Throughout the centuries, the undead and other supernatural creatures, especially vampires, have gotten a pretty bad rap. Those razor-sharp fangs and all the bloodsucking are not quite conducive to making friends, but never forget that many of these toothy troublemakers were once human beings. That includes The Vampire Diaries’ Lorenzo a.k.a. Enzo. From the moment he was turned into a vampire by Lillian “Lily” Salvatore, his future was forever altered. However, while his eating habits may have changed, Enzo did not lose his capacity to feel pain, sorrow, forgiveness, love, loyalty or the desire to belong.
Having made his debut as a major recurring character in the show’s fifth season, Enzo became a regular fixture the following year. He is played by the talented, versatile and affable actor Michael Malarkey, who returns in season seven to once again walk with Enzo down the character’s slightly angst-ridden but not entirely dark path.
“Enzo has gone on quite a journey so far, hasn’t he,” says Malarkey. “When we first saw him on The Vampire Diaries, he had been locked up for a number of years, during which he was tortured and abused. He comes out of that as damaged goods and kind of lashes out at people. Enzo then ends up rediscovering his friendship with Damon [Ian Somerhalder] as well as meets Caroline [Candice Acola] and they hit it off a bit. In season six, he once again went to rather darker place where he wrestled with his own needs and began wondering, ‘Why am I here? Why am I doing this? Who are these people?’
“This [seventh] season, my character has to make some serious decisions or get the hell out of there. As an actor, the very real challenges of Enzo having to pick a side are not only wonderful to play, but also quite clear to me because I know what such a struggle feels like.
“As far as my character’s relationships, Lily [Annie Wersching] turned him, so Enzo has, not exactly an obsession with her, but this kind of unspoken bond that he feels. I also think he’s trying to figure out is what he feels more than just familial. That sort of ambivalence, I guess you could call it, is definitely explored in the first few episodes of season seven. The thing is, Enzo has come into this family for Lily, not the Heretics. His allegiances are then tested, when he realizes what the Heretics are all about. They’re actually very dangerous and not quite what he initially imagined them to be. No matter what, though, Enzo is going to be there for Lily while he tries to figure out what’s going on.”
When asked if he has a favorite episode or scene so far coming up in season seven of The Vampire Diaries, Malarkey admits to be partial to working opposite Annie Wersching. “Annie is a fantastic actress and beautifully plays all the little nuances in the scenes between Lily and Enzo,” notes the actor. “I think what’s really fascinating is that whatever way this relationship goes, the viewers are going to see the seeds that we’ve planted in the first few scenes this season eventually come to fruition. I’ve also had some fun scenes with Candice, some of which delve into Enzo’s soft spot for Caroline and how that actually fits in with Lily and the Heretics. Lily is potentially going to be playing on that soft spot and using it as a way to test his allegiance to her.”
Born in Beirut, Lebanon to an Irish-American father and an English mother of Italian/Arab descent, Malarkey grew up in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Early on, the actor contemplated following in his family’s footsteps and entering the teaching profession. He then, however, began exploring his creative side and indulging in his passion to entertain others, doing so first with music.
“I started a punk band along with a hardcore band as well as played in bands for about five years and worked in a record shop. That was my extent of going to university, so I guess you could say that I went to the school of rock ‘n’ roll,” jokes the actor. “I’ve carried on with the music, too. I’ve finished recording my latest EP called Knots, which will be released on November 20th. It kind of picks up where my first EP, Feed the Flames, left off and takes things to the next level as far as content, production and audio. I’m really, really excited about this. This is something that I’m exploring in conjunction with the acting. I’m incredibly fortunate to have the creative energy to do both. I love music and it’s just part of who I am,” he enthuses.
Having moved to London in 2006, the actor trained at the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA), and, after graduating, spent a great deal of time honing his craft onstage before turning his attention to the TV and feature film world.
“I worked at the National Theatre as well as in London’s West End and appeared in some big productions,” recalls Malarkey. “Unfortunately, there’s a ‘sell-by date’ for a person to break into Los Angeles and film, so I decided, OK, I need to start thinking about screen stuff. My first small screen role in the U.S. was, in fact, a pilot for The CW called The Selection in which I played the lead role of Prince Maxon.
“Prior to that, I had done a short film in England, which was my first time working in front of the camera. I played a cowboy and was abysmal,” says the actor with a laugh. “It was a completely different medium from the stage, and I wasn’t used to having a camera shoved in my face like that. I felt very awkward as well as self-conscious, and it took me a little while to get to the point that I’m at now where it feels a bit more natural. There’s an element of that nervousness that doesn’t go away, though, and I think that’s good for actors because it makes you want to push yourself and really capture the moment when you’re in a scene.”
Raw, Mr. Sloane and the 2013 feature film Impiriso are among the actor’s other credits. With hopefully many more years in the business as well as a host of new characters to play and stories to tell, Malarkey has no illusions about what it will take for him to stick to the right path professionally and personally.
“It’s not their fault, but I think many people in this business are filled with fear because of the nature of the industry, the rejection, wanting to get it right, wanting to impress people, and all that stuff,” he notes. “I genuinely feel that in order to be not only successful but content, you can’t think about pleasing other people. You just have to focus on your job, because at the end of the day it’s a craft, and I think, in general, the most successful artists know that. They’re thinking, ‘I know what I need to do. I have this character in front of me, and I’m going to take that blank canvas and create something as genuine and true as possible to the story I’m helping tell.’
“I think if you focus on that, then you can have a good life outside of your career, and focus on family as well as making music or whatever else you do on the side. When you focus on just the work side of things, it ends up enveloping your life and you can sometimes become a slave to your profession. That’s the last thing you want for yourself and those around you.”
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