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'Vampire Diaries' star Chris Wood: Kai is the show's Ted Bundy

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Chris Wood
The CW

When season six of The Vampire Diaries began, it seemed bad enough for Bonnie and Damon to be stuck in some sort of alternate world far away from those they love. But as they soon discovered, things could get worse: They could be stuck in an alternate world far away from those they love, with a murderous psychopath.

By now, fans know that Bonnie and Damon are trapped with Kai, a former member of the Gemini coven who specializes in stealing magic from others and more generally, killing his siblings. But considering he’s the only one with any idea of how to escape their Groundhog Day-type situation, ditching him isn’t really an option.

We caught up with Chris Wood, who plays Kai, to talk about what comes next and why Kai is the most unpredictable character the show’s ever seen:

EW: Back when I first talked to Julie Plec about Kai, she called him a genuine psychopath who, unlike most villains on the show, might not be so redeemable. I’m curious how you describe him. Do you think he’s an irredeemable psychopath?

CHRIS WOOD: I’m going to be biased, because I have to walk around in his skin, and if I thought that I was irredeemable, I might have a harder time existing in the world. So I found some great ground to stand on to justify a lot of Kai’s behavior, and I won’t go into it because then I’m going to seem like a psycho. [Laughs] The reality is that this guy’s, in a word, erratic. He is the most unpredictable character that anyone has ever faced on the show, and not just from a plotting standpoint or a means of executing villainous behavior, but simply because this guy’s mind does not work like the rest of the characters. You can’t ever for a second assume that what he’s done before, he’s going to do again, or if he says that he’s going to do one thing that he’s going to come through and do it because his behavior has, already in two episodes proven to be, I wouldn’t say untrustworthy but it’s erratic. He starts in one place and he ends in another and it’s never where you thought he was going to be. He can be very entertaining and funny to watch, but also as the season progresses, we might see that that’s really where the terror of the character comes from.

You mentioned that you’ve come up with some reasons for yourself, but are we going to get to see a nicer side to Kai at all or is he just a villain to us?

As you said, all the villains on the show at some point for the most part, they at least get a glimpse of humanity that the audiences can see how they got there, the justification for it. From an acting standpoint, you can’t really do anything with a scene that you don’t believe what your character believes, and also in that psychopaths don’t think the way that we think. Sociopaths don’t process emotions the same way that you and I do. I guess I shouldn’t assume that you’re not a sociopath.

Yeah, don’t assume that.

[Laughs] But you know they process things differently, so if someone wrongs him, the way that’s going to affect him is going to be different than you and I. And if someone’s nice to him, that’s also going to affect him differently. We’ve seen that he’s playful, that he’s flirtatious, that he’s mysterious, that he’s withholding, and that he’s quite intelligent, because we’ve seen the way that he’s interacted with these guys after observing them like lab rats in this little prison world for a few months before even introducing himself. And what an introduction to vervaine Damon and cause Bonnie to have to come to his rescue by accessing her magic, which was stored in some deep vault. He’s clever. He’s complicated, but I can’t tell you how you guys are going to feel as we reveal more and more about his past, but we will find out more about him. I’ll be excited to hear what you all think, if you still find him repulsive or charming or what.

You mentioned that he’s flirtatious, and fans picked up on some Bonnie flirtation in the last episode. Is that him being charming, or is there something more there?

Yeah, that was in my Twitter feed. I wasn’t able to watch live, but that was the moment when I knew everyone got there, because I lit up with Bonnie-Kai messages. [Laughs] But it’s hard to say at the moment based on what we’ve seen if this is a Bonnie-specific thing, if this is just how Kai behaves. In a way he sort of, not flirts with Damon, but he flirts with danger and with being smarter than everybody else. He’s constantly seduced by that and he enjoys it. He loves the ability to just casually drop the fact that he slaughtered his family and, “Oh you guys are so dumb. It took you this long to read that paper that you’ve read every day and figure it out.” He loves that stuff, so it’s hard to say if it’s specific to her or if it’s just his character but we definitely will have to see in the future what that entails.

You mentioned getting more on his back story, but my biggest question so far is that if we’re in his personal hell, we’re still in Mystic Falls, so does he have some sort of tie to this area?

Yeah I think that’s a good question and that’s something we’ll discover as time goes on—what are the rules to this world? Is it location-specific in addition to being time-specific? Why is he here in this part of the world? What is his goal besides getting out? What is his goal in terms of using Bonnie and Damon to get what he wants? I think we’ll find out a lot more about that as the story goes on.

Aside from being a genius and a psychopath, we know that, in terms of powers, he can steal magic from others. Does he have any other tricks up his sleeve?

I think this is a guy who you can never make an assumption about. At any point in this season, we could be hit with a fact that totally undermines or rewrites everything else that we’ve known about him because he’s so unpredictable and he’s so stealthy and sneaky. So you know, he says, “This is this,” and the next minute, “Oh, by the way, when I said I had no powers I actually meant that if I touch you, I can steal yours.” And as we saw with Bonnie, that wasn’t really a pleasant feeling when he was sucking her magic. [Laughs] But yeah, he always has other plans and he always has secrets, so that’s part of his intrigue, I think.

I’m curious what your audition process was like. Were they just like, “Act like a psychopath.”

[Laughs] I had read for the casting directors and for Julie [Plec] for other roles and some of them were actually more overtly villainous. I was always going in for the bad guys, I guess that says something about their perception of me. [Laughs] But I think going into it, the thing I liked about it was that real genuine psychopaths and sociopaths don’t really view themselves as that, very much like Ted Bundy. There can be a charm and a sort of wonder as you watch them speak and they can almost talk themselves out of the perception that people have gotten of them simply by seeming so sane and rational [with] the way that they discuss it. And obviously, we get to see some of where Kai’s mind wanders. It’s a TV show, and we get to see moments where the other characters don’t see his eyes and see what he’s thinking, but I think one of the best parts about the character is that he has genuine goals and hopes and he’s just a normal guy to himself. He thinks of himself as just a more talented, smarter everyman. We know that to not be the case, but he doesn’t think he’s crazy. He thinks he’s perfectly sane.

The Vampire Diaries airs tonight at 8 p.m. on The CW.