
Who is the funniest person on set?
I can never answer this question, and I always get it. It’s always really funny on set. He [points at Paul Wesley’s poster on the wall] gets really annoyed with me, but he delights in it, too. There is something so serious about filming, it’s such a serious process, which is weird for creating a creative environment. So, I guess it’s just the naughty kid in me; I just start to laugh. I want to just shatter the seriousness. How can you take yourself seriously with our lines? (laughs) I mean – we do take it seriously – but, when you’re saying things like “we have to use the dagger before the moonbeam” and crazy stuff like that, it’s funny and absurd.
Who would you like Elijah to have for a love interest?
Alaric. [Audience laughs and cheers.] I don’t even have to explain that. Look at Matthew Davis. Just him in that teacher’s uniform. He’s sexy. But, does he even work [teach] anymore? And what do you ship that? (laughs) Alarjah? Elaric?
Next question: Katherine or Elena?
Oooh. I like them both…. Can I have some chocolate and some vanilla? Mix it together? For Elijah, he would choose Elena. But me? Katherine.
Which of the 7 Deadly sins do you most identify with?
Oh gluttony. Yeah, gluttony for sure.
About Elijah… does he have a chance to fight?
Yeah, I suspect it. For those type of questions, I have to say ask Julie [Plec]. I don’t know. But they’re excited about these characters. I love it.
Who plays the most pranks on set?
(laughs) Well, Ian [Somerhalder] and Matt Davis like to grab and grope me. It’s not really a “prank”, but it’s like they’re having a competition to see who can grab and grope me the most. I don’t know which of them has grabbed which part of me the most. (laughs)
If you could have any of the Original Vampires’ superpowers, which would you want?
Compulsion. To be able to compel.
Do you have an addictions that you’re willing to share with us?
Well, I used to smoke. I quit. I hate it, but a lot of people smoke on sets in New Zealand.
[Someone yells that he’s hot.]
Not hot; not true. It’s smoke and mirrors. Well, no smoke – I quit – it’s Nicorette and mirrors.
How do you prepare for the different roles – going from one character on one show to another?
It was tough coming out of my character that I’d been playing for a while and back into being Elijah the Original Vampire. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get it back – to get it right. The costume with the cothing – and the posture – they help to make that transition.
Last Question: What can you tell us about Elijah and the rest of the Original Family’s relationships with each other?
(thinks) Not much, I mean… there’s something Shakespearean with that family. I completely get where everyone is coming from with the idea of the spin-offs [Audience cheers]. The house is too crowded with the Salvatore brothers plus all of us. The two groups are always hurtling towards being mutually exclusive with each other.
[Anything in these brackets (or parentheses) = my addition, generally for clarity. All of these were fan questions, some via a submission box, and some live.]
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