Michael Malarkey is a busy man. Whether he is tirelessly writing and recording music (his independent EP, Knots, will be released November 20th), portraying the mysterious Enzo on the CW’s hit show, The Vampire Diaries (TVD), or on daddy duty with son, Marlon, Malarkey finds a way to balance it all. Moreover, he does it with a smile on his face.
Malarkey took some time to talk with Geeks of Doom in an exclusive interview this week, and he opened up about his personal projects while also giving us Vampire Diaries fans some clues into what we can expect for the rest of season seven.
Calling from “sunny Atlanta,” where TVD is filmed and Malarkey is based, the actor says it’s “actually very lovely outside,” and enjoys it over the damp and cloudy weather in London, where he lived from 2006 until he became a series regular for the show’s sixth season. Malarkey is all-in when it comes to his commitment to the show and his investment in his character. Enzo is seen as an “antihero we love to hate,” I say, but I truly feel he is a pretty lovable character, and it’s evident even in his facial expressions that there is good in him. “Well, you know, part of that is because I’m playing him and I’m not a dick, although that’s kind of subjective,” he explains with a chuckle. “You can’t help but bring a certain energy of yourself to a character, but at the same time, I think that’s what people sort of connect with in Enzo. They’re sort of like, ‘Oh, but he’s not that bad, though!’ They always have hope that there’s some sort of redemption on the table.”
After years of playing Enzo, he says, “What’s easy is that all of the character work is already there. I know who this guy is, and what he wants, so when you get moments where it appears on the script that he’s acting like a dick, I never think, ‘What a dick.’ I just think, ‘Okay, well, he’s thinking about that, or obsessing about this.’ We all have stupid things we do or moments where we look back and we think, ‘Oh, God, I was really messed up over that chick or I was really mean to my best friend there.’”
Delving into Enzo’s thought process this season, Malarkey says that siding with Lily (Annie Wersching) and the Heretics “was by no means an easy choice for him,” and he feels this is important for people to remember while watching. “He wasn’t just like, ‘Alright, I’m going to pick a side and this is my side.’ He obviously still has feelings for Damon [Ian Somerhalder] and Caroline [Candice Accola King] and these people who have been quote-unquote friends over the years. At the same time, what he said to Damon [‘I chose you and your friends many times and many times you chose each other over me’], part of the reason why he decided to make this choice is because he feels like he’s put himself on the line for his friends in the past,” he says.
Loyalty is paramount to Enzo, Malarkey adds. “Damon has really been a disappointment to him as far as friends go, time and time again. Ever since they had that incident in the cell where he [Damon] turned his humanity and let Enzo burn alive. It wasn’t very nice. He was also kind of barricaded into a corner to make a choice. You know, Lily was like, ‘You need to pick a side.’ Caroline was like, ‘You need to pick a side,’ so he either had to say ‘F— this,’ and get out of town, and I wouldn’t have a job, or make a choice. He made that choice with Lily. He feels like she respects him, which is very important to him. He feels like Caroline doesn’t respect him. Damon doesn’t really respect him,” he points out.
With alliances forming and evolving, Malarkey promises fans can look forward to a darker, more edgy plot and feel. “The cinematography seems a little darker even. I was really impressed with the episodes and I’m really optimistic about the direction it’s going, especially with my character,” he says. “As much as he seems to be forthright in his decision, we’re definitely going to see him going back and forth on a number of things. He’s going to fly off the handle a couple of times, we’re going to see some fight scenes, he’s going to make some more kind of strong decisions, and also we’re going to see some more romance. We’re going to see a lot more levels to him than we did last season and I think people will connect with him on a more human level.”
Obviously absent from the cast this year is Nina Dobrev, who played the show’s main character, Elena Gilbert, for the first six seasons. Although many fans may miss her, Malarkey feels that evolution is necessary for TVD to move forward in a new direction. “Every show that has longevity to it needs to go through different chapters and changes. I think if you just continue scratching in the same place, it’s going to become a wound, and we don’t want that to happen. I feel like the love story that was on the show for this many seasons seemed to be running its course…There’s a lot of people who want to see different things happening on the show,” he notes. Furthermore, “this is vampire show,” and the focus does not always need to be on love stories, Malarkey says. “As much as there’s a huge response to the whole ‘shipping thing with characters, I think there’s also another huge audience to our show that isn’t that interested in that. They like the human drama of relationships, but they want to see a good show. This is a show about vampires. It’s dark, and it needs to be sexy, but it also needs to be dangerous, and I think if you focus too hard on love stories, it kind of can lose its edge if people start coming back to life every five seconds.”
And did Malarkey hint that we might see him on The Originals someday in the future? In my first recap of TVD season seven, I mentioned that the Heretics sort of remind me of The Originals, so I couldn’t help but ask if Malarkey might be up for a crossover. “I actually adore the cast of The Originals. We all are based in the same little borough, so we hang out a lot,” he says, adding that, “It would just be a chance to go play with my friends for an episode. It would be fun. I feel like actually, Enzo would fit right in down there, but, for the powers above, it’s a nightmare for scheduling…but I would definitely welcome it if we could make it happen.”
Speaking of scheduling, how does the TV star handle all of the responsibilities in his busy lifestyle? “It’s a crazy life, but it’s what I know; although at the same time, I find myself really craving taking breaks from things, like going for a hike in the mountains…I think creativity doesn’t just endlessly flow, you know? Sometimes you have to come away from it and then rediscover it with new eyes, and I feel like I’m at the point where I’ve just created so much. I’ve written hundreds of songs. I want to change the process a little bit, and I want to take some time away — now, I’m not talking about a long time away; I mean like a couple weeks of reflection — and actually reflecting on it and thinking about the process. I’m talking about acting as well, and coming back to it with a renewed energy,” he says wistfully. Still, he has learned not to stress about it all. “I think a lot of people stress when they’ve got writer’s block and it just makes it worse. You just have to go, ‘You know, I’m not feeling it today. So what?’ When you’re ready, it’s a form of spirituality in a way; you have to allow it to happen when it wants to.”
With hardcore and “punk rock roots” (Malarkey actually used to be a screamer in a hardcore band), the singer-songwriter’s new music shows a progression to a more alternative style. After realizing that he wanted to write his own songs instead of waiting for material, the artist began teaching himself guitar at age 20. “I started figuring it out and around that time I started listening to music like Tom Waits and [Bob] Dylan…I think the first song that I taught myself was ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’ by Dylan. I started writing and it was painstaking at first trying to figure chords out and stuff, but eventually I started doing it obsessively and I started just putting out my own little albums to friends,” Malarkey says. Additionally, his influences come from a variety of genres, including gospel, blues, and rockability, which he studied for has role as Elvis on London’s Broadway stage).
Michael Malarkey can be seen in the next episode of The Vampire Diaries, “I Carry Your Heart With Me,” on Thursday, October 29th at 8pm. You can also read my weekly recaps of the episodes at right here at Geeks of Doom.
View the promo for The Vampire Diaries Season 7, Episode 4.