Born in Covington, LA, Somerhalder was raised by his mother, Edna, a massage therapist, and his father, Robert, a building contractor. He made his modeling debut at 10 years old after signing a three-year contract with the Ford Modeling Agency, mainly in an effort to buy fishing equipment and a bicycle. Consistent modeling work caused the small town Southern boy to spend many summers in New York City. When not posing in front of a camera, Somerhalder enjoyed the usual activities of a boy growing up, including boating, swimming, fishing and training horses. While he also participated in the school drama club and performed with the local theater group, Somerhalder took time off from his modeling career to enjoy school and early adolescence. But he returned to work in his mid-teens, landing extensive print and runway jobs that took him to Europe, while working in campaigns for Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Versace, and Guess. At 17, Somerhalder began studying acting in New York, and only two year later, had committed himself to the craft, working with preeminent acting coach William Esper. His fate was sealed while working as an extra in a club scene in James Toback's feature film "Black & White" (1999), when a talent manager who was visiting the set spotted Somerhalder in a crowd of 400 and immediately signed him for representation.The actor subsequently made his television debut on an episode of the acclaimed sci-fi drama, "Now and Again" (CBS, 1999-2000). The following year, he landed his first role of substance, starring on the teen drama "Young Americans" (The WB, 2000), as the brooding Rawley Academy student, Hamilton, son of the prep school's dean who falls for a teenage girl (Katherine Moenning) posing as a boy, leading him to question his own sexuality. Despite being a spin-off of the popular "Dawson's Creek" (The WB, 1998-2003), the series only survived for eight episodes. After a small role in the bittersweet drama "Life as a House" (2001), Somerhalder was cast as the bisexual Paul Denton in the critical favorite, "Rules of Attraction" (2002), a satirical teen black comedy based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis, in which he famously danced on a bed in his underwear. Next he had a well-received, multi-episode stint on "Smallville" (The WB, 2001-2011), in which he played the mysterious Adam Knight, rival to Clark Kent (Tom Welling) for the affections of Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk). Somerhalder was next cast as a series regular on J.J. Abrams' mystery drama, "Lost" (ABC, 2004-2010), a show which changed his life in more ways than one. The first one cast, Somerhalder played the controlling, but caring Boone Carlyle, a young man saddled with a self-absorbed sister, Shannon Rutherford (Maggie Grace) - actually step-sister, with whom he is in love - and is among the 48 survivors of Oceanic flight 815 stranded on a deserted island that contains incalculable mysteries. The show's increasingly addicted fans were stunned - as was Somerhalder - when Boone met an early demise late in the first season after the fuselage of a small plane he was in fell several dozen feet to the ground, resulting in terminal injuries. Fortunately the mysteries surrounding the island and frequent flashbacks throughout the remainder of "Lost," offered several opportunities for the actor to return in a guest starring capacity, particularly in the show's final season.In the meantime, Somerhalder continued to find work in such projects as the teen horror flick, "Pulse" (2006), a story that focused on the dangers of our wireless society, in which his character hacks into a computer and accidentally channels a mysterious wireless signal which breeds a terrifying evil. Although panned by critics, the cheapie horror flick fared decently at the box office and as a rental. Somerhalder continued to land roles in the feature world, while maintaining high-profile romances with heiress Nikki Hilton, "Lost" co-star Maggie Grace and later actress Ashley Greene. In a more memorable acting performance, he co-starred opposite David Strathairn in the indie drama, "The Sensation of Sight" (2006), prior to taking on the title role as the legendary Venetian explorer in the historical adventure "Marco Polo" (Hallmark Channel, 2007). Casting about for another ongoing endeavor, Somerhalder picked up a recurring role on the short-lived erotic drama "Tell Me You Love Me" (HBO, 2007) - for which he bared all and participated in the program's more graphic sex scenes - and co-starred in the low-budget apocalyptic adventure "Lost City Raiders" (Syfy, 2008), the latter of which had been planned as the first entry of a possible franchise prior to its poor reception.It seemed the role he had been waiting for came Somerhalder's way at last the following year when he was cast as Damon Salvatore, the malevolent vampire brother of Stefan (Paul Wesley) Salvatore on the series, "The Vampire Diaries" (The CW, 2009-17). Based on the best-selling novels by L.J. Smith and developed by teen drama wunderkind Kevin Williamson, the supernatural series co-starred actress Nina Dobrev as the human girl-next-door Elena Gilbert, as well as her doppelganger, the 19th century narcissistic vampire Katherine Pierce. Although initially portrayed as the show's antagonist throughout the first season, gradually, Somerhalder's character took on more sympathetic qualities, especially when it came to Dobrev's Elena, who both brothers became enamored with. Considered a breakout character and a surprise fan favorite - especially among the show's female demographic - Damon proved to be a stronger element in the ongoing love triangle than even the show's producers had anticipated. As proof, after the series won a People's Choice Award for Favorite New TV Drama in its first season, Somerhalder was consistently nominated for the Favorite Actor award in the years that followed.Back on the big screen, Somerhalder picked up a supporting role as a psychotic assassin in the British-made action thriller, "The Tournament" (2009), a violent tale involving the world's deadliest assassins competing for a $1 million dollar prize in a game to the death. Momentarily stepping away from the cameras and red carpets, the ecologically-minded Louisiana native assisted in clean-up efforts in the aftermath of the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the spring of 2010. Many a fan's heart was crushed the following summer, when after months of speculation, Somerhalder and Dobrev acknowledged their ongoing romantic relationship that had begun on the set of "Vampire Dairies" a year earlier. Another personal milestone was reached in the summer of 2012, just prior to the fall elections, when Somerhalder had the chance to push his political agenda by both testifying before congress and attending a summit on green energy and environmental issues with President Barack Obama. Professionally, Somerhalder was potentially poised for another huge breakthrough, as Internet speculation placed his name at the top of the short list of hot young actors to play the titular male lead in the planned film adaptation of the best-selling erotic novel, Fifty Shades of Grey.