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Joseph Morgan is an affable Welsh fellow, a committed married man, a soft-spoken owner of two dogs, but he can turn into a wicked vampire on a dime.

We’re chatting outside a Los Angeles café, both of us shivering on an El Niño weekend, when suddenly his voice drives down to a grizzled pitch, his accent five times more velvet-knickers Victorian. “The curse that binds the witches and the wolves,” he declares, as if through fangs, before transforming back into a displaced Brit blowing gently on his Americano.

“The style of the show is a little theatrical,” Morgan says, almost sheepishly. “You have to get a little dramatic with it, and I enjoy that.” After three seasons of playing Klaus Mikaelson, the temperamental vampire-werewolf hybrid on CW’s The Originals (you’d be crabby, too, if your family was always trying to end your immortal life), Morgan has his interspecific character locked down. “Sometimes I look at my wife and she’s like, ‘I’m seeing a bit of Klaus in there. It’s a little frightening.’”

His character first captured fans’ attention in the third season of the long-running Vampire Diaries, and captivated them so strongly that a spin-off, set in New Orleans, debuted in 2013. Morgan travels to the Crescent City for the occasional shoot, but he resides in Atlanta, close to Conyers, Georgia, where most of the show is filmed. He and his wife, the actress/singer Persia White (whom he met on the set of Vampire Diaries when she played a witch), live in a loft with their dogs, video games, and loads of books.

When he’s not playing Tomb Raider, Morgan burns through fantasy and sci-fi books, which he chats about on his Twitter account (he has more than two million followers) under the hashtag #bookrevolution. His latest obsession is the first two books in the vampire trilogy by Justin Cronin. Doesn’t he get enough of the undead at work? “I like reading about apocalyptic situations,” he says. “If there are no rules to live by, if everybody has to be guided by their own moral compass, then what decisions do people make and where does that lead them?”

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His own choices seem to point toward breaking out. Though Morgan, 34, has spent much of his career in front of the camera — his breakthrough was in Master and Commander, but he also appeared on plenty of British telly, including Casualty and Doc Martin — he’s eager to produce and direct, too. In the next year, his and his wife’s newly minted production company, Night Owl Productions, will release Revelation, a ten-minute short directed by Morgan, starring White as a woman trapped in a postapocalyptic scenario. Sensing a pattern here?

Morgan will also direct his first episode of The Originals next season. “I want to bring a flair to it,” he says, his eyes beaming. “I definitely have some ideas about being a little creative with some of the shots and the actors — especially collaboration. In any form it comes, that’s the thing I love the most.”

Working twelve-to-sixteen hour days in a collaborative setting is thrilling, but exhausting, Morgan admits. Looking ahead, he says, “I would be reluctant to do another twenty-two-episode-a-year show, because it’s hard work. It’s crazy. It burns you out a little.” But he’ll miss his sympathetic bad-boy character when it’s time to leave him. “I’ve grown awfully fond of Klaus, even if he does fly off the handle all the time. I’ll be sorry to let him go.” Of course, Klaus won’t be gone forever — he’ll always be lurking in the shadows.

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