The Vampire Diaries Exclusive: Ian Somerhalder on Missing Alaric, Loving Elena and Finding Compassion

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Damon Salvatore misses his best friend. That much is evident in this Vampire Diaries clip from tomorrow night's "Memorial."

And the character isn't alone.

"F-ck Damon. I miss Alaric," Ian Somerhalder told me over the phone yesterday. "I miss Matt Davis in my life."

Damon Promo Pic

The second (TERRIFIC!) episode of The Vampire Diaries Season 4 will give viewers multiple opportunities to see how his drinking buddy's passing affects Damon, but Somerhalder says the loss goes beyond a lack of someone to meet at the Grill.

"Losing Alaric signifies something bigger, it raises much bigger questions in Damon's world," the actor explains. "He wonders: 'Why are you dead? What did I do to contribute to it?'"

And it sets Damon off on a dark, lonely path.

"He's missing his best bro, but he's also telling those around him: 'I tried so hard to make you guys see my point of view. And now what's happened? Alaric is dead. Elena is dead.' Damon was right. And now he's saying: 'This is who I am. I tried to play nice and know what? It didn't work.'"

Yes, it's a return to the cynical side ("This is me. Take it or leave it," Somerhalder describes his character's current outlook) of Damon Salvatore, which the star has made clear over the years is his preferred role to play.

"You can't just be a cool lunatic all the time, I understand that. You need to grow and change and evolve," Somerhalder says of the journey Damon has taken. "Still, you are who you are at your core."

And who is that person?

Damon has always had "ill intentions, but he had them for righteous reasons," Somerhalder says. "He believes in what he's doing and he enjoys it so much… whether he's ripping your throat out or saving a kitten from a tree, Damon has that same smile on his face. It's sadistic but true. And the only person he isn't that way around is Elena."

So does that mean Somerhalder is glad he didn't get the girl? Wouldn't a relationship with Elena set Damon down a much lighter path? Somerhalder needed a moment to contemplate that question.

"If you look at why Damon came back to Mystic Falls, it was for love. Even being a sort of maniacal kind of killer at times, he wants what we all want: to be loved."

In his personal life, meanwhile, Somerhalder has found a different sort of love. As most fans know, he's deeply involved in charity work. His latest "ginormous undertaking" is the building of an animal sanctuary in Louisiana.

His goal is to create a safe haven to house neglected animals and introduce them to similarly-mistreated teenagers.

"It's all about compassion," Somerhalder says of his vision to combine troubled animals with young bullies. "I can't sleep at night thinking about all these kids we're losing [to suicide due to bullying]. Aside from them being sons and daughters and nephews and nieces, of course, they could be the next President... It's absolutely insane."

Overall, with the global population over seven billion and resources being stretched thin, Somerhalder believes more than ever that "we need innovators, we need educators and we need compassion. They all go hand in hand."

Visit the Ian Somerhalder Foundation for more information on how you can help.

And tune in to tomorrow night's brand new episode of The Vampire Diaries. It's one of the best in show history.

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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Vampire Diaries Quotes

You want a love that consumes you. You want passion and adventure, and even a little danger... I want you to get everything you're looking for. But for right now, I want you to forget that this happened. Can't have people knowing I'm in town yet. Goodnight, Elena.

Damon

Dear Elena, yes you heard that correctly. Hell has frozen over. I'm writing it all down. Granted, I'm half a bottle in thanks to my 1950 Chateau Cheval Blanc, a bottle I waited 65 years to open. I used to spend nights sitting in my wine cellar convincing myself I could hear it age, tannins growing, fermenting, but appreciating its beauty didn't make time go by any faster. The bottle just laid there on its shelf, torturing me while I waited for Katherine and time stood still. Eventually I convinced myself that no sip of that wine could ever taste as good as I dreamt it would. And that is the story of why I drink bourbon. I don't know who I am without you, but I know that as long as I'm with you, time will stand still. So who is Damon Salvatore without Elena Gilbert? A selfish friend, a jealous brother, a horrible son? Or maybe with a little luck, I'll do right by you. Because you may be a thousand miles away or a hundred years away, but you're still here with me and my heart is right there in that coffin with you. Until you come back to me.

Damon