EXCLUSIVE : THE VAMPIRE DIARIES Scoop: Michael Malarkey Interview

One of the biggest conundrums in THE VAMPIRE DIARIES has alway been whether Enzo (Michael Malarkey) is one of the heroes or one of the villains.  For all his attempts to try to be the hero and work with Damon (Ian Somerhalder), Stefan (Paul Wesley), Bonnie (Kat Graham), and Caroline (Candice Accola) against all the villains that they come across in Mystic Falls, there always seems to be a hint of darkness still immersed in Enzo’s soul.  Like he cannot quite shake the fact that all his yearns to be the hero just might be him struggling against a darker nature he wants to hide deep within himself.  Or perhaps all those years locked in a cage, poked and prodded just simply broke the last bit of remaining humanity inside of him.  Whatever it is, it is always curious to see exactly what Enzo will do when forced to make a choice.  Does he choose to do the right thing, or does he give in and choose to do the wrong thing?  One just never knows.  

Enzo is the wild card.  He professes that Damon is his best friend, yet when it really mattered Enzo chose Damon’s mother Lily (Annie Wersching).  In this last episode “Never Let Me Go,” an even deeper turmoil seemed to arise from within Enzo’s conflicted psyche and tug-of-war for his heart — he seemed to hint at romantic feelings for Lily.  But what of Enzo’s teased of affection for Caroline?  Just who or what is really within the murky depths of Enzo’s soul?

In an effort to try to figure out just who Enzo is, we went to the source.  We asked star Michael Malarkey what he thinks truly motivates his character Enzo and where his heart lies.

Season 7 is shaping up to be a crazy season of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES and it is fascinating watching where Enzo’s journey is going amongst it.  He seems a little unhinged.
MICHAEL:  [Laughs] Well, I’ve gotten a slew of delightful, loving tweets ever since people watched the premiere.  

So what kind of game is Enzo playing with the Heretics?  Is he playing a long-con?  Is he looking for family?  What is kind of going on with him?
MICHAEL:  He doesn’t know these Heretics.  It’s not about the Heretics really.  It’s about Lily and the connection he has with her, and we get to the bottom of what that is truly about  and, in that last episode, we got a hint of what is actually going on below the surface.  I think as much as he has chosen a side, as we saw in the last episode, he is now forced to live with a bunch of virtual strangers and a woman that he admires and respects.  So that is a whole new can of worms that can potentially be opened up.  Like, does he get along with these people and how does he feel about them? So more conflict. 

What was ultimately the linchpin?  Why did Enzo choose Lily over his best friend Damon?
MICHAEL:  That’s true.  But, at the same time, when you look at the track record he has with Damon — he has been there for Damon countless times — and it seems like every time it actually matters, Damon has not been there for him.  Not that he is holding a grudge, but it’s like, “Look, she’s been there for me. She’s offering this family.  She cares about me.”  But Damon is only there when he wants to be.  Damon’s love-sick and doing his own thing.  And in Enzo’s opinion, Damon is maybe a little selfish. So I think the choice was kind of made by the fact that Enzo already had this connection with Lily and what she is offering is truly what he wanted:  respect and a family.  

How does he see the act of taking Caroline then?  Is it a peace-offering or is it revenge?
MICHAEL:  That is something that was not the easiest thing for him to do given his record with Caroline.  But it definitely tests the choice that he has made.  

So now there is not going to be any friendship between Caroline and Enzo?  It seems like he destroyed that trust there.
MICHAEL:  [Laughs] Well, maybe she likes being tied up!  

Is Enzo fearful of the Salvatore brothers’ wrath at this point?  They are not going to take too kindly to (1) the betrayal by Enzo, and (2) the taking of Caroline.
MICHAEL:  That’s true.  I think Enzo has gone beyond the point of really fearing somebody’s wrath.  He’s dealt with it on so many levels that it is like, “I’m just going to stick with my choice.  I’m going to make it — and fight for what I believe in.”  But I think this kidnapping of Caroline and this choosing a side isn’t, by any means, the definitive choice, necessarily.  There’s a lot of his moral compass at stake here.  So he really has to come to terms with that.  You see him grappling with that quite a bit.  Like, “Have I made the right choice?” It’s a great thing for an actor to play because you’ve got that kind of pull from both sides.  

Does Enzo actually have a moral compass?  I have to wonder at times.
MICHAEL:  I believe he does.  I don’t consider him a bad guy at all.  But, obviously, I play him, so.  I don’t consider any villains as bad guys — except the ones that do what they do for joy and merciless contempt of others.  But all the stuff Enzo does is, in his mind, doing it for a just cause.  It got a little wishy-washy last season with some of the Stefan stuff.  But I understood fundamentally why he was doing what he was doing, even though he seemed a little OTT with it.  But, for the most part, he just wants people to make their minds up and make choices and be firm about what they believe in and be men of their words or women of their words.  And I feel like he is.  He does what he says he is going to do.  Sometimes badly and carelessly, but he does it.  He’s like, “I’m a vampire. So what?”  

Enzo fell in love with a girl and that is kind of drew into the Mystic Falls world in the first place.  Is he capable of romantic love anymore or is that long gone for him?
MICHAEL:  I think everybody is capable of it, but it is about finding the right person that can bring it back for those who have had their hearts broken.  No one is a lost cause.  I remember when I had my heart broken the first time, way back when I was 19 or 20 years old.  Afterwards, you think it is irreparable, like, “I will never f*ckng trust anybody again.”  But then you meet somebody and it’s like two planets colliding and all of a sudden, it’s new.  I think if the right kind of person were to come in, then it would be that kind of set up.  I think he actually needs that.  He needs that grounding force of somebody else.  To have something else to look forward to.  Opposed to just living endlessly as a vampire.  I mean, that has got to be boring otherwise, right?  So there could be a love interest coming up in future episodes.  There is hope yet for Enzo’s heart.

There has been whisperings of something between Enzo and Bonnie, and yet I can’t quite see it.  They have never seemed to spark to each other before.  Is that something that is possible?
MICHAEL:  Well, I can’t say anything.  Anything is possible on this show.  Whoever it is that I’m working with, I can tell you the scenes have been magnetic.  It’s been really great.  We work really well together.  So I’m hoping everybody latches onto that and appreciates the work that we are putting into it.  

What would you say you really admire about Enzo at this point?
MICHAEL:  I like his new hair.  It’s a lot better than last season.  Last season he was getting into this Sonic Hedgehog thing.  His hair was kind of growing into the trees behind him.  I was like, “Maybe we should address this.”  I went through several different hair people last season.  But I digress.  The hair is great.  What I really like is that this season we see a lot more of the human side of Enzo.  We see more layers of him being unraveled and think people will be more empathetic to him as they see his struggle this season.  It’s more of a human struggle than it was last season.  

So those days of Enzo and Damon being good friends again might still be possible?
MICHAEL:  Absolutely!  I’ve said this before, but it’s like when you and your best friend go through ups and downs.  There are periods of times when you are not speaking to each other or you have stupid little arguments.  With vampires, you actually try to kill each other and snap each other’s necks and you kill your friend’s lovers.  It’s just the stakes are higher.  I think they still inherently have this unspoken brotherhood.  They just go through more severe peaks and troughs.  

Do you think Enzo would benefit from actually having a brother?  He might be able to benefit from a relationship like that.  It seems like he is always peering in a window from the outside.  
MICHAEL:  That’s just it.  Enzo’s always been the outsider ever since he was a kid.  He was an orphan at an orphanage.  He was presumably bullied. He was always a lot more common, as they say in England.  He spent his whole life kind of being the outsider and not having a group.  Also, not to mention, his time in solitary confinement.  It can f*ck a boy up.  So he’s always felt like he is on the outside.  As much as that is comfortable for him and is a part of who he is and he is like a cowboy in a way.  But, you know, cowboys are lonely.  He needs something else to fulfill him.  Just not sure what that is.  That is perhaps his journey this season, to figure that out.

With his new family the Heretics, there’s Beau (Jaiden Kaine), but Beau doesn’t have a lot to say.  But maybe Beau could be a good brother for Enzo.
MICHAEL:  [Laughs] Yeah, the best brothers are probably mute.  They just agree with what you’ve got to say and can’t talk back.  There is a bunch of new people on the horizon.  I’m really excited.  But I haven’t even seen them work yet.  I enjoyed the premiere episode and thought it was a good introduction to those characters.  I’m excited to see what they do with them.  

Of all the crazy Heretics, who do you think Enzo is going to want to hang out with?
MICHAEL:  You tell me.  Which one do you think he is actually going to get along with?

Valerie (Elizabeth Blackmore).  She has the most snark.
MICHAEL:  Valerie actually is one that he would connect with a bit more than anybody else.  She seems to be a little more broodier.  She seems a little more intelligent out of any of them, besides Lily, obviously.  Valerie seems to be a little bit more amiable to him.  But, at the same time, they are all strangers to him and Enzo has always been a bit wary of strangers.  

He might also question some of their motives and the way they choose to live their lives.  He might not agree with some of the stuff they want to do.
MICHAEL:  Exactly.  Enzo is just there for Lily and we’ll see more about that in the next episode.  

Lily has gotten to be quite scary.  The power she emanates.  That’s a credit to Annie Wersching.  But are we supposed to be worried about how crazy Lily can get?
MICHAEL:  Yeah, but that is also kind of hot!  When you see somebody’s boundaries and limitations, that is not hot.  But when you see somebody and you don’t know how far they could go, to somebody who is kind of into that sort of thing, that has got to be a rather attractive trait.  It’s something a leader should have.  Like you don’t know how far they will go for what they believe in.  And Enzo feels the same way about what he believes in.  So I think that’s partially why they linked up — it’s not necessarily a romantic thing, it’s a power thing.  

So Enzo is more attracted to power and powerful women then.
MICHAEL:  Even with Caroline, when they had whatever it was. She’s a powerful woman.  She’s powerful in what she believes in.  She’s strong-willed.  It’s an attractive thing to an Englishman.  

For you, what is the biggest challenge working on the show at this point?
MICHAEL:  I’m just still enjoying it.  Some people might think that is surprising after all this time.  I mean, this is my third year on the show, which is crazy.  I still feel like one of the new guys.  For me, every day is awesome as well as a challenge.  I spend a lot of time trying to fine tune what keeps me focused and every day I try to maintain focus and work as hard as I can to get the most honest work out there. I think just keeping it exciting and keeping it fresh — it’s not so much for me, but maybe for some of the other guys it has been a long time that they have been working on the show.  It must be harder for them to keep it fresh after seven years.  But I feel the way to do that is just to focus on the craft and not think about the show.  But think about as an actor how you’re investing all and if you are feeling a little stagnant to shake it up and try a different method and see if that helps.  

Is there something you are really proud of that you have gotten to do on the show?
MICHAEL:  There’s a fight scene coming up, which is a pretty amazing, epic, big fight with me and another character using some weapons.  I’m fully trained in stage-combat and this actor has also done a fair bit of it.  So we basically sold the shit out of this fight. We brought it up to speed.  I demanded to use real metal weapons opposed to these rubber ones.  The fight just wasn’t going to sell unless they let us use the real thing — well, the “real” thing in that they are obviously they are blunt.  I am so pleased with the result of that.  Everybody on set was like, “Whoa.”  And the stunt guys were like, “We don’t even need to be here.  You guys got this.”  So that was a real proud moment for me and this actor, accomplishing this fight and really selling it.

What would your advice for Enzo?  What would you like to tell him?
MICHAEL:  “Don’t take things so seriously, bro.”  I’m very like Enzo in certain ways, but I’m also goofier.  I don’t let things get to me as much.  I’ve learned that if you think about stuff too much — I think he has a propensity to obsess over things, ideas, people, etc. — so I’d tell him, “Chill out, bro.” 

So what’s next?  What are you up do that you can share?
MICHAEL:  I’ve got a new album coming out.  It’s called “Knots” and it comes out November 20th.  It’s a 7-song EP.  It’s a follow-up to my EP “Feed the Flames,” which came out last year.  I’m really pumped about it.  I’ve been doing a lot of work on it.  Preorder opened up last Friday, October 16th.  So hopefully things will start happening with that.  

And what’s coming up for Enzo the rest of this season?
MICHAEL:  [Laughs] He’s probably getting himself into trouble.  What people are going to enjoy really is his trajectory this season. It’s very up-and-down and all over the place. Whereas, it was a little more one-sided last season.  I think regardless of how people feel about him, they are going to enjoy the ride and hopefully they will appreciate all the work we do to make it dynamic and interesting.

To find out whether Enzo’s heart truly does lay with Lily or perhaps with Caroline, be sure to tune in for all new episodes of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES on Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. on the CW.  This next episode on October 22nd is teasingly entitled “Age of Innocence.”  As if there could be any innocence left after all that has happened and been wrought in all their lives?!