“Did you go to Lady Gaga’s show last night?” Ian asked us by way of an icebreaker as we settled comfortably at the Peninsula Suite, just hours after his press conference downstairs at the Conservatory. This writer raised her hand, and his ice blue eyes lit up. “It was amazing, man. She’s so incredible,” he enthused, thoughtfully pulling our recorders closer to him. We could only nod in brisk agreement, conscious of the 10-minute time limit we had. But to be honest, the fact that Ian Somerhalder was here in the flesh and sharing a cozy couch with yours truly was so unsettling that it almost rendered us incapable of coherent speech. Almost.
Along with two other broadsheet writers, Super got to know more about the Hollywood heartthrob behind Penshoppe’s newest campaign. Anyone who’s ever met or read about him would know that behind those piercing blue eyes is a brilliant “green” mind and a big, golden heart that cares deeply for all living things. But to witness firsthand his passion for and dedication to protecting Mother Earth and her children was just mind-blowing. Despite the apparent fatigue, Ian was positively brimming with great ideas and intelligent answers. What’s more, he’s a complete gentleman; a kind word, a ready smile, a firm handshake, a warm hug, he had these for everyone he’s ever encountered, be it some random reporter or a crying fan.
We came in harboring huge crushes on a snarky, sexy vampire, and we left the suite with nothing but profound respect and admiration for a genuinely beautiful human being who’s literally out to save the world. Yep, we’re ridiculously in love with the guy, and we’re not ashamed to admit it. Forget Damon Salvatore—the real thing is so much more amazing.
What made you decide to work with Penshoppe?
You know, because Bernie and Alice (Liu) have such a giant heart for giving back to their community and to the world, they base part of their business on it. They knew how passionate I was about the environment and working with it in the foundation, so they came to us and said, “Listen, we want to help you with ISF. We want you to come do this campaign for us, and we’re gonna help you out.” Which is an amazing thing for us, because we’re such a young, startup organization. Every bit helps, but this has been leaps and bounds more than I could imagine. So we’ve just formed this really, really awesome partnership, you know? And it doesn’t happen very often, or ever, where a clothing company says to a young actor, musician or whatever, “Hey, let’s work together in this philanthropic notion and make it happen.” So it’s very cool.
I know it’s the BP oil spill tragedy that happened in your hometown that got you started in philanthropic work. But if things had happened differently, like it didn’t happen near Louisiana, would you still have opened ISF or joined other causes?
It’s actually a really great question; I’ve thought about that a lot. ISF would’ve still been started at this point, but it started with such vigor after BP … It started with so much oomph behind it. You know, I was so fed up with it, and then look, BP, like, got off. They’ve destroyed one of the most beautiful, delicate ecosystems in the world, and they got off. We can’t go in there and change it, you can’t undo it. But what we can do is build a generation of people who will never allow that to happen, whether it’s the US Congress or the Congress in the Philippines, whenever it is, wherever it is, that this kind of sh-t—excuse my language— never happens again.
You’re building an animal sanctuary, right? What experience in your life made you an animal lover or protector?
I grew up in rural Louisiana; my mom is a Mississippi farm girl and my dad, we always had tons of animals and horses and stuff. I grew up with horses and sort of trained them when I was 11 or 12. And so that was always a huge component of my life. But this farm is going to be, I think, one of the most unique environments any of us has ever seen. It’s gonna be a completely sustainable utopia of progress and compassion. Everything on this farm will be reused; there will be zero waste. And the other cool thing, too, is creating and building a place of compassion. Think about it—take all these abandoned, ostracized animals with behavioral issues. Then you take these kids who were bullies, who have been bullying their peers, literally to death, and you take them to this farm. Now you have these two different entities who have, for whatever reasons, experienced abandonment, behavioral issues, bullying, having been bullied, and you put them together and you allow them to sort of build and learn compassion for each other [and] with each other at the same time. I mean, how cool is that?
I think that if you can affect these youths, their lives in this way, if you have compassion for an animal, then you end up having compassion for a plant, but ultimately, you’ll have compassion for another person. And if we had compassion for each other, we wouldn’t bully each other to death. We wouldn’t kill each other. And I think while we’re doing this to each other, kids are bullying one another, killing themselves over … we cannot progress if this is the way we’re looking. By social standards, it’s very difficult to have schools implement any kind of structure or program that will make these kids not want to do this. You don’t wanna just throw them in an institution. I think that if you could take them and put them in an environment where it’s a natural, beautiful environment surrounded with [sic] animals, then you have something, you know?
How important is it for you to be able to use what you have right now as a celebrity to do this? What kind of impact are you hoping to make?
Well, it’s one of the biggest aspects of my life. What I’m hoping to achieve by it is that we build generation after generation after generation of compassionate, intelligent people who wanna progress forward and not backward, and build a sustainable future that we can all enjoy and live in.
Do you think it’s easier for you as a celebrity to be able to do this?
Oh my God, way, way easier. I mean, I don’t know how I would’ve done this without it. (Laughs) Yeah, I mean, there’s no way. I’m thinking we’ve accomplished in two years what I think what would’ve almost taken 20 years, you know what I mean?
Any dream roles you’re working on at the moment or you want to get into in the near future?
There’s a lot of stuff that I’d like to do. We couldn’t find the right movie this year, but there’s a lot of stuff going around with this “Fifty Shades of Grey” thing, which I think would be amazing. I would love to play that role. I wanna make that happen.
Do you have time for a movie, though? I mean, with your schedule?
Well, we have three months in between each season, so in that three months you just have to plan it properly, so yeah.
You always mention that the youth is the greatest untapped resource, right? A lot of Filipino youths have gotten to know about ISF because they’re huge fans of the show, and they love you enough to do research on it. So, how will you mobilize the Filipino youth to put their talents to good use, even though you’re on the other side of the planet?
Well, exactly. It’s like [what] Bernie said earlier in the press conference—that we all breathe the same air, we all live under the same cloud, the same stars. I think that if the Filipino youth and the corporations in the Philippines start gearing themselves toward greener, more sustainable practices, also creating a better environment for their people? That only helps me across the world. It only builds more sustainable living here in the Philippines, and the more trees and the healthier the waters are in the Philippines, the more oxygen is produced, the more carbon is sequestered, and the more clean and beautiful water there is for us.