You play a character who is very old, and yet appears to be a teenager. What are the difficulties in doing that?
Paul: That was what was so appealing about this role. I was reading so many pilot scripts. And, with a vampire who is born in the 1860's, and then has to mask himself as a high schooler, there was nothing else like that. I was so obsessed with this character. I love this character so much. It's so challenging for me to do this. Nina, and all the people on the show, are about the same age, and we all are friends. When I'm on set, it's hard for me to get into this place where I'm like, "Wait, I'm their grandfather?" But, I'm pretending.
It's really challenging, but fun, and it comes really innately. I really enjoy this. I don't know why, but it comes to me. And, it's a rebirth. He's been alone and isolated. Then, he falls in love with this girl and, all of a sudden, he can have that teenage and young-adult experience. It's the first love that he has been lacking for hundreds of years. He's not putting on a facade, and he's not a con-man. It's not some pervy thing. He's genuinely experiencing all this with the naivete of an 18-year-old kid.
Have you done a backstory for your character's 100-year life?
Paul: Yeah. First of all, I have the books as reference, which is nice, even though it's not a verbatim thing, where we're following the books, word for word. But, I have that as a great reference for backstory. Then, as an actor, I think everybody creates a little bit of a backstory, especially me. Stefan has so much history that I have to.
Do you go back in time to do any Civil War scenes?
Paul: As a matter of fact, that is going to be something we're going to explore. We're going to have some flashbacks to the Civil War, which I actually really look forward to. I think that'll be interesting.
How is the stunt work to do?
Paul: It's been great because both Ian Somerhalder and myself are both very eager and prefer to do it ourselves. Obviously, not if it's ridiculously dangerous, but that thing where I jumped off the roof, it was like 40 feet. That was me, and it was a free-fall, until the last five seconds, and I loved it. It's great.
Is Stefan 100% good?
Paul: No, absolutely not. No way. He's a vampire. He is constantly struggling with the dark side. He's constantly eager, and he has a need to feed on human blood. It's always there. It's not easy for him not to do it. I'm making Stefan have anger and a temper, but also passion, love and tenderness toward Elena. He's vicious and violent. He loves her and he'll die for her, but he's a violent creature.
How does that contrast with Damon?
Paul: Stefan hates being a vampire. He doesn't want to be a vampire. He believes it's immoral. He has a conflict. He does not want to take human life. He just wants to experience life as a normal human being, whereas his brother is completely basking in this. He loves vampirism. He's enjoying it. He's more gluttonous, in that regard.
Is Elena a reincarnation of the person you loved?
Paul: I actually don't know what they're going to do, in our series, but Elena could be a descendant, or it could be a coincidence. I don't know what they're going to do, but I think she's going to be a descendant.
Will you do flashbacks with her?
Paul: Oh, yes, I'm sure. I don't want to say that for sure, but I'm sure. We're doing flashbacks, so that will probably happen, at some point.
How is playing a vampire different from when you played a werewolf?
Paul: Werewolves are not as intellectual, in terms of being more like animals with rabies. It's like there's this instinctive anger. Whereas vampires, and Stefan for me, is a thinker. He's an introvert. He's an intellectual. He sits there and writes. There's more finesse. Also, when I was playing that character, I was 18 years old. I was just this teen who was running rampant. I had a great time and it fit the character perfectly. I was this alpha male with machismo, and that was me. Now, it's more the introvert and the loner. It's really too different things.
In acting terms, the standard for this kind of role now is Robert Pattinson in Twilight. Because of that, is there anything that you're doing to steer yourself further away from that portrayal?
Paul: Well, prior to shooting the pilot, I had never seen Twilight. I specifically went out of my way to not watch Twilight because I didn't want it to influence me, in any way, because I knew that it was a similar subject matter. Now, I've actually never watched the movie in its entirety, but I've seen parts of it. And, I don't think that it would be wise for any actor to make any judgments on their character, or decisions based on anyone else. If there are similarities to Robert Pattinson's character in Twilight, so be it.
I take the scripts that Kevin and Julie write, and I do my honest, best portrayal. Any similarities are an after-effect. This is a weekly series, and there's so much going on. There are so many new relationships. There is a lot going on in the show with vampires, but then there are personal relationships between all the characters. There are non-vampires everywhere.
Who'd win in a fight: Edward Cullen or Stefan?
Paul: I don't know enough about Edward Cullen, to be honest with you, so I don't know what his abilities and powers are. That's really up to the viewer or reader to decide. Once they start seeing the show, they can make their decision, but I have no idea. I can't even answer that.
Are you worried how big this might build, with fan intensity?
Paul: People ask me that and I think, to be doing what I do, in this capacity, is my dream. It's what I live for, so for me, having these fans is certainly not something that is going to deter me. It's flattering. I love what I do and, if people are responding to it, and if they do indeed respond to my character in such a positive way, I'm doing something right. So, for me, it just feels good.
What would you miss doing anonymously?
Paul: I do everything anonymously. I walk around Atlanta, and nobody bothers me. Every once in a blue moon, someone will come up to me. But, people don't really come up to me, so I think my whole life would change, if this were to take me to a different place. I have no idea.
What are your personal interests that might become difficult with crowds?
Paul: I'm a city boy, and I thrive off of culture. Something about being on the streets of Manhattan revives me, so walking around and not having anonymity and just being recognized, would really take away that experience of being in a city.
What do you make of Fells Church, as a city boy?
Paul: Being in Atlanta is a massive adjustment. Atlanta's a city, but it's a suburban city, and it's very spread out. It's been a massive adjustment, but people are very welcoming, and I'm working 14-hour days, five days a week.
How is the make-up for this?
Paul: Make-up is never fun. I don't care what anybody says. Make-up is never fun. Neither is working with children or animals. Nobody wants to show up at six in the morning to get make-up. Good news is that we don't have a lot of make-up. We really don't. We have these contact lenses that we put in. I've worn contacts my whole life and it's not a problem for me, so it really hasn't been very bad.
Do you have teeth to wear?
Paul: We do have prosthetic teeth.
Are you ordered to stay out of the sun to avoid a tan?
Paul: Our vampires don't really have any pale qualities other than when they turn, and their teeth come out and their eyes turn red. So, I never really have to worry about that. I can go out in the sun. Continuity-wise, I have to worry about that, but I don't have to be pale.
Were you interested in vampires, as a kid?
Paul: Not really. I wasn't fascinated, the way some people are, but I also wasn't very exposed to it. There was a little bit of Anne Rice, and I didn't know much about it, but I was always fascinated by mythology, in any regard. I know that I've been doing a lot of research on vampires and it stems back, hundreds of years. There's so much history. Now, as an adult, that subject matter is intensely fascinating.
Q: Who is your favorite vampire?
Paul: Maybe Lestat, but that's such a cliché answer. It's an amazing character, so I'm going to stick with that.
What's the attraction of playing a vampire?
Paul: It's certainly empowering. There's an omniscient presence. Being a lowly human, it's nice to play a character who has this omniscience, but it's so easy to make that one-dimensional. Vampires are flawed individuals. It's just that they come off really stable, and that's what women gravitate towards.
Does the fact that chicks dig vampires help?
Paul: Oh, yeah, of course. Come on. Yeah, we're not that noble. It must be amazing. Although, I would assume that, if you're thousands of years old, you're probably used to women throwing themselves at you.
What would be so bad about living that long?
Paul: Being a nomad. If you think about it, you can't really establish relationships with anyone without revealing your secret for more than a decade, before they realize that you're not aging. So, I think Stefan's been living on his own because he doesn't want his secret to be revealed. He hasn't been able to establish relationships with anybody. That's lonely.
What is your work-out regime? Has it changed now that you're in Atlanta?
Paul: I'm trying to lean out as much as I can. I feel like vampires are these svelte creatures whose nutrition is essentially animal blood, so I knew that I couldn't eat all these different carbs and sugars because it just didn't feel right, physically and mentally. So, I've been limiting my intake, just because I feel like that's what Stefan does, every day. For the first time in my life, I've been doing cardio. I've played sports, my whole life, and now I'm doing it, every morning. It sucks.
Do you feel that Stefan is based on the books? Did you feel that that was really how your character was going to be?
Paul: I think we maintain a lot of what the books convey, in terms of the characters, apart from the physical descriptions. It isn't like it's some huge stretch, or anything. It is quite similar.
Had you seen Ian in Lost, prior to working with him?
Paul: I've never seen a single episode of Lost. I was a huge fan of Rules of Attraction. I actually thought Ian was amazing in it, so I knew who he was and I was a big fan. When he was cast, I was excited.
Do you have any memories of your time on Guiding Light?
Paul: For sure. It shaped my childhood. I got kicked out of high schools because of it. I'd go to class, once a week, because I was shooting this show and they were like, "All right, get out of here." That was my high school experience. That was my childhood. I made friends there. Brittany Snow was on it. Hayden Panettiere was on it. Tammy Blanchard, and all these great actors were on it. It was my first ever experience, in front of a camera. I was nervous as hell. I was terrible at what I did, but it was my school and my education.
What did you think when you heard the news that it was going off the air?
Paul: I was under the impression that it was the longest running TV show. It started on the radio, so just for that sheer aspect, I think it's sad, in that regard. Also, people are on it for 20 or 30 years, so you've got to go, "Whoa, what are they thinking?" I was just on it when I was a kid.