“The notion of doing a play is something I wanted to delve into,” Paul Wesley explains. Best known to audiences as the star of the CW mega-hit, “The Vampire Diaries,” Wesley is taking to the New York stage this summer in the play Cal in Camo. “After being on a TV show for seven years, you forget what it’s like on stage. Growing up, I did theatre in school constantly and then I did scene studying in New York. I learned how to act on the stage and I haven’t explored the theatrical scene in some time.”
Wesley said working on Cal in Camo has stretched him “in every way and form,” and that the other actors he’s working with come from extensive theatre backgrounds, something that continues to push him.
“You don’t rehearse as much in TV and in film work. You read the script and if you’re lucky, you have a day of rehearsal for a film. In TV, you don’t get any rehearsal. In theatre, it’s not about getting a ‘take’ and nailing the ‘take.’ It’s about making the character live for five weeks on stage. You get to explore things inside of you that are relatable to the character that feel like home and that aren’t artificial.”
“The Vampire Diaries” has brought him more than People’s and Teen Choice Awards, it has also challenged him with shaping a character whose arch on the show has been anything but stagnant.
“When the show first debuted, my character was the protagonist. It was really nice to have the character become the antagonist in seasons three and four. Now that we’ve done seven seasons, the challenge is to find the freshness and find a way to make it real and unique. It’s difficult on a show that spans such a long time. One of the guys I work with on ‘Vampire Diaries’ is a theatre actor primarily and he’s said sometimes the show is harder than Shakespeare because you have to constantly figure out how to make it personal and new.”
“The Vampire Diaries,” has been a hit for years and because of that, Wesley has begun fulfilling another side of his creative self by directing episodes of the show.
“That has been wonderful,” he says. “I’ve been interested in directing since I first laid my eyes on a film. Working in TV for so long, you start to understand the logistics of it: the editing, the shots, the coverage. I knew I was capable, I just had to convince people of it. I look around when I’m directing on the show and I’m amazed by all the people and resources we have to tell these stories and create together.”
Still, directing presents its own set of challenges that being in front of the camera does not. He says that even when he turns his “actor-brain” off, he’s still thinking about ways he can be creative, something directing lets him do.
“The show is a moving machine that won’t stop and the trick is to put your stamp on it while getting the coverage you need. The director needs to keep the trademark of the show while putting your special touch on it.”
For Wesley, the biggest difference between his work on TV and his work on Cal in Camo has been two-fold: The live theatre audience and the ability for his performance to evolve and not be frozen on film.
“Every day is something new,” he says of the play. “I hope my performance in the first show is different than in the fifth show. I want to grow in the way I see the character and the nuances of the performance. I got lucky in the sense that this play came around when it did and I fell in love with it. When I read it, I was so moved by it. It reminded me of Sam Shepherd or Tennessee Williams plays in that it’s very real. It’s a live audience and that’s a huge change for me, and a welcome one.”
Cal in Camo runs at the Rattlestick Theater in New York City until June 12th.
Interview by Ryan Brinson
Header Photo by Carol Rosegg