Vampire Diaries star Steven R. McQueen talks to Des Sampson about his famous grandfather and the show's new season.
Having a grandfather whose name remains the byword for Hollywood cool has proved a double-edged sword for Steven R. McQueen, the grandson of the legendary Steve McQueen. In fact, the weight of expectations initially meant he shunned acting.
"Knowing that my grandad was a highly respected actor wasn't necessarily intimidating, but it definitely meant there was always a pressure to live up to his reputation. I think that's why acting wasn't something I even considered doing, as a kid," he says.
But in his mid-teens and being home-schooled in Detroit - where his stepfather was a professional ice hockey player - he sat down and watched his grandfather's movies. "Seeing him in those films was inspiring but so, too, was watching other actors, like Marlon Brando and James Dean, in a whole bunch of other films. That's what made me want to try acting," clarifies McQueen. "From there, my passion for it slowly unfolded. I went to a couple of classes and I grew to love it."
However, McQueen discovered that his family name was both a boon and a bane: it secured him parts in CSI: Miami, a recurring role as Kyle Hunter in Everwood and a lead in the Disney movie Minutemen, but it also came with a weight of expectations.
"There's definitely a level of pressure because of it, but it's the name I was born with so I figured I may as well stick with it," he shrugs. "Anyway, I'm quite a competitive person, so it pushes me to not only live up to any expectations, but to climb out of the shadow and cut a path of my own."
That's just what he's doing in The Vampire Diaries, the book-to-TV adaptation of L.J. Smith's tomes, a tale which revolves around the love triangle between Elena Gilbert and vampire brothers Stefan and Damon Salvatore.
McQueen stars as Elena's younger brother, Jeremy Gilbert, a mere mortal who battles with ghosts, ghouls and vampires in Mystic Falls, a picture-perfect but haunted town. It's a tasty part that he's happily sunk his teeth into.
"It's been a blast! It's a hell of an adventure and a lot of fun," he grins. "It's also been a real learning experience, moving out to Atlanta, Georgia - where we film it - and dealing with our characters, their development and some really great storylines. I think it's just going to get better too, with what [happens in the rest of the second season and] is planned for the third season."
That a third series of The Vampire Diaries is under way shows the post-Twilight bloodlust for vampire tales hasn't been quenched.
"I think teenagers are attracted to these tales of love, death and angst because they're going through some of the same things themselves, like experiencing love and heartbreak for the first time," suggests McQueen. "The stakes just happen to be higher, because there are vampires running around.
"But I think it's the supernatural element which makes it fun to watch - and shoot - because you aren't limited to the usual film-making rules, like life and death.
"It's like anyone can die and then come back to life, including me. I think I've died three times now but I'm still here - even though I play a human character," McQueen sniggers. "So, for me, it's that escapism - the ability to project yourself into a whole different realm - mixed with eternal youth and endless possibilities."
Who: Steven R. McQueen
What: The Vampire Diaries, new season
When and where: 8.30pm Fridays, TV2