By Nuzhat Naoreen
Updated June 07, 2012 at 03:06 PM EDT

He might portray an undead Original on The Vampire Diaries, but for his new NBC medical drama Saving Hope (premiering tonight at 9 p.m. ET),Daniel Gillies is trading in the stakes for a scalpel.

The hour-long series centers around Charlie Harris (Michael Shanks), a top surgeon who gets caught in the grey area between life and death after an accident leaves him comatose. While he’s busy exploring his hospital in “spirit form,” his fiance/fellow doc Alex Reid (Erica Durance) works on waking him up. She’s aided by new star surgeon Joel Goran (Gillies), who’s got more than friendly feelings for her.

“There’s an enormous conflict at the center of this,” says Gillies, who described his character as someone with a tremendous professional ego. “He’s walked into a situation with a woman that he’s probably in love with.”

That being said, don’t expect him to declare those feelings anytime soon. Gillies explains: “Joel ends up having to search for this quality of enormous empathy and passion. He’s now having to perform the emotional duty of being a bedrock for Alex.”

Gillies stressed that his characters on Saving Hope and The Vampire Diaries were as “dissimilar as you can be,” but he did find one commonality: “They’re both in very difficult situations.”

“[Elijiah] is between a rock and a hard place in that he wants to honor his family but he doesn’t want to honor this megalomaniacal desire for power that his younger brother [Klaus] has,” says Gillies. “Similarly Joel Goren wants to be the best damn surgeon in the world, but I also think he wants to be near Alex Reed. But being near [Alex] means being near this woman who’s painfully in love with this man who’s unconscious. If [Joel] leaves, he’s ditching one of his best friends, but if he stays he’s sort of of tortured by the way he feels about her.” (Perhaps Joel should give Damon Salvatore a call to get some pointers on how to cope?).

As for Gillies’ future in Mystic Falls? The actor says that though he’s slipped into scrubs for the summer, he could still pop up on TVD next season. “Scrubs are a little more comfortable, but damn you look a lot cooler in a suit,” says Gillies, before teasing, “I have not hung up Elijah’s suits forever.”

While he says he’s up for anything the TVD writers may have in mind, we couldn’t help but suggest he return to help Elena (Nina Dobrev) transition to a vampire — and maybe even pursue a romance with her while he’s at it. Okay, perhaps that’s asking too much, but Gilles at least wasn’t completely against it. “At the end of the day, it’ll be whatever it’ll be,” he says, adding that he loves working with Dobrev. “Maybe it’s a little creepy though. He’s definitely depicted as way older.” But aren’t all her suitors? “Touché,” responds Gillies. (Hey, we’re just throwing it out there!).

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