Paul Wesley's fan favorite character, Stefan Salvatore, on The Vampire Diaries may have lived on an all-animal diet for some time, but in real life, the actor is a huge supporter of animal rights.
The CW star has partnered with The Humane Society of the United States (The HSUS) to urge pork producers to stop using inhumane gestation crates. And for his work in animal protection, The HSUS will honor Wesley with the Humane Generation Award at their 60th Anniversary Benefit Gala on Saturday, March 29. But still, there's more work to be done and Wesley is auctioning a personalized outgoing voicemail message for a charitable fan, with all proceeds going to the organization.
"As an actor, you kind of do all these sort of self-sort-of-indulgent promotional things and I started noticing that I had developed quite a following on Twitter and all over the world, and I kind of fell naturally into it," Wesley explains to E! News of how he got involved with The HSUS. "I wanted to do something charitable just to feel better about myself when I wake up in the morning, and the Humane Society came naturally to me. I wanted it to be something that I was inspired by, and one of the things that really enrages me is factory farming."
Wesley first became aware of factory farming after watching documentaries, including Food Inc. and was horrified when the films hit close to home.
"Then I started to like, really do a little bit of research and I realized that a lot of the things that I had been purchasing were essentially supporting factory farming, which really upset me.
"That's one of the things I think we do in this country that is completely ignored, and we do it every day, and the fact that it still happens and these intelligent animals are confined to these torturous circumstances in this day and age is crazy to me," Wesley continues. "So I thought, well listen, this is something that really bothers me a lot and I want to do my best to influence the younger generation and teach them about the ramifications of something like this."
Using that influence means offering to record a voicemail message for fans, in order to raise awareness and money, with the highest bid currently at $605.
And, ironically enough, Wesley's voice isn't even on his voicemail message.
"It's funny because when I was younger, I hated my voice," he explains. "Now on my voicemail, when you call my phone, I don't actually have a voicemail, it's just automated, but I remember when I was a kid, I would like sit there and try to like get the right cadence and the right voice and sound, like, super cool when I was in high school. I hated the way my voicemail sounded all the time, so the fact that anyone would want to pay for it is astounding." (For the record, he would so bid on a voicemail message recorded by Morgan Freeman.)
"If you're not into a Paul Wesley voicemail, which I don't think is for everyone, there's some other things that are really great. There's a backstage and meet the iconic Rod Stewart with two tickets to an upcoming show. I cannot believe that's beating me by six thousand dollars," he says with a laugh. "I'm appalled!"
Another topic Wesley speaks passionately about is his directorial debut, as he stepped behind the camera for the first time for The Vampire Diaries' upcoming 18th episode of the fifth season, Resident Evil."
"It was amazing. I mean it was really amazing. The cast was so supportive. I was nervous at first. I mean, I remember my first scene—I was terrified," Wesley recalls. "Then it got easier and easier, and it became more natural, and now it just feels like I want to do it again and I want to do it even better. But it was a really wonderful experience."
He goes on to say "how fantastically supportive the cast was. That was what surprised me. Not that I doubt the cast, but I kind of thought these guys were gonna totally give me shit, in a friendly way, but I assumed everyone would just give me sh-t, but everyone was really prepared and really wanted to do well, which was to me really, not surprising, but I was definitely taken aback to a degree."
The only actor that Wesley had a problem directing? Himself.
"That was hard for me because I had a playback monitor, but at the same time, I almost didn't want to even look at it, because I hate watching myself," he admits. "We would like, shoot the scene and then I would like literally look at it for maybe two seconds just to make sure it was lined up right and then move on."
However, Wesley had nothing but praise for Raffi Barsoumian, who plays the series' new villain, Markos, and made his silent debut in last night's episode.
"The first time he spoke on camera was actually in my episode and he did a really nice job. He's a really good actor. He had a lot of information that he had to unload in some scenes and he handled it very naturally. He surprised me," Wesley says. "He did a really nice job. I really like him. He played it really well. He's sort of an atypical villain for some reason. I don't think we've had a guy like him before."
To bid on Wesley's voicemail and support The Humane Society of the United States, fans can go to Charitybuzz.com. To attend the HSUS' Gala, which will honor Wesley, you can still buy tickets for the Saturday, March 29 event.