Ian Somerhalder 101

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From People magazine

Travel tips from Marco Polo's Ian Somerhalder
He didn't survive the first season as Boone on Lost, but
Somerhalder, 28, is always ready for adventure: He's
13th-century globe-trotter Marco Polo in a June 2
Hallmark channel movie.

You lost 20 LBS. while filming .

Ian: Shooting in Southern China in the summer. It got upwards of
110,with 30, 40 percent humidity, and I was wearing all these Chinese robes.
There's no amount of amazing chinese food you can eat to make up for that.

Where's your favorite Destiantion?

Ian: Spain. Sunsets on a beach on the Costa del Sol with an
incredible glass of wine.

Do you have any frequent-fliers secrets?

Ian: If you don't want to get sick, put Neosporin in your
nose. I do it every single time.
--Eunice OH


Transcript for the Tavis Smilley show
Tavis: Fans of ABC's "Lost" remember Ian Somerhalder in his role as Boone on the first season of the Emmy-winning drama. He's back on TV this summer in the lead role of the new project about the life of famed explorer Marco Polo. The Louisiana native recently returned from a visit to his family outside New Orleans; that is Somerhalder, not Marco Polo.

His home was completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. More on that in a moment. Back to the new project; "Marco Polo" airs June 2nd on the Hallmark Channel. Here is a preview.

Tavis: Ian, nice to have you on the program.

Ian Somerhalder: Pleasure to be here, thank you so much.

Tavis: No, I'm glad to have you here. I think a lot of us know the game, Marco Polo, if you know any kind of water sport, any kind of water game, it's Marco Polo. So we know the game; tell me more about Marco Polo.

Somerhalder: It's interesting. We don't always know - there's a lot of mystery to this man. We all learned a little bit about him in school. But his historical contributions were huge, and this was a man who was traveling through parts of the world in which they had never seen a westerner before. And to get from Venice to China, live there for 20 years, and come back was a phenomenal feat, you know what I mean? And so it was just really interesting to sort of trace his steps and sort of really understand what he did.

Tavis: When you say his contributions were phenomenal, what for you stands out as the hallmark of his contribution?

Somerhalder: I think he bridged the gap between the East and the West as far as trade goes, which essentially opened up the world. And I think by virtue of that, there's the whole - we don't know historically if it's the whole spaghetti thing but imagine what this man brought back - the knowledge he brought back. The Chinese had essentially invented everything, other than the wheel with the Egyptians and the Greeks.

So it was really neat to sort of be in the places he was and see a man of Anglo-Saxon descent traveling through these parts of the world who had never even known that these people existed.

Tavis: Tell me about - I assume you spent a lot of time in China.

Somerhalder: I did.

Tavis: Filming this. You enjoyed it?

Somerhalder: It was a really neat experience. It was very different.

Tavis: When you say very different, you mean? Everybody comes back and says, "It's very different." Very different for you means what?

Somerhalder: When you leave here and you get off of the plane in Asia, it's like stepping off into another planet. There's nothing - they don't speak our language. There's nothing of - it's not a Latin-based language; no means absolutely nothing. You couldn't imagine - you couldn't find a toilet because you - there's no conjugates, there's no nothing.

And the cultures re so different, vastly different, and that's the beauty of it. I felt, for the first time, other than when I was 16 years old getting off of a plane in Italy by myself, "Wow, I'm in a place, and this is going to be an adventure. I'm going to have to figure this out; I'm going to have to find out how to live here." And that is - how cool is that?

Tavis: It's cool on the one hand. On the other hand, it's kind of scary, though.

Somerhalder: It is.

Tavis: I'm not sure I'd want to - you were there how long, filming?

Somerhalder: Three months, I think.

Tavis: So you have an American film crew, or some Americans on the crew?

Somerhalder: Nope.

Tavis: Wow.

Somerhalder: I think myself, Brian Dennehy, and B.D. Wong were literally the only Americans. Seriously. Everyone else was Canadian and Chinese, and the interesting thing is, like, you have Mandarin and you have Cantonese, the two languages. They're very different, and half the crew is Cantonese, half the crew speaks Mandarin.

So it's the same is that you're from Mississippi, I'm from New York - I'm not from New York, I'm from New Orleans - but it would essentially be if we were from these two different parts of the country, we wouldn't be able to communicate. So you can imagine the obstacles that that can -

Tavis: So then you drop a White guy from Louisiana right in the middle of it, and how do you survive there for three months?

Somerhalder: I lost 20 pounds in eight weeks because it was 40 degrees Celsius, which is hotter than Mississippi. (Laughter) Or New Orleans in August. But it was -

Tavis: Nothing is hotter than New Orleans in August.

Somerhalder: I agree.

Tavis: Nothing.

Somerhalder: I agree. Just got back. But wearing these huge robes in 40, 41 degrees Celsius with 30 percent, 50 percent relative humidity? Wow, man. It was incredible. I was eating steaks and cookies and just everything before I would go to bed.

Tavis: Trying to gain the weight back.

Somerhalder: And then the next day it was just - but it was a great experience.

Tavis: I want to talk about New Orleans right quick. It's fresh on my mind; I literally just got back in there like in the last 24 hours, 48 hours. Just got back from New Orleans, and I was there in part because - I should mention this, as a matter of fact - we will talk on this program on Friday night of this week to the Academy Award winner Jonathan Demme.

Of course, you know him from "Silence of the Lambs," directing that, and "Beloved." But Demme's on this program on the second half of our program Friday night, I believe, to talk about a special series that we're going to start airing next Monday night - Monday, May the 28th. So for five consecutive nights on this program next week we are going to bring to you a series called "Right to Return: New Home Movies from the Lower Ninth Ward."

So for the last year and a half, this great director Mr. Demme has been tracking for almost a year and a half now the stories of five different families as they have tried to press their right to return back home into New Orleans. Fascinating stuff that will pull at every heartstring you have. We'll start with a different story on Monday night, May the 28th.

I raise all that to say to you, since you are from New Orleans and you were just back there to see your family, tell me about how your family's doing and what happened when the storm came for you.

Somerhalder: I'll make this quick, 'cause there have been so many accounts of it. I actually just got back, as well. My brother just got married. And going home, southern wedding, he lived in Waveland, which was - or Bay St. Louis, which was pretty much the hardest-hit part. I think the water level in his neighborhood was about 40 feet. Can you imagine?

Tavis: Pretty high.

But it was great to go back. But that morning of the storm I woke up to a phone call from my sister and she said, "Have you seen it, have you seen it?" And I said, "What?" And she goes, "The storm, you idiot." And I forgot. I jumped up, looked on Yahoo weather and saw this thing and I thought, oh, my gosh. Called my father, he was actually in his car. He stayed right by Lake Pontchartrain. Because there were missile-like branches hitting the house and exploding.

He actually got in an area where there wasn't as much wind and he said the wind's about 160 miles an hour and he was watching our pine trees, they were about 150 feet tall, snapping like toothpicks and then flying over and planting themselves back in the ground. And the phone went dead, and that was the last I heard of him. I got on a plane the next day, went and dug everybody out, found everyone, and then witnessed sort of, like, martial law in the United States of America.

Tavis: Your family has decided to stay?

Somerhalder: They're all there. They're all there, but going back - thank you for doing what you're doing. When you go down Interstate 10, the same freeway that gets us here back to L.A., going into New Orleans it's one of the saddest things I've ever seen. On either side of the interstate - where did all those people go?

All those homes, they're completely empty; all those apartment buildings. Where did they - so I say, you asked me, I can't understand how it is the way it is, still. It's been almost a year.

Tavis: That's the whole point of our going down there with Jonathan Demme to kind of bring these stories back to the forefront of what we hope will be an American conversation about what we do now to make sure these people do, in fact, have the right to return to their home. Ian Somerhalder is his name. The project, "Marco Polo." Nice to have you on the program.

Somerhalder: Thank you so much.

Tavis: Good to see you.
Somerhalder: Such a pleasure.


Actor's adventure of a lifetime in 'Marco Polo'
Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn
The Associated Press
May. 22, 2007 12:00 AM
SANTA MONICA, Calif. - Ian Somerhalder has long been fascinated with the Far East.

"Places call you," says the 28-year-old actor. "Usually the Virgin Islands call people. China was calling me."

Which is why Somerhalder, not seen on TV since his fateful end in the first season of "Lost," took the role of the most famous Westerner to travel the Silk Road in the Hallmark Channel's "Marco Polo," airing 8 p.m. EDT June 2.

The three-hour movie about the 13th century Venetian trader's odyssey through Asia is loosely based on the explorer's celebrated chronicles, "The Travels of Marco Polo."

In the film, Somerhalder plays the young, wide-eyed adventurer who accompanies two priests on a mission to convert Mongol conqueror Kublai Khan (played by Brian Dennehy) to Christianity. But the priests turn back during the journey, unconvinced that China even exists.

Eventually, Polo forges ahead through treacherous mountains and blinding desert blizzards to reach the fabled land where he is accepted as a confidant in Khan's court, discovering, among many things, the delicacies of ice cream and pasta, as well as the advantages of paper currency and a postal system.

Accompanied by his faithful servant-cum-companion, Pedro (BD Wong), Polo spent more than two decades exploring the region, before returning to Europe to write his tale that continues to be one of the most important travelogues in history.

"This guy of Anglo Saxon descent walking through places like Afghanistan, it's a surprise that he didn't get killed in his first month," Somerhalder says. "But the thing is, you always know what he did and what he saw, but you never know how he felt about it. He never talked about himself or his feelings, and he never judged anyone, which I think is pretty incredible."

Shooting on location last summer in temperatures of 110 degrees-plus and high humidity turned out to be an adventure all its own.

"I lost 20 pounds in eight weeks shooting this movie," he says. "The horses would lay down with their saddles on and pass out - we'd have to pour water all over them."

The actor says he was quite taken with China.

"China is this place that had been closed off to Americans like forever," he says. "I remember as a kid growing up in the 80s you always heard, Russia and China, you've got to be careful.' Then you get there and there are these really peaceful people. Shanghai is one of my favorite cities. It blew my mind how beautiful this place is."

Like Polo, Somerhalder shares a similar wanderlust.

"I've had these feelings since I was a kid," says Somerhalder, whose father entertained his young son with tales of his travels in the military during the Vietnam War. "Ever since I can remember, I've wanted to travel to new cities, new hotel rooms. I should have been a damn rock star."

"Ian really captured the spirit of Marco Polo, as he himself is a backpacker and does all that kind of stuff," says executive producer Robert Halmi Sr., who remembered Somerhalder on "Lost" and immediately wanted him for the role.

"I liked his look and I liked his acting ability," says the Emmy-winning Halmi, who has produced more than 200 movies or miniseries for Hallmark Entertainment. "But as I got to talk to him in China, I got to find out why he was so passionate about the role."

It's been two years since Somerhalder was bumped off the island when his character, Boone, became the first casualty of ABC's mysterious-island hit.

Initially conflicted about losing the gig, Somerhalder, who received raves recently in the Off-Broadway romp, "Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead," now sees the benefit of his TV stint.

"It opened so many doors," says the model-turned-actor, enjoying an apple tart after lunch at a beachfront cafe not far from his newly purchased Santa Monica home. "But it definitely makes it harder to do any other show. It's like when you break up with someone and start dating someone else ... you're always comparing the two."

Speaking of which, his next series is the HBO relationship drama, "Tell Me That You Love Me," in September. It's said to be so erotic that Variety reveals "it makes Sex and the City' look like a Saturday morning cartoon."

"It is sexually graphic, but not gratuitous," Somerhalder responds.

Then again, he adds, "It's definitely not what you want your girlfriend's parents watching."