Wood says playing Kai again was the perfect return to acting after leaving Supergirl.
Credit: Bob Mahoney/The CW

It’s no secret that Legacies showrunner Julie Plec has wanted to get Kai Parker onto the latest show in the Vampire Diaries universe for a while now. Plec has talked about the character multiple times, even telling EW at the end of season 1, “It’s so rude of me and so presumptuous, but I am just going to keep layering in Kai Parker until Chris Wood feels like he’s got no choice but to come back and play in our sandbox. I would love nothing more than to see that character again.”

And now, halfway into the show’s second season, it’s time for Kai to meet the Saltzman twins. “Julie basically didn’t leave me any choice, in the best way possible. She kind of told everybody I was coming back and then I went over to her house and we were drinking wine and she was like, ‘You’re doing this, right?’” Wood recalls with a laugh. “It was great. I love Julie, I love working with her, and I was so happy to go back and play this character.”

And the opportunity came at the right time. Wood had just come off an acting break after spending multiple seasons on the CW’s Supergirl. “After I left Supergirl I had sort of taken a hiatus,” Wood says. “I think as actors we kind of feel our energy level deplete and you need non-work related things to fill that back up in order to empty the tank again. I had been very choosy in taking time and focusing on writing and my non-work life, and then this came at the right moment. This role has always been so rewarding for me because Kai’s so eccentric and out there that, in playing him, I kind of have no rules. It’s a very freeing role because the way that I work when I play Kai is very erratic and unpredictable. The only way that he works is if he’s a little bit unhinged — we never know what he’s going to touch, do, say, think, anything. I was so glad that I went back and did this because it gave me that burst of energy that I was needing.”

For someone who hadn’t played Kai since the end of the Vampire Diaries’ final season, Wood was surprised at how quickly the character came back to him. “I wasn’t hesitant, but I was wondering if it was going to take me a second to warm back up into it, but actually, within two or three zippy one-liners, I felt right back at home,” he says. “Playing the character forces me as an actor to push myself to make extreme choices and to continue to be open and explore, even once we’re shooting a scene. That feeling, as soon as I remembered what that was like, that was how I unlocked the character. It kind of just happened once we were shooting, and thankfully it was pretty painless.”

Despite the fact that Kai now has a new look (and a new beard), Wood says fans can expect the same psychotic guy who killed his twin and ruined Ric’s wedding all those years ago. “Julie had a solid notion of how Kai would fit into the Legacies version of the Vampire Diaries universe, because the show’s lighter and has more humor, but it still has all that heart,” Wood says. “Kai as he was on Vampire Diaries fits into Legacies quite well. I think they were like, ‘You know what would be fun would be to see Kai still doing the same crap he was doing years ago.’ If anything, he’s more annoying and more willing to play with his victims before he kills them.”

Legacies airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on the CW.

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