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"Places call you," says the 28-year-old actor. "Usually the Virgin Islands call people. China was calling me."
Which is why Somerhalder, not seen on TV since his fateful end in the first season of "Lost," took the role of the most famous Westerner to travel the Silk Road in the Hallmark Channel's "Marco Polo," airing 8 p.m. Saturday.
The three-hour movie about the 13th century Venetian trader's odyssey through Asia is loosely based on the explorer's celebrated chronicles, "The Travels of Marco Polo."
In the film, Somerhalder plays the young, wide-eyed adventurer who accompanies two priests on a mission to convert Mongol conqueror Kublai Khan (played by Brian Dennehy) to Christianity. But the priests turn back during the journey, unconvinced that China even exists.Eventually, Polo forges ahead through treacherous mountains and blinding desert blizzards to reach the fabled land where he is accepted as a confidant in Khan's court, discovering, among many things, the delicacies of ice cream and pasta, as well as the advantages of paper currency and a postal system.