THE VAMPIRE DIARIES has been a bloody big success for the CW. A tale of the romantic triangle that arises between Mystic Falls, VA high school student Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) and Civil War-vintage vampire brothers Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) and Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder) has earned high ratings and a devoted fan following in its first season, winning it renewal for another year.
Executive producer Julie Plec, who with Kevin Williamson developed the series based on the novels by L.J. Smith, talks to us about the unhallowed ground DIARIES has covered so far and where it’s heading in Season Two.
iF: When 25 vampires arose from their confinement beneath the church a few episodes back, did you consciously decide against making that an effects-a-palooza?
JULIE PLEC: [There were] multiple reasons. One, it doesn’t look good, because we can’t afford it. But two, less is more, as far as what we show. Kevin [Williamson] referenced a movie called THE DESCENT, which I actually haven’t seen, but it’s literally [someone] with a glow stick, can see two feet in front, [nothing] behind. Once we finally got down to that tomb and all those vampires are there laying dormant and near death for the last hundred and forty-five years, it’s very deliberately dark and creepy and glimpses of this and hints of that, so that it doesn’t suddenly turn into NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. It doesn’t look that good on television when you do it, and two, it takes away some of the mystery of what’s really going on.
iF: Are you on the books’ timetable as far as introducing other creatures besides vampires, or is the TV series on its own timetable?
PLEC: Well, [there was an] episode that kind of gave a hint about the Tyler Lockwood [Michael Trevino] character. Somebody said, “Why are you such a jerk, why are you the way you are?” and he says, “I don’t know,” and we pan up to the full moon. Anybody who’s read the books knows that his character in the books is a werewolf and one of the choices that we’ve made is, we are going to go down that road, we’re going to explore that, but before we write a word for it, we [will] have met with our visual effects team and our concept design team to make sure that we know exactly what it is we want to do, because we’ve come to learn on CURSED, the werewolf is the worst thing to design and make look good, especially on a TV budget, so we’re going to make sure we do it right. We’re going to think a little bit outside the box, we’re going to figure out how we can design it so that we can make the effects look good, what parts are going to be prosthetic, what parts are going to be makeup effects and what’s going to be CG, and only then when we feel good about it will we start talking about stories.
iF: You currently have vampires and witches and ghosts, and you’ll have werewolves – are there any other entities that may visit Mystic Falls?
PLEC: There are going to be hints of other supernatural elements in the town. It’ll be a slow burn. Right now, the vampires and the witches are the true centerpiece of the show. Werewolves will come down the line. But we won’t just stop there – there will occasionally, not every week but occasionally, be other demonic elements and the like.
iF: Have we learned everything we’re going to learn about vampire lore in this universe?
PLEC: No. I think it’s possible that there’s a lot that Stefan has no idea that he’s capable of or that even vampires, as mythological entities, can do. We’ve already seen that Damon has more abilities than Stefan, but I think there are things that Damon doesn’t know he can do yet. And once we get the show established and the relationships really strong, I think standing on the vampire mythology and what the vampires are capable of will be a lot of what we mine in the upcoming season.
iF: Will we ever see Damon stop being a dangerous jerk for an extended period of time?
PLEC: Damon’s an assh*le, and it’s going to be very difficult for anybody to love him, and yet, I think when you deal with people who are that conflicted and that messed up, when you start to sense that there is a nugget of some sort of redeemable soul in there somewhere, something that makes you understand that maybe their heart isn’t beating, but they have a proverbial heart, it’ll draw Elena towards him in fascination. She’s been through a lot of loss, a lot of grief, she’s had a dark time herself. There will be things that will come up for the two of them, but certainly she’s not going to be joining Team Damon any time soon, because he’s still too irresponsible and too much of a screw-up for her to fall for.
iF: If VAMPIRE DIARIES has an extremely long run, like, say, its CW network-mate SMALLVILLE, have you given any thought to how you’ll handle it when your actors who play vampires start looking a little older than they do at present?
PLEC: Ignore it. Well, I don’t know. We’ll see how they look. We’ll see how well they age [laughs]. I think that’s a little bit of movie magic that you ask the fans to just go along with it.
iF: Going forward, what are your hopes for THE VAMPIRE DIARIES?
PLEC: What I hope for VAMPIRE DIARIES is, we’ve got this incredible, incredible group of really passionate and supportive, diehard fans and I hope that other people can come in and test it out and not feel like they’ve missed the boat. We hope to be here for a really long time and it would be a shame to have someone not tune in because they feel like they’ve already missed it. And we’re going to keep starting new stories, telling new stories, and really it’s all grounded and rooted in love, so that’s always something you can dive right into.