FROM THE SET: INTERVIEW: Julie Plec (Creator/Executive Producer) of The Vampire Diaries

January 27th, 2011 by

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Tonight’s the night! The Vampire Diaries is back on television and I’m ridiculously excited for it. From the promos, “The Descent” looks like there will be some vampire/werewolf clashes and I can’t wait. When I visited the set in Atlanta, I was thrilled to be able to catch up with the lovely Julie Plec, one of the executive producers of the show. If there’s anyone that knows about navigating the twists and turns every week in Mystic Falls, it’s her. Julie talked about the ever expanding mythology of the show, the role reversal between Damon and Stefan, Klaus, future flashbacks and so much more. She even told us that there will be a game-changer moment this season.

This season has been so heavily based in mythology. So have you managed to balance all the mythology and history but still keeping it very character based so people are still engaged with the characters we started watching?
One of the things that we had to do was make the mythology as personal as we could and in the beginning it was just sort of folklore legend. The sun and the moon curse didn’t really have a lot of impact on our heroes. It was more just informative but it had a direct, direct and very profound say in how Tyler’s journey was going to work itself out. But then once it became personalized to Elena and Katherine’s back story and how Elena realized she was at the center of this curse, now suddenly it’s a very human story of a girl trying to balance how do I keep safe and protect the people that I love. Is the right thing to do here to be a martyr? Is the right thing to do sacrifice myself so that they can be okay? I have all these people in my life who are so willing to die for me, can I do the same for them? And so it takes a lot of love, friendship, loyalty, all that kind of stuff. We just wrote an episode that starts shooting today where Nina [Dobrev] texted me after she read it and said “It’s so great in this episode because there’s so much wonderful relationship stuff and so much good, deep character stuff.” And we haven’t gotten to do that as much in the last few because everything’s been so “Get the blah and the blah and the thing and run for our lives.” And this episode which is episode 14 which will air I think in the first week of February is very rich in that stuff. And it felt like such a relief to get back there, to really explore relationships and romance. But yeah, it’s hard.

It seems like there’s a lot more that we keep learning to the Mystic Falls mythology every week. Is there a lot more that hasn’t even been touched upon yet — that we don’t even know?
Yes. There’s always going to be sort of extra skeletons buried literal and figurative. It’s got a lot of history. It’s got a lot of bloodshed. One of the things that drew Kevin [Williamson] and me to this project when we first read the books was when all the civil war soldiers rose up from their graves and fought back against Klaus. You realize that Mystic Falls is special because there’s been so much loss of life and so much bloodshed, that it’s almost a stop on the supernatural map. But it’s got its own supernatural identity as a result of that. And when we got to that part of the books, we were like “Wait a minute, this has nothing to do with “Twilight” anymore.” It’s got splashes of Sunnydale. It’s got splashes of big, epic historical mythology and that’s when we got excited and realized we could build a series. So Mystic Falls will always have something to offer when it comes to that. And even so, we’re planning our next flashback episode, which will be episode 15 hopefully. It’s not written yet. We’ll go back to 1864 and learn some new things.

A lot of the fans are curious if we will ever see Damon and Bonnie together. Is that something you are considering?
That’s a relationship that’s really important to book fans and they make that importance very clear to us in fan feedback. I think what we have with them right now is to go from two people who have absolutely no respect, admiration or love for each other whatsoever and watching them as they — because they share a common goal, and they share common loves — come together and are willing to put their differences aside and work together. So this year, it’s very much about taking Bonnie from her own team separated from what Damon’s up to and bringing the two of them together so that’s what we can promise for now. In the future, you never know.

At the beginning of the season, we saw a darker side of Stefan and a lighter side of Damon when he began to show these emotions. Are they going to continue to go in that opposite direction and role reversal?
Always. I think to me, that’s the series. The series is you’ve got these two brothers who were human once and who were best friends, but were different, very different. But who went through a very traumatic life change in which one threatens an eternity of misery over the other but in 145 years have cyclically found each other again and have fought and hated and loved and to me, the power of the brotherhood between these two in times when they are living their lives the same, making the same heroic choices or at times when they’re at opposite ends of the fight, really that’s for me, the weight of the show. All of the other stuff that obviously works well too, but I just love this idea of the two brothers who whether at odds or as partners are going to take us all the way to the end.

And I thought one of the most heartbreaking scenes was when Damon compelled Elena and admitted his love for her. What we can we expect with Damon’s humanity? What can we expect from the Damon and Elena relationship evolving?
The big problem with Damon is that when he feels too much, he doesn’t want to feel anything at all. And the miracle of Damon this year has been after coming out of the gates in the first episode really really acting out very badly and lashing out with his pain and his rejection and 145 years of grief, he’s done a lot to not let himself lose control like that again. And it’s because of the intensity of his growing feelings for Elena. But as he said to her in that episode “I don’t deserve you…yet.” It’s funny because yet was implied. Because the truth is right now, here’s where I get shot, he doesn’t. Yet. So their relationship in my opinion is all about the yet. And the when. Because when he deserves her, which he’s working very hard to do, then there’s a conversation to be had about what the two of them could be together.

Have you ever thought about doing any flashbacks with Elena and her parents pre-Stefan entering her world?
Yeah, you know it’s something that emotionally we’ve always wanted to do because it would be really nice to see. Because people love Elena and they love her history and her relationship with Matt and her friendships with these girls before her whole life changed. Emotionally it would be really amazing to show that. We just have to find the time when we also can learn something new, because otherwise it’s just a little trip down memory lane and might not merit its own storyline yet. But if we could find the thing that changes everything as a result of that journey, then I think it would be so — I would love to see Elena and Matt coming out of cheerleading and football practice, heading to The Grill. I just think it would be adorable. So yeah, that’s a wish list of maybe. We’ve got a long wish list of maybe.

Is there hope that Isobel might be coming back?
Well the good thing about Isobel is that she has a lot of information and she will continue to be very useful for that information. And a big question of where she is right now and what she’s doing and who’s side she’s on and that whole question — those questions start to get asked very soon.

We started this season with Stefan drinking Elena’s blood. Is that going to come back to haunt him or haunt them as he drinks more human blood?
Not at the moment. I think that in its own way, it was a smart choice. He’s come to terms with all his demons from last year and all the guilt that lead him down that road and Stefan’s issues with blood were psychological and emotional. And drinking small tiny amounts every day with the trust and the commitment of your one true love to build up the strength so that you never have to worry about becoming that guy, I think we want to see if we can deliver on that. However, a complication to that is of course now that we’ve learned that originals can compel vampires. With Elijah in town, so willing to rip off Elena’s necklace, and chuck it aside, she should be sipping on that vervain be now. She should have been sipping on that vervain by episode two. So I think that he might have to stick with the Capri Sun blood bags for a while.

And everyone’s dying to know about the Klaus casting. Matt Davis [who plays Alaric] offered up Justin Bieber and Samuel L. Jackson.
The boys – Matt [Davis], Paul [Wesley] and Ian [Somerhalder] have a joke. They are like whoever this Klaus is – he’s in for it. He’s in for a world of it. They walk around and start going (in German accent) “Hello, my name is Klaus.” They’ve made it such a fun little game in their heads. You know, we just started casting. We have that big list of names of course that we look at and sort of dream about or dismiss. And then we’ve got our secret desire to discover somebody new. But in not a lot of time and it will be very interesting to see who we end up with. We just started so I don’t even have like a “Oooh we found this great guy and we can’t wait.”

Does he come on soon after the show returns?
We actually haven’t set when he’s starting yet. All we know is that we will need him and a lot of it’s going to depend on when we literally meet him and find the right guy. So I say by saying guy I’m debunking Candice’s spoiler that Klaus will be a 12 year old girl. Or Justin Bieber.

Are we going to see more of Katherine and the Petrovas and Bulgaria and 1492?
You know, I don’t know. I do think that there’s a chance that before the year is over we will go back further in time again. When and where I don’t know, but we do sort of in our heads have 2 more flashbacks. We may not get there, but we do like them.

They’re great. I love them.
We’re always like everybody must be so bored by this but we love them so much so we’re going to keep doing them.

Have you thought about – I know in the first episode, all the ominous black crows have not really come up again and neither have the diary entries. Is that something you sort of worked out as it played and decided you didn’t like it?
One of the things that we did in the first episode, in the pilot, was directly from the books although we modified it a bit was their ability to control the fog. And in the books, Damon was actually the crow. In our world, he was mind controlling the crow. And we just thought you know what? If we are starting there and they can do all this now, where the hell are we going to go? It felt bigger in genre than what we wanted to do with our boys and with our vampires. It just felt a little comic book-y. So while there were a lot of people who really enjoyed it, there were the same amount of people who thought it was cheesy, so we feel like “Alright, what Klaus might be capable of?” Homeboy can roll in there and cause a lightening storm for all we know. And then the journals, the power of a journal is when you are lost and alone and you feel like you have no one to talk to. You have your journal. Or as Ian said, your dog or your cat or your plant or your compellable soul mate. But once Elena and Stefan found each other and they had their no secrets policy, they don’t need to tell their journals anything anymore because they have each other. So what we’ve had fun with is how to integrate the concept of journals to the rest of the world. We brought Alaric typing on his computer in that one episode, or from the old Jonathan Gilbert journal that set off the mythology of the vampire device and that kind of stuff. And we still haven’t laid our hands around a Lockwood journal. And there might come a time when Elena has no one to talk to and needs to go back to that journal. But right now, she’s got lots of people to confide in. Plus when Jeremy found it, you want to be like “Maybe it’s time to stop writing down everything that happens to you.”

Are we going to see more about Bonnie and her family’s history?
Yeah, that’s a source we haven’t even tapped yet. I don’t know if it will be this year, we’ve talked about it. Certainly it will happen in the life of her character, because it’s very enigmatic when in episode three of last year when she and Stefan sit down and meet each other and she says “No mom. I live with my dad.” Alright, well what’s that story? No mom? What do you mean no mom? You have a mom. Who is she? Where is she? Why don’t you like to talk about her? Why haven’t we met your dad? Why do you seem to not a relationship with your dad? Why did your dad hate your grams? And if witches run in the family, was your mom a witch? There’s so much great questions and really it’s just a matter of time before we answer them.

The end of last season was such a huge game changer with Caroline turning into a vampire, which was amazing. So while I know you won’t tell me what it would be, are we going to see a huge game changer like that coming up?
Yes.

I’m not trying to get it out of you, obviously.
Honestly, we try not to do it just to do it. With Caroline, it was a very strategic choice. We really wanted to mine that actress and that character for all that she is worth. And it’s paid off for us in spades, crazily. We’re really proud of it, we’re really proud of her. And to each their own, if someone doesn’t like it.

There are such great scenes with her and Stefan.
When he says you remind me of my best friend, Lexi — I just got a little heart tug. And just watching her. The idea that the control freak in life can actually be a very successful controlled vampire. I just love that. That that was her life characteristic that magnified that actually makes her able to be functional. And watching her deal with that, I love that. For sure, we have all kinds of stuff plotted out for the finale that even if half of it ends up in there. We have a laundry list.

Do you have a series plan? An ending that you are figuring out how to get to? Not that I want to think about it ending…
Yes. We don’t have a time line. We have a moment. We have the moment that we want to get to when the series is over. Whether hopefully we’ll be in the situation where they say “Hey you guys have done a great job, you’ve run 900 years and now we’re calling this the last season, so plan…” And hopefully it won’t be the “Oh by the way you’re canceled and you already just filmed your last episode.” That would be horrible. But we have a moment.

Be sure to tune in tonight at 8 pm to the CW for an all new episode of The Vampire Diaries!

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