Ian Somerhalder Takes on a New Role: Playing a Coral Reef

Ian Somerhalder's next role is as the personification of a coral reef in a short released today by Conservation International as part of a provocative new series, Nature is Speaking. Somerhalder, who is best known for his role as Boone on Lost and most recently as Damon on The Vampire Diaries, joins some of the biggest names in Hollywood for this campaign, including Penélope Cruz, Harrison Ford, Edward Norton, Robert Redford, Julia Roberts, and Kevin Spacey.

In the film, Somerhalder reminds us of the critical role coral reefs play: "Some people think I'm just a rock, when in fact I'm the largest thing alive on this planet. … Do you realize that one quarter of all marine life depends on me? ... I'm the protein factory for the world." The film ends with a stark request, "stop killing me."

"It's a fucking dream come true to be part of this," Somerhalder told Men's Journal while in New York City for the launch of this video. Somerhalder grew up on the Gulf Coast in Louisiana — "I live in the water, that's my jam," he says — and feels a strong connection to the water and its inhabitants. He credits his family with instilling an early understanding of the importance of that environment.

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Somerhalder is no stranger to conservation work. He founded the Ian Somerhalder Foundation in 2010, immediately following the BP oil spill. His latest fundraiser? Donate $10 to ISF for a chance to win an all-expense paid visit to the set of The Vampire Diaries in Atlanta and film a scene with Somerhalder.

"People always ask me why," he says. "Why the foundation? Why the Conservation International film? Why work all week and then spend of your own resources — time, energy, money — and fly to New York to promote the film? For me, it's all the same why: to do whatever I can to change the conversation about conservation for the next generation. So then we won't have to create Nature is Speaking films, because an entire generation of people running the world will already know nature is speaking and they'll just act on it."