Ian Somerhalder of V-WARS, talks about how he got in shape for the series
I often get asked the question of how I got in shape for Luther Swann, well actually episode 10 Luther Swann 2.0. I’d been working on the show for 4-5 months and we were planning on some pick-ups and reshoots. We really wanted to find a dynamic end for Swann, push him to excessive lengths, put him thru hell. What was Swann’s journey? We needed to send him down a path that would not just have audiences wanting more of but us as producers wanting more.
We needed an engine to propel Swan into the dark, dangerous and rapidly changing world or V Wars. We needed Swann 2.0.
We came up with something that we could not wait to shoot. Ep10 Swann is left for dead and the vampires have kidnapped my son, Dez. We leave the audience thinking for a moment that the series is over. We then we jump forward four months, revealing Swann in a basement in a very different state than we last saw him. He’s angry, dark, unshaven and much stronger and more muscular than the last time we saw him. He’s working out hard listening to loud music. He has a small militia and arsenal of guns at his side, preparing to take down anyone and everyone in his way to get his son. He’s in hiding and must remain in the shadows as a government would be diligently looking for him.
After we all settled on the ending and stared at the timeline, the room got quiet. I realise why everyone was staring at me. This transformation that we were going to put Dr. Swann through required one thing. ME. Oh shit. That’s me I realised… Ha! “How long have I got until we shoot this I asked”? Again the room was quiet… hmm “2 weeks” someone piped up”. Oh Boy. Now, I typically stay healthy and get in as much gym time as I can for my health and sanity. But I had spent the last 4+ months of my life up till 3 to 4 AM every single night pushing myself to the limit editing the show with our amazing team. The workload and timeline of producing V-Wars was something that I have never experienced in my professional life and I thought I had experienced a great deal! it is incredibly taxing on the body so I was about 10 pounds underweight. I was a tired skinny mess that is an executive producer of a television show. But I LOVED my job and wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Only one thing to do: Call Jance Footit. Jance an Olympic strength trainer and a dear brother. He’s my strength training guru and coach. He trained me through all of The Vampire Diaries in Atlanta and built all of my supplement and meal regiments for a decade now to keep me strong and healthy. I trust him implicitly, he’s always right.
He immediately reminded me: food is medicine. Focus. Training. Food. Rest. These are the key ingredient for success. He immediately put me on a clean and strict but yummy diet of protein, fats, vegetables, good carbohydrates and loads of water. 5 or 6 meals per day and all of the vitamins to feed rapid muscle growth! Alcohol is not your friend when training this hard so I only snuck in 2 light beers over the course of two weeks! They were GLORIOUS.
The goal? Make Swann very different man. A formidable adversary. The guy you want on your team but the guy you do NOT want coming after you.
With 10 days to go. I was not feeling very confident that I was looking like the new Swann 2.0. so Jance met me in Toronto with this one goal in mind. His method was incredible. NOTE: This isn’t a method that we plan on having to use often but it sure as hell works. It is simple: Train 4 days hard. Rest 4 days and shoot or compete. Only 4 days of training BUT 3-4 times per day! WTF?! How was I going to do this while prepping, production meetings, location scouting, costume fittings, camera tests and rewrites?! All of the things you need to go into production. The other kicker was we needed 10 days of actual shooting but only had the money for six days so it was going to be intense!
So here we go:
4 days of hard training, 3-4 Sessions per day
4 days of rest – only light fasted cardio 1st in AM
Night before shooting eat a stack of pancakes and sleep.
The goal is to train with so much frequency in those first few days to produce so much damage to the muscle they have only one thing to do: grow. Rapidly.
As you take those few days off your body is just in repair mode building muscle fibers.
Bouncing back and forth between the gym (starting at 6:30 AM sharp) and production meetings, writing sessions and all of it was really wild! I would be in the gym for 30 minutes, grab my script pages, proteins/carb shake and get into the infrared sauna to help move the blood around while rolling calls.
Then run back into the meetings, scouts and the back into the gym screaming a grunting as Jance coached me through it all. I would the collapse after hours and hours with our writing into bed and think- oh shit I’ve got to do it all again in 6 hours!
The first few days were so brutal. I said to my producing partner, “If I have to do this you’re doing it with me!” Honestly it was more of a joke but without skipping a beat he jumped in to share the pain with me and make it happen. It was brutal.
Come day of shooting, Swann was ready for the camera. I put on 8 pounds of solid muscle in less than two weeks my arms had grown almost 2 inches. Swann looked like someone had temporarily inflated him with a bicycle pump. And that’s how Swann will stay for a good while.
I’m back in training now for season 2… Just not three to four times a day!
The journey of a parent to find their cub is one that no one will ever argue; it’s built into our DNA . If you’re going to do anything in this life it is to save, protect and nurture your offspring to the best of your ability until your last breath. This is a man who spent his life peering through a microscope working so hard to help prevent catastrophe for the human race. As Rachel, Swann’s ex-wife and Dez’s his mom put it “you’re out saving the goddamn world but you couldn’t save your own family.” Swann is on a journey to never lose his son again and hopefully save the world.
Watch Season 1 now on Netflix.