Entertainment

Ian Somerhalder (Getty Images photo)

Ian Somerhalder (Getty Images photo)

By Kiley Roache
Nazareth Academy

Ian Somerhalder visited Chicago on Sunday for “The Vampire Diaries” convention, which was held at the Hyatt Regency in Schaumburg. If you don’t watch the show, Somerhalder plays Damon Salvatore on the CW drama.

Fan or not, you may not know that the actor has his own foundation, appropriately called the Ian Somerhalder Foundation. Founded nearly four years ago, the IS Foundation “aims to empower, educate and collaborate with people and projects to positively impact the planet and its creatures.”

Earlier this week, he found time during his hectic “Vampire Diaries” shooting schedule to answer our questions via email.

You’re a busy guy! How do you balance your work for IS with shooting “The Vampire Diaries” … and more?
Breathe. Smile. Repeat. All of us are busier than ever with overflowing access to global information … this tends to create layers of high density personal stress. There is a delicate but necessary balance between allowing our passions to propel us continuously forward while still taking substantial amounts of time to be quiet and reflect. I greatly enjoy utilizing the maximum allotted hours in a day to create change, connect with others and work on my craft, but I also make sure to schedule time away in nature. Immersing myself into the wilderness is the easiest way to re-center and breathe oxygen back into my passions.

When you aren’t working, what would we find you doing?
With the erratic shooting schedule, I find every nook and cranny of free time in my schedule to connect with like-minded change makers, learn from those with differing viewpoints and surround myself with love. Whether it’s the love of my animals at home, or my friends and family, being enveloped by love is the most empowering, tranquilizing and centering place to be for me.

What inspired you to start the IS Foundation?
I hit my absolute apex of vulnerability when I returned to my home state of Louisiana during the gulf oil spill disaster and witnessed mass devastation to every demonstration of life surrounding me—from grass, trees, bayous, insects, to animals and people. Overcome with a raw true sense of helplessness, I knew I never wanted to feel this way again. As I surveyed the echoing voices around me, I realized there were countless others who were just as impassioned and were ready to make some serious changes . We united as a family of international change-makers that soon were known as the IS Foundation.

If you were to describe the goal of the Ian Somerhalder Foundation in three words what would they be?
Empower. Unite. Change.

Are there any moments that stand out as your biggest victories as part of IS foundation?
The greatest victory for us has been the remarkably diverse, robustly strong, and vigorously passionate tapestry that has been woven together by the united voices of the ISF family. The people that comprise this family of change-makers never stop astounding me. Overflowing with love, compassion, and readiness, they are the true beacons of hope for this planet. Their unison is by far our greatest collective victory.

With all the environmental problems that exist, working for sustainability can seem like an uphill battle. What would you tell teens who are worried they won’t be able to make an impact?
This is where our understanding of our inevitable macro and micro interconnection is crucial… Just as many of our global issues are interdependent and interconnected, so are many of our solutions. By being part of the solution for just one issue needing change, you are a catalyst for a vast interwoven series of changes. When we vote with our dollar, our consumer choices, and ultimately our voice, we generate a ripple effect that carries a vibration far beyond what we believe is our reach.

On a lighter note, you’ll be in Chicago again next weekend for “The Vampire Diaries” convention. Any favorite restaurants or sights you like to visit?
Chicago is a beautiful city with incredible food, but what I look forward to visiting most there are the people.

When you’re traveling, what are three things you MUST have in your bag?
Some kind of snack—I’m ALWAYS hungry…a good book I can dive into on the plane… and crazy enough I usually have a can of cat food just in case I spot a hungry friend in need.

What are you most likely to forget to pack?
I’ve gotten pretty good at packing over the years … it’s more of an art form now!

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The Mash is the Chicago Tribune's newspaper and website written for teens, by teens. The paper is distributed for free each Thursday at Chicago-area high schools and is written largely by high school students.

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