On The CW’s smash-hit series The Vampire Diaries, which kicks off its fourth season on October 11, Kat Graham plays no-nonsense, super-powerful witch Bonnie Bennett. But when she’s not filming the show, she’s busy working on her album—her EP Against the Wall is currently available on iTunes. At a recent Samsung Galaxy S III event in Chicago, the actress/musician talked up her friendship with Patricia Field and why she adores No Doubt’s stylish frontwoman Gwen Stefani.
Lucky: You and your Vampire Diaries castmates are famous for being friends both on- and off-set. What’s it like being part of that group? Any funny stories you can share?
Kat Graham: There are lots of funny pranks. We’re very close—I don’t know if we could have found a better group of people that have such similar personalities and senses of humor. We’re pretty funny. Nina [Dobrev] always pranks me a lot, ’cause she knows how gullible I am. Ian [Somerhalder] always screams "Boo!" at me. He and Nina will jump out of something and scare the bejesus out of me.
What’s the style scene like in Atlanta, where you guys film the series? Have you discovered any amazing local boutiques or hangouts in your off-duty time?
If you really like boat shoes, khakis, bright polos and maybe a nice comb-over, Atlanta’s where you need to go. You don’t go to Atlanta for the fashion, you go there for the grits. I’m very big into the drag scene—I will always find a good gay bar, since that’s the closest to the New York underground that you’ll get here. Lennox Mall is kind of like the Beverly Center of Atlanta, but I don’t really shop while we’re here…my outfit for tonight actually had to be shipped from L.A.!
Your character Bonnie is able to resurrect the dead. If you—Kat, not Bonnie—could bring back any five pop cultural or historical figures for a fantasy dinner (or dance!) party, who would they be and why?
Michael Jackson, James Brown, Elvis, Princess Diana (’cause I know she probably had some groove), Gregory Hines and—can I get one more?—Aaliyah.
Speaking of dancing…in addition to acting and singing, you’re quite the accomplished dancer. What was it like doing backup for the likes of Missy Elliott and Pharrell earlier in your career, and what’s your favorite thing about dancing in general? Do you have a signature go-to move?
I loved traveling and getting close to different artists that I would have never been able to ordinarily…to see what they did in that capacity, with music videos and performances. It was a great thing for me to see before I became an artist myself. The worst part was that when you’re a backup dancer, you’re treated like a backup dancer—you are not even an extra, but a backup-backup. That is very humbling and stays with you for the rest of your life. As for my go-to move—well, I’m very silly. I’m not going to be fully doing choreography in the club! Just dropping it to the floor, just surprising people. Out of nowhere, I’ll just drop it to the floor, and then walk away like it never happened…
Let’s talk music. Who are some of your own major musical influences?
Definitely Pharrell, and Cee-Lo and ’90s Madonna. A lot of strong women…Fiona Apple, people like that.
If you could perform onstage with any other music artist, who would you choose—and why?
I would love to do my song "Put Your Graffiti On Me" with Gwen Stefani. I think that sonically we have similar tonality, and the song sounds like something that she would sing. I’ve met her twice, but I don’t think she remembers meeting me. I met her in Japan once, and then I stalked her at an Elton John party. The third time will be the charm. The first time I met Charlize Theron, which was during an MTV interview, she literally squeezed my ass! I think that we had a memorable first encounter. So maybe I’ll just do the same to Gwen…and then she’ll remember me.
Give us a taste of your late-summer playlist. What are you listening to and loving right now?
I have been listening to N.E.R.D. nonstop, lots of Kid Cudi, Frank Ocean, Gorillaz…that kind of music. Codi Chesnutt and The Roots, The Pharcyde. Of course, when I’m going out, I put on the RuPaul Pandora station and it’s a wrap!
You’re completely fearless when it comes to fashion. How would you describe your style, and how does it differ from Bonnie’s?
I would say it’s ’90s couture: edgy, futuristic, clean. Bonnie is very hippie: Free People, loafers, American Eagle, simple, cute, plain Jane. I wear spikes, and bustiers, and harem pants and platform wedges!
Who is your ultimate fashion muse?
What are your favorite designers at the moment?
I’m really into Balmain and Alexander Wang. I’m really into Isabel Marant and Marchesa, and I’m really loving Tommy Hilfiger’s new fall collection—all those jackets! I’m loving military and kilts…kind of vintage McQueen.
Where are some of your favorite places to shop?
Patricia Field is one of my closest friends, so I definitely go to her store every time I’m in New York. She’s got all the designers that I really, really love to wear. She’s just incredible and she gets it.
What are you most looking forward to buying for fall?
I’m really excited to wear a lot of layers. Gareth Pugh showed some amazing leather leggings worn with cool kilts and military jackets. I think that that could be really cool to try. I have all my dancers wearing kilts for our shows!
Can you remember a time you took a fashion risk and regretted it afterwards?
I never regret a fashion risk…because at that time, at that moment, that was exactly what I wanted to wear. I think if I dressed like everyone else, people wouldn’t be as interested in my style. It’s kind of like a give-and-take, where you can end up on the weeklies’ "fashion police" page or their best-dressed list. You can’t worry about it. There have been moments where I’ve thought that things could have been fitted a little better, but other than that I don’t feel like I’ve had any serious regrets. I’m sure everyone has their opinion…but what the hell do I care?
Finally—and c’mon, you knew this was coming—are you Team Damon or Team Stefan?
Team Bonnie, baby!
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