By Mandi Bierly
Updated December 08, 2010 at 09:01 PM EST

Image Credit: Annette Brown/The CWToday, Ian Somerhalder turns 32, and he’s celebrating by doing some press for his new project, the habitat and biodiversity focused Ian Somerhalder Foundation, and The Vampire Diaries‘ Dec. 9 midseason finale before hitting the show’s set. Because we are Entertainment Weekly, we’ll start you off with the Vampire Diaries scoop. Then, we’ll help him save the world. So, what can he tease about Damon’s mindset after Thursday’s episode? “Basically, Damon, as much as he fights it, is starting to feel. And that angers him. It scares him. It’s just different for him, and he doesn’t quite know how to deal with it,” he says. “I was talking to my father, and his dog, our family dog, is a rural country dog. She’s never been on a leash, this animal. We’re taking her this winter to our house in the mountains where we’re gonna spend Christmas. We’re gonna bring her. We want our dog with us. My dad is gonna drive across country, and he said [Laughs] he tried to teach her how to walk on a leash, and she flipped out. The dog’s 10 years old. It’s so difficult teaching an old dog new tricks, and Damon is unbelievably uncomfortable on that metaphorical leash of humanity. It’s been so long since he felt like this that it’s freaking him out. Another element shows up to Mystic Falls that again compromises and endangers what he started to love, and so the stakes get raised again. At the end of this episode, it’s pretty heavy for him.”

What can he tell us about the Salvatore Brothers’ relationship in this episode? “Stefan is locked in that cave. In all actuality, it’s kind of what Damon’s been dreaming about. But truthfully, Damon wants to get his brother out of there. He’s gonna try really hard, once he works out what he needs to work out. As much as he wants to kill his brother sometimes, he loves him. Damon can’t imagine being stuck in that cave with Katherine. That would just suck. There’s such a commonality of pain between these two guys. They’re in love with the same two women. Two of them — it’s absurd. [Laughs] And the protagonists that have come to town, they mean business. They’re gonna wreak some havoc, and they’re gonna cause some problems for us, that’s for sure.”

The show will return with new episodes in late January. It sounds like it’ll be an interesting time for Damon, having the Originals (and werewolves) come into the picture just when he’s finding his humanity. “You’re exactly right. It’s like, Come on. Really? Now I’ve got to be Mr. Brutal Vampire and protect everybody, and I’m gonna have to hurt people. But now I’m feeling the most vulnerable and human I’ve ever felt. He’s probably just thinking This is total bulls—.”

While Damon tries to save Mystic Falls, Somerhalder himself is thinking globally with the Ian Somerhalder Foundation. (How’d you like that segue?) “In the wake of the BP spill,” says the Louisiana native, “there needs to be more organization to team up with the smartest guys in the room and fix and solve problems. Half the species on earth are facing extinction. What this foundation is gonna do is partner with other organizations around the world — who are the smartest guys in the room — and it’s going to focus on flora and fauna, the two-legged creatures to the 50-legged creatures. Our habitat is being destroyed. We are dealing with gaps in education. The educational component is to basically empower youth to know the future lies in their hands.” Somerhalder, who’s set to speak at Deepak Chopra’s second annual Sages and Scientists conference in February, expects the foundation to partner on lectures that can be televised into classrooms via closed-circuit television, as well as on educational trips and contests. “Maybe it’s going to Sony and saying, ‘Hey, can we have 100 cameras,’ and we send them to two schools per state. We set in motion contests to shoot environmental communal documentaries, and start to get not only corporate America involved but small-town schools. Get kids to understand that whether they’re in super urban or super rural areas, it’s all the same. We will be doing really cool contests like that and allowing kids to travel all over the world.”

“One thing that’s a blessing and a curse to people like us who grow up in the United States of America,” he continues, “is we have the most phenomenal boundaries: Canada on one side, Mexico on one side, and these two vast oceans. What that prevents kids from America from doing is traveling abroad very easily by virtue of the fact that it’s costly and that it’s a long way to go. It’s limiting in a big way. If you speak to a lot of youth in America, they generally haven’t been out of the country because it’s so huge, and they don’t really realize what’s out there and how amazing the world is and how delicate it is. I want to allow educational programs to get kids out, to get them to see what else is out there and be aware how it’s all working. Deepak talks about how the world is actually a living breathing organism. The rivers are our veins, and the trees are our lungs. We all live in one place. If you view it as a completely separate entity from yourself, you can destroy it. If you view it as a part of us, you start to realize if I hurt the environment I’m in, I’m essentially hurting myself, I’m hurting my family, I’m hurting the family dog, I’m hurting my future children. It’s a conscience shift.” If you’re the kind of person who prefers to speak in specifics, he offers this: “There’s a domestic animal issue that we have globally that we simply cannot adopt our way out of anymore,” he says. “So I’m going to work with both non-profits and for-profits, and governmental bodies, and finish funding research to get species-specific sterilization drugs for domestic animals so we can stop this overpopulation of stray animals. Maybe in a decade, we won’t have stray animals. Not even maybe. My kids will grow up never knowing what stray animals are. We can get these orally administered pills that don’t hurt the animals and we can mobilize people, whether it’s in Rio de Janeiro or Bucharest or Ohio. We can really start to whittle away the need for shelters and the need for killing 8 million innocent cats and dogs a year.” For more information or to donate (it is his birthday), visit

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