Paul Wesley loves Tell Me a Story. Let’s rephrase that, Paul Wesley really loves Tell Me a Story. After an eight-year run as the hero-haired Stefan Salvatore on The Vampire Diaries, Wesley found himself drawn to the fairy-tale anthology from TVD co-creator Kevin Williamson because it presented him with a unique opportunity to play someone vastly different and didn’t require a lengthy time commitment.Wesley returned to his antihero roots with Eddie Longo, whose first appearance strung out in tighty whiteys with “f–k you” tattooed over his chest revealed a tormented man obviously not living his best life. Thursday’s heart-stopping episode closed on a shocking note when Eddie killed himself — ending his journey just past the halfway mark of the season.
The stressful hour, titled “Guilt,” saw Eddie and Jordan (James Wolk) finally come face-to-face in an emotional standoff, both feeling the same grief of losing a loved one. Just moments before, Eddie watched his girlfriend die in his arms — mirroring what happened to Jordan and his fiancée during an ill-fated jewelry store heist — after Eddie accidentally shot her (believing it to be Jordan forcing his way into Eddie’s trailer). Overwhelmed with guilt, Eddie apologized to Jordan before dying.
For Wesley, that bitter ending made perfect sense since Eddie had blood on his hands twice over and racked up a huge moral debt. TV Guide hit up the actor to talk about Eddie’s sudden demise as well as why he chose to take part in Tell Me a Story after The Vampire Diaries. Plus, the actor opened up about whether or not he had any reservations about directing an episode of Legacies after expressing a strong desire to move past his hunky vamp days on the Julie Plec drama.
Eddie kills himself after accidentally shooting his girlfriend. Did you expect an ending like this for your character or did it take you by surprise?
Paul Wesley: I did expect it only because Kevin [Williamson] told me beforehand. And to be honest with you, it was one of the things that attracted me to the role. Given that I was on a show for a while as the lead role for eight years, to play a character that has this sudden untimely death in the middle of the season was really refreshing. And Kevin loved the idea of me playing a character like that.
Are you content with how he went out?
Wesley: It’s obviously a very tragic situation. I do feel like it followed the fable of the “Three Little Pigs” archetype. It was inevitable. You knew Eddie was doomed from the beginning. I do think that, yeah, he’s paying his dues. It’s that eye for an eye thing. I’m not sure that [killing Eddie] is going to be beneficial to Jordan. Jordan, as a character, is seeking revenge but I’m not sure he really, deep down inside, believes that [Eddie] should die even though he was a part of killing his fiancée.
Kevin Williamson touched on that a little bit, about how the bad guy becomes good eventually and the good guy becomes bad, dipping into their dark side. Eddie was not a great person so were you hoping for some sort of redemption for him?
Wesley: I think, in a way, Eddie began to show his humanity. Eddie talked about his hopes and dreams and he talked about what he always wanted to be when he grew up and what went wrong. In a weird way, you got to see a bit of his humanity. I began to empathize with him a little bit and I think that was part of his redemption, showing that humanity and deciding to leave with his girlfriend.
What did it mean to reteam with Kevin Williamson after working together on The Vampire Diaries?
Wesley: It meant a lot to me for a few reasons. It’s a role that Kevin’s never seen me do and he was just like, ‘Oh yeah, I know you can do this. I’m not worried about it at all.’ And that was quite flattering. I thought it really said a lot about how he felt about me and I really appreciated that because I do think people tend to stereotype someone who’s been on a show for eight years. It was nice to not be looked at that way. And it’s just nice to do a more adult version of a supernatural show. It’s not a supernatural show but in a way, it follows the archetype of these fairytales. It feels like more of an age-appropriate thing for me because I’m not a spring chicken. It’s nice to play a character that is my age for once.
How much of a relief was it for you to play the anti-hero again, and has that turned you off of being the hero at least for now?
Wesley: More than any hero/antihero title, what’s important to me is complexity and I think people are very flawed. Humanity is not so simple, not so black and white. Showing those colors is something that I strive to do as an actor and so I want to do everything I possibly can to play characters that are complex, and I think Eddie was.
I have to say, I’m very disappointed that Eddie won’t be around to fully earn the redemption that was teased in his final episode.
Wesley: It’s interesting, the other thing that was nice about dying early is it felt a little bit like a big, seven-hour movie. What’s so brilliant about Tell Me a Story is that every season is different. It’s a new set of characters and a new set of storylines and a new set of fairy tales. I just think it’s so refreshing to see that on television. As someone who does watch TV, I think to keep the show on for a prolonged period of time, the characters sort of run out of things to do. And on Tell Me a Story, that’s just not the case.
You’ve been pretty honest about wanting to move forward from The Vampire Diaries and try new things, but I saw that you’re directing an episode of Legacies. Were there any concerns about taking on that project given its ties to TVD?
Wesley: I had a great time. I directed it just recently. I think directing is a completely different ballgame. It’s something that I truly love. I certainly won’t be stepping in front of the camera as anything vampire-related but behind the camera, I had such a great time directing those kids and Matt Davis and being in my old stomping ground Atlanta. Every time I direct, it’s an opportunity for me to brush up on my technical skills and learn how to talk to different actors and adapt to different tones. It’s always a welcome opportunity for me.
We’re seeing you direct more and more so is this something that you’re gonna do hand-in-hand with acting or are you leaning more towards one thing?
Wesley: I definitely think it’s something that’s a case-by-case thing. Committing to a role on television is a much bigger deal than directing an episode of television. And so, what I love about directing is that you sort of go in and you give it your little touch and you’re literally guest starring. I like it because every experience is something new. And with the acting thing, it’s obviously a case-by-case thing. If there’s a really special role, I’ll jump on it. But in the meantime, directing is a great way to keep my creative juices flowing.
You previously directed an episode of Shadowhunters and we were all so excited about it. With the show coming to an end soon, were you able to come back and direct one more?
Wesley: I was going to. They were kind enough to invite me back but I was doing something as an actor and I was unable to go. So that ship has sailed, unfortunately. But yeah, I had a great time. I directed an episode of Roswell as well and I had a really good time there. These people are gonna make new shows and I’ll make a show and we’re all gonna continue working together so it’s nice.
So what’s next for you?
Wesley: It’s funny, I actually have a clean slate for next year. I don’t know what I’m going to do. It’s daunting and exciting at the same time. I have always approached things on a case-by-case basis and I look for some form of inspiration somewhere and there’s a lot of luck involved and things that fall in your laps sometimes. But I really would love to find another version of Tell Me a Story if it was another interesting, complex character in the cable arena. That’s sort of the actor’s dream. And then, as far as my directing career, I’m actually developing a feature film that I’m gonna direct. That would be a passion project. If all goes well, I plan on shooting that with a very low budget next summer.
As a regular TV watcher, what shows are you into right now and why?
Wesley: I haven’t finished it yet, I’m only halfway through, but I think The Haunting of Hill House is really just phenomenal television. It’s well directed. The guy who created the show [Mike Flanagan] is extremely talented. It’s really good at setting a tone and a mood. That’s a show that I’ve been really into. And then, you know, I’m so late to the game but I can say definitively — and I know everyone else has said it so I’m not saying anything new — that Atlantais the most creative original show on television as far as half-hour shows are concerned, beyond a doubt. In the half-hour cable space, it’s so brilliant. I’m literally just in awe of how brilliant that show is.