last night’s midseason finale of The Vampire Diaries was difficult. Especially for his mother. “I had to warn my parents, mainly my mom,” he says. “I let them know it’s pretty intense, pretty graphic. I was on the phone with my mom, and I could hear in her voice that she almost had to change the channel, to look away. If you imagine it, I’m their son — having to see your child go through that, it’s gotta be pretty heartbreaking.” We caught up with Trevino this afternoon to reflect on his breakout episode and look ahead.Watching Michael Trevino act out his character Tyler’s first long, painful transformation into a werewolf on
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Have you by chance listened to EW’s TV Insiders podcast breaking down last night’s episode already?
MICHAEL TREVINO: I have not, no.
Okay, good. If you do, you may hear me accused of “panting” during your shirtless scenes. That is not accurate.
[Laughs] Okay. No, it’s not. [Laughs] Okay.
So I know you were advised to watch videos of women giving birth and wolves feeding to prepare for the long haul and then frenzy of Tyler’s transformation. Did you do anything else?
I just watched those videos, really, and then just kind of had to mentally prepare for two days of shooting it. I went into it like a marathon. Don’t exhaust myself too much in the beginning, just time it and pace myself, to be able to perform over and over again.
What took the most takes?
I think the part where my spine was breaking and you see the ripples in my back because were so wide with camera angles. That took a bit out of me.
What were you like between takes? Trying to relax, or trying to stay in character?
We were taking these chains on and off, on and off, so sometimes they were settin’ up a shot, and I was just in the moment, and I just laid on the floor. I didn’t go to my cast chair, I didn’t walk off the set. I just had everybody work around me, and I would just lay on the floor lifeless.
One of the things I loved was the way Tyler repeatedly grabbed for Caroline’s hand. Was that in the script, or did it happen naturally?
It just felt natural, the way Marcos Siega blocked the scene, to be grabbing for Caroline.
And the moment when you were laying with your head in her lap, shivering. It reminded me of an old dog in pain. Was that what was in your mind?
Now that I think about it, that wasn’t in the script, but I wanted to show a lack of breath, breathing fast, and these contractions during this transformation — how there’s different levels of pain that he’s going through throughout.
So those birthing videos came in handy.
Well, they did. I mean I wasn’t trying to copy the breathing techniques. [Laughs]
What was the most difficult moment to shoot for you?
I think it was the last scene of the episode for me, when Caroline comes back, and I’m back in human form. That was the last scene that we shot of the whole transformation, and by then, I was just spent. I was just done. I was just exhausted. It was really hard to get there emotionally for what that scene needed at that point.
How did you feel about the nudity? Let’s just go there.
Let’s just go there. [Laughs] I knew it was going to be asked of me. I knew I was gonna have almost next to nothing on.
Did you wear the sock?
[Laughs] Is that what we’re trying to get at here?
Well, I thought a direct approach was best. [Also, I've been covering True Blood for too long.]
[Laughs] I’m gonna leave that to the imagination to wonder if I was completely naked or not. But I sure did look pretty naked though.
Fair enough. So continue on, you knew what was expected of you.
Yes, exactly. I knew what was expected of me, and I’m not gonna say whether or not I had a sock on. [Laughs]
I can’t be the first person to ask you that question. Or am I?
You are. This is the first interview since it aired. But I’ll be ready for that next time with other people who ask.
Chatting with Candice Accola, I know they didn’t have your favorite chocolate chip cookies on set the day you finished shooting the transformation and were ready to eat them again. How sweet is she that she asked them to make you your own special batch?
[Laughs] Yeah. I was watching what I ate, and that day at lunch, I was gonna try not to eat any chocolate chip cookies, and I went, and they didn’t have any there. So I was like, “Okay, that’s good.” I wasn’t tempted to eat any because they didn’t make any. But then when we wrapped, I was like, “Damn, I wish they had some.” Sure enough, at the end of the day, there was a plate in my dressing room, and it had six cookies on it. They were warm and just made. Candice had done that for me, and I love her for that.
She also said production got you a pizza.
And production got me a pizza. Tony, who’s one of our assistant directors, he got me a pizza. After watching [the episode], I do want to thank Candice, our director, and the whole crew that was there trying to make me feel as comfortable as I can shooting that scene. You have so many people working around you, and I’m trying to stay in the moment, and personally, I’m very vulnerable. I’m half-naked and I’m chained up, so everybody was trying to take care of me. So it was nice that at the end of the day, we were all able to have some pizza and cookies. [Laughs]
When was the first time you saw the episode with the full special effects?
When it aired live. What I was very surprised with was not only the special effects, but the sound. The sound with the bones cracking, when they put that in in post-production, I was amazed by it. Right when Tyler’s arm’s getting bent backward, I cringed.
Looking ahead, have you filmed a transformation scene since then?
Ooh. I have not. But I have no doubt that we might have to revisit that dungeon.
We saw in the preview for the next episode [which airs Jan. 27] that Tyler tries to kiss Caroline. Is that him genuinely wanting to be with her or him feeling needy after what he’s just been through?
I think it’s because they’re close, and they’ve gone through this event, and they can both understand each other because they have this supernatural element to them. I think he wants to be with her, and he cares for her. She stayed there with him for as long as she could, and he knows that. I’d like to think he wants to have a relationship.
Can you tease where we’re headed with Jules? It’s interesting because we’re preconditioned to hate her because she’s threatening our vampires, but if it turns out she’s there to avenge Mason, that doesn’t actually make her bad.
How do I answer this without getting in trouble? Jules has motives. She’s coming to Mystic Falls to look over Tyler. She wants Tyler and she needs him. For what, I can’t say. But she needs Tyler and wants to take him under her wing, but might want to be a lot closer than Mason was with him.
“A lot closer than Mason was with him…”
Yeah. I think we can trust Jules. Whereas with Mason and Katherine, that little relationship wasn’t good.
How soon will Tyler find out that Caroline has been lying to him about her being the only vampire in Mystic Falls?
He’s gonna find out really soon, and that’s just a whole different situation then with Tyler and his feelings toward Caroline once he finds out she lied.
When we chatted the night the episode aired with Tyler activating the curse, you said you were hoping Tyler wouldn’t get on Damon’s bad side, if only because those characters end up dead. How do you feel about that possibility now?
[Laughs] What can I say… I don’t want to get on Damon’s bad side because he has a habit of ripping people’s hearts out now, but I can say that when our new episodes come back, we don’t really ever see Tyler having scenes with Stefan, Elena, and Damon. That never happens [at first]. But, I just recently shot some scenes for an episode with Stefan and Damon together. So, it’s gonna get interesting. That’s all I can say. I want to stay on Damon’s good side, but now I’m going to work and I have scenes with Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley, so, it’s gonna get interesting here.
You were also excited the last time we talked because Tyler finally got a badass leather jacket to wear instead of a sweater. How is it treating you?
I will tell you right now, the episode that we’re shooting now is me in the leather jacket, and I love it. [Laughs] In this episode we’re filming right now, the good part of that episode for Tyler is scenes with me and Paul Wesley. Stefan and Tyler talk about Caroline. I’m excited to shoot that because it’s just me and Paul and a different scenario. I haven’t really worked with Paul yet, and to have a nice scene with a lot of dialogue, and it’s just me and him, and it’s not about actions and stunts, it’s just about good acting with the awesome writing of Brian Young, who did this episode, I’m looking forward to that.
I read that Ian Somerhalder was shooting some kind of shower scene this week. Can you put that into any kind of context? He said something about a bubble bath with candlelight and wine.
Well, I don’t think they would shoot anything that’s gonna make sense with just Damon in a bathtub with a glass of wine talking to himself. So you would like to think, being the smooth operator that Damon is, that he might have a female in the shower or tub with him. That’s all I can say.
Last question: Have you worked with Elijah [actor Daniel Gillies] yet?
No. No. No. I’m tryin’ to stay away from Damon. I definitely don’t want to meet him too. Come on now. One vampire at a time, please.
Mandi on Twitter: @EWMandiBierly
More on The Vampire Diaries:
Recap of last night’s episode: The Howling
‘Vampire Diaries’ exclusive: Kevin Williamson talks his potential companion series that’s ‘full of scary, horrible murder and surprises’
TV Insiders podcast: ‘Vampire Diaries’ producers break down sexy cliffhanger episode; Plus, our picks to win ‘Survivor: Nicaragua’
‘Vampire Diaries’ scoop: Candice Accola talks Tyler’s transformation (and Michael Trevino’s reward)
‘Vampire Diaries’ scoop: Ian Somerhalder talks this week’s episode and Damon’s humanity (and his own plan to save the planet)
Exclusive: Nina Dobrev talks this week’s steamy sex scene (and the resulting bruises)
Exec producer Julie Plec on Tyler’s transformation and the show’s next chapter