On Season 6 of The CW series The Vampire Dairies, Kai Parker (Chris Wood) has been the best kind of villain. He’s a total sociopath who lives to drive other people crazy, likely before he kills them in the bloodiest way possible, and all while he’s enjoying every minute of it. For a brief minute there, he ended up with some unwanted feelings that made him confused about what to do with his empathy, but now he’s in full-on revenge mode and out for blood again.
At the offices of The CW to talk about the show’s season finale, actor Chris Wood spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about playing a villain that is as entertaining as he is awful, how closely they stuck to the initial idea he was given for the character, getting to play such different layers to Kai, his favorite scenes to play, why it’s so good to be bad, justifying all of Kai’s actions to himself, what fans should brace themselves for with the finale, Kai’s plan for revenge, and whether Kai might return in Season 7. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
Collider: Kai has been so unbelievably fun to watch because he’s just so awful.
CHRIS WOOD: Yeah, he is pretty awful, but he’s also highly entertaining. He doesn’t live in a dark, creepy world. He’s creepy, but he exists in a place of fun and humor, which is such a nice juxtaposition with the awful things he does.
Does it make it easier to play a character like this, and is it easier not to bring it home with you, because he is so fun to play?
WOOD: Oh, absolutely, 100%. The headspace that you get in when you’re playing someone so dark and twisted, that isn’t grounded in any lightness or humor, it carries with you, in some capacity, but hopefully not that much. And I’m pretty good at leaving things. But the fact that he views everything with a lightness, even though everything he’s doing is so dark, I don’t walk around having to brood and be angry because that’s not how he presents himself.
It’s all just puppies and kittens with Kai.
WOOD: It is puppies and kittens that he wants to slaughter, and then hang their carcasses around the house. But besides that, he’s pretty normal and fun.
When you look at the overall journey of this character, how different has it all turned out from what you thought it would be?
WOOD: When I went in for the initial conversation about the character, it was very clear that the arc was gonna start in one place, move to another place, and then end over here. It was in three different sections, which we ended up getting very clearly. There was the original Kai. And then, after the merge, we saw him dealing with these human empathy feelings that he’d never felt before. And then, after he was trapped again and seemingly snapped, he’s back to himself and even worse. We always knew that that was how it was going to play out, but with episodic television, the way the scripts come in, it’s always so crazy because stuff comes in at the last minute or the arc is a little bit different, in terms of what you thought something would be. You’ll think you know what something is, but then it actually turns out to be something else. You have to fly by the seat of your pants, as you’re doing it. But I had a rough outline of what was going to happen, so I was able to craft him in a way that allowed his arc to be really interesting. I wanted him to evolve and change, which was why the middle section, when he merged with Luke was so nice. I knew that, ultimately, he was gonna come back so horrible at the end that it was nice to play that better version of him, for a moment.
Was it weird to play those moments when Kai was trying to figure out how to deal with having emotions? Did it almost feel like playing a different character?
WOOD: Oh, yeah. Just his energy and general vibration felt different. I love the line about the alien creature excreting fluids, when he’s trying to describe how he’s crying. It’s just such funny words to put to tears. That scene with Penelope [Mitchell], who plays Liv, was one of my other favorite scenes to shoot, where he tries to kill her but can’t. He starts to get emotional and he’s like, “I don’t care about you. This is not me. I’ve tried to kill you multiple times now. There’s not a part of me that cares. Why am I feeling guilt about Luke?” He can’t deal with the emotion that he’s feeling. He’s trying to process it and work through it, but he can’t. And that’s such an unusual thing that I can’t think of any other character that’s ever gone through that. It’s a very unique thing to this show. Because of the fantasy element, we get to be presented with a character who is a sociopath that’s never felt anything, and then suddenly, he has empathy. That doesn’t exist in other characters. So, that was really incredibly exciting to play. It’s a brand new, complex part of the character. No one has gotten to do that. That’s totally unique to the role, which was great.
Actors always talk about how much fun it is to play bad guys. Why is it so good to be bad?
WOOD: It is so good to be bad! For me, it’s finding a character whose headspace is so vastly different from my own. That, to me, is the most interesting thing to play. And every character is different. Every character thinks differently, and every character has a different energy and way that they tick. But to find a character like Kai, who is so far that he doesn’t even feel things, he is so different from me. That is the most exciting part. The fact that everything sinister he does is laced with humor is icing on the cake. Not only is he dark and mischievous, but he’s funny, and he thinks he’s hilarious. This is a guy who would sit in a room with a mirror and just laugh at himself for hours on end. To get to play someone who’s that crazy is really fun.
Do you feel like you have to justify his actions to yourself, or is he so out there that that does not even matter anymore?
WOOD: This is the point in the interview where I start to sound like a crazy person myself because, in order to play Kai, I have to justify it and I have to see things how he sees them. Otherwise, on set, I’m judging the character externally. I can’t be like, “That’s such a horrible thing, to stab your sister.” In the moment, when I’m playing it, it’s like, “This is what she deserves. This is what needs to happen. I’m the good guy.” You never view yourself as the bad guy. He knows that the things he’s doing are what other people view as wrong, but to him, they’re righteous. They’re exactly what he needs to be doing. That’s part of the beauty of playing the character. It’s so twisted that I have to get in that headspace, but for me, that’s the most fun part of it. I get to view things from that perspective. But yeah, I justify everything. When I’m doing the Kai stuff, it’s just all what needs to be happening, and it’s all right, even though it’s dark and horrible.
At this point, what does Kai want? Is he after world domination, or does he just want people to fear him, or does he even really know what he’s after?
WOOD: He wants blood and death. He wants to kill his entire family. He wants to pay back everyone who was a part of trapping him again. And I don’t think he has much care for what the aftermath of that might be. I think he is literally thinking, “I want to do these things and make these people suffer, and I don’t really care what happens to me, in the process.” What he did by walking [into that wedding] was a suicide mission. He walked into a room of vampires where anything could go wrong. He could have been dead in a second, but he doesn’t seem to care. He’s so mentally gone, at this point, that he just wants revenge, pure and simple.
So, not much planning on his part then?
WOOD: He’s planned. This thing is very detailed. As the finale plays out, you see how insanely complicated he actually has made his revenge plan. He’s got a road map. It’s not aimless. But, I don’t think he cares or has even thought about what to do after. All he cares about, in this moment, is making everyone suffer, as much as possible, to punish them.
What was it like to shoot that wedding sequence?
WOOD: It was great. All of the wedding stuff was so beautiful. The set itself was stunning, with the lighting and all the lanterns in the background. It’s gorgeous. And then, I got to walk in and ruin everything, which is my place on the show. It was a great scene to shoot because you know, when you’re shooting a scene like that, the effect it’s gonna have. The fans were already emotional with all of the Damon and Elena stuff, and Alaric’s vows were so pretty and honest. And then, it turns to Jo and she’s being stabbed. It’s this perfect terror that they threw into the show to ruin such a beautiful moment.
Kai is pretty much there to ruin everything, but fans still seem to enjoy watching him. Were you ever worried about signing on to play this character, and did you ever wonder how fans would react to him?
WOOD: Sometimes you hate villains, but you love that you hate them, and it finds this happy medium where you enjoy the process of loathing them so much that you want them to be there. It’s such a weird twisted thing that our minds do. And to find that with a character is ultimately what you want. If people saw Kai as just a dark, terrible presence that they really didn’t want on the show, than I don’t think I would have done my job successfully. You should love to hate him being there. It’s gotta be this, “I miss him, even though when he’s around, I know it will be bad,” energy. The fans have been lovely, and everyone seems to be really excited about his storyline and what he’s brought to the show. I was worried a little bit because you never know. You never know how it’s going to play out. I didn’t know exactly how my character interpretation was going to come across, but it seems like it worked, so I’m happy with that.
What should we brace ourselves for with the season finale?
WOOD: The finale picks up where we left off with the cliffhanger, so we get to see exactly how devastating this blow was. There’s a high body count, in the finale. Kai comes in with a strong goal of slaughter, and he has a decent amount of success. There are going to be some familiar faces leaving the show, and not just those that we’re braced for. That’s something that can be guaranteed with the finale. There’s loss.
This show is normally very secretive, but that finale script must have been ultra secretive, with some of the main cast members leaving the show. What was it like to get that script and find out how everything ultimately turned out?
WOOD: The finale is fantastic. For people who are fans of Kai and his storyline, there’s some of the best Kai material of the entire season. He’s just in his rare form, in the end, ‘cause he’s back to that first version of him, and then ten times as bad. He’s pretty horrific. But the table read was emotional, obviously, with Nina [Dobrev] leaving after six years, and [Michael] Trevino, as well. I came in, in Season 6, but I became a part of the family. You can see how the roots spread very far, between the cast and the crew. When people leave, it’s a shift in the show and the energy of the family. It’s sad. It’s going to be a strange departure for the series to go next year without Elena as a central character, but I think it’s also really good for the show, in a way. It’s going to shake up storylines. They’re not able to focus on her storyline because she’s not going to be there, so it forces new plots and new events and new character interactions. The story of these two brothers is going to emerge. The way they set up the end of this season really presents a great opportunity for Season 7 to just take off in another direction. I think people will be happy with the new energy next year.
Is it sad to move on from the show now, or does it help soften the blow that you already have another CW series lined up, with Julie Plec’s latest show Cordon?
WOOD: Well, Kai is not necessarily gone. You still have to see what happens in the finale before we know what’s going to happen with Season 7. I’ll be on the network and I’ll be in Atlanta, so there’s that.
Clearly the network and Julie Plec believe in you. That must be really reassuring.
WOOD: Absolutely, yeah. And I get to play such a different role, back-to-back. Well, I guess each of my roles on the network have been so different. It’s great to be entrusted with such interesting, unique and completely separate characters.
What do you think you’ll remember most about being a part of Season 6 of The Vampire Diaries and getting to play Kai?
WOOD: I had such a blast, getting to play this character who has evolved so much, in such a short amount of time. I was waiting until everything was done shooting to see some of the episodes, and I started going back and watching stuff, and to see even the early season stuff, the character is so different. Watching his evolution now, from an audience perspective, it’s such a fortunate thing to get to play a character who goes through all of that. It’s good to be bad, and in this finale episode, he’s really bad. Getting everything to lead to that moment in the season, and setting up next year, is just so rewarding. It’s been a treat, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity.
The Season 6 finale of The Vampire Diaries airs on The CW on Thursday, May 14th.