Vampires. It gets funnier every time I hear it.
Okay, I borrowed that line from Supernatural's Dean Winchester, but it does make a point. The world is vampire crazy right now, especially thanks to Twilight and True Blood. Why do we need another vampire show? Because when it comes to the blood-sucking creatures, the stories are endless. The Vampire Diaries, a new series on The CW making its debut Thursday at 8 pm, is based on the series of novels by L.J. Smith that came out starting in 1991, long before Twilight or True Blood.
Elena, a 17-year-old high school student, is starting to readjust to life again in Mystic Falls, Virginia after the death or her parents. She is taken with the new kid in town, Stefan Salvatore, and they are instantly drawn to one another. Oh, but he happens to be a vampire. What’s worse is Stefan’s brother Damon has followed him to town and this dude is evil. That sets up an intriguing little war between a good and an evil brother for not only Elena’s soul, but the souls of everyone in town.
"Any great vampire story is at the center an epic, beautiful sweeping love story," said executive producer Julie Plec at this summer’s Comic-Con during a roundtable press session. "Two people who have no reason to be together and yet fit so perfectly with each other."
“It’s so romantic because it is such an unlikely pairing. It’s the ultimate love story,” added executive producer Kevin Williamson, whose previous work includes Dawson’s Creek and Scream. Kevin is also a huge True Blood fan, while Julie is more into Twilight. So, given all those influences, what can we expect from The Vampire Diaries?
“We have in our show what Dawson’s Creek did back in the day when Kevin did that,” said Plec. “It’s a coming of age culture, it’s young love, it’s friendships, loyalty, and trust and it’s set with an ensemble of these teenagers and the town that they live in. The town itself plays very much into the long term mythology of the series. This town has seen vampires before and when the vampires return the town has something to say about it.”
Bob Levy, another executive producer, also sees past influences coming into play. "I think the fact that Kevin is both Dawson's Creek and Scream, this is the perfect marriage of those two kinds of voices. More than anything else it's going to be romantic. It's about overwhelming epic love, but it's also gonna be scary. For it really to be a fun ride, there has to be danger. You have to feel like really bad things can happen. You see in the first four minutes that bad things can happen. It's gonna be really romantic, and hopefully sexy and funny and scary at the same time."
The show has also managed to get on board Marcos Siega (Dexter, Cold Case) as primary director and on-site supervising producer. Levy is impressed with the fit. "What was sort of interesting about Marcos that we discovered while shooting the pilot in Vancouver is he's really a romantic. A closet romantic. Marcos has the heart of a 15-year-old girl pounding in his chest."
Ian Somerhandler, who plays evil brother Damon, is really impressed with the talent behind the show in general. "We're so lucky to have this show … We have this powerhouse of genius minds working around the clock. These guys are working their asses off. So are we."
History dictates though there are issues when adapting from any previous work. This case is no exception. Avid fans of the books are keeping watchful eyes on Kevin Williamson and company to remain true to the story. What type of pressure is that bringing? "We're gonna do our best," said Williamson. "We know the thing with fans of books is they're big fans. They were tearing us apart for casting brunette instead of blonde. We very much would have loved to have found the blonde who was the essence of who Elena was, but this girl (Nina Dobrev) walked into our lives and we couldn't look another way."
“Yeah, they keep dropping little clues,” Plec said about the fan website The Vampire Diaries. Kevin Williamson remembers one complaint in particular. “Where’s Meredith? Lack of budget is where Meredith is.”
Williamson and Plec though, despite some fan criticism, seem to understand the core plight of these characters. Plec especially feels their pain. “The very definition of a vampire is that they’ve been suffering for centuries. They’re the loneliest people on the planet. Some of them revel in it and some of them, like Stefan in our show, try very hard to re-engage with humanity. Damon just shuns it and loves his lifestyle. The pain and suffering of the vampire internally is as profound as any pain and suffering they can put on anybody else.”
When we talked to the three main stars of the show, all three were coasting on fumes. “We had a night shoot last night, wrapped up at 6 am and went straight from the set to the airport and flew here," said Nina Dobrev, who plays Elena. "I haven’t slept since yesterday morning at 8 am. I’m not kidding."
“We just flew in here for the day,” Ian Somerhandler said. “I haven’t slept in two days. I feel like a vampire.” Paul Wesley, who plays Stefan, also played up on the exhaustion. “I’m senile, I don’t know what I’m saying, I could be digging a hole for myself.” Still, our interviews managed to get some coherent thought out of these actors and we came away with a far better sense of who they were both personally and professionally.
Nina (Elena) has earned the title among the cast as road warrior. She earlier this year moved from Canada to Los Angeles before she got the part. “I just moved to the states from Canada in January this past year and my first audition for my first pilot was The Vampire Diaries. It worked out, the way I interpreted it, and it all just came together.” Since then, show went into production outside of Atlanta, so she just moved again.
Previously she played Mia Jones in Degrassi: The Next Generation for three years. Since both take place in high school, how are the characters different, besides the whole dating-a-vampire thing? “Degrassi was more about each episode tackling issues and this one is about each character’s lives, what they go through. And this character specifically is just a girl in high school who had a tragic loss of her parents and is just out of sync and doesn’t know really what she’s gonna do. She meets someone who understands and they have a connection they both really can’t put their finger on and they bond.”
Since her character's soul is being sought by two opposite vampire brothers, does she fancy good or evil? “I think that every girl wants to find Mr. Right, and Stefan would be that Mr. Right because he really cares about her and they have the love and affection, but at the same time depending on what phase you’re at in your life every girl likes the bad boy and likes the boy you’re just going to have fun with and throw away.”
But Stefan's still the man, right? “I think she has higher moral standards than that. Maybe she’ll get confused at some point." What about life with her new hunky co-stars? Does she get along with them? “I love them both, they’re like my brothers. They’re older than I am and I just moved here. They both came with me to buy my first car three days ago and little things like that. They’ve been really helping me out a lot."
So, what car did she buy? “An Audi sports car convertible.”
Despite all this attention and success though, Nina never forgets she’s still just a down to earth person and even got to show her inner fan girl at Comic-Con. “I watch True Blood religiously. I think it’s a great show and I turned into a big nerdy fan today when I saw them. It was kind of embarrassing. I was on the panel signing autographs and they were up above. I was waving and they were kind of like ‘Why is the girl signing autographs waving at us?’”
For those of us who were actually watching Lost from the beginning, turning on this show will bring a huge “Hey, it’s that guy!” (HITG) moment. Ian played the doomed Boone, who ended up getting a way too early initiation into the dead pool. Ian looks forward to taking on a character that will actually have a chance to develop. In this case, playing an evil character like Damon is even better.
“Bad is respected. That’s what’s so great about it. It’s fun not having to take yourself so seriously. On Lost, Boone, I mean poor guy bless his heart, he never really had time to grow as a character unfortunately. This guy (Damon), he controls life, life doesn’t control him except for the fact that it does stop him sometimes and makes him work a little harder. But Damon has an immense amount of power.”
Still, what drives such a baddie, especially with a good brother? “I promised my brother I’m going to make his life miserable for eternity so Damon literally feels as if he’s just keeping a promise. When someone really believes in what’s they’re doing, that’s what’s so great about bad guys, that’s why we like bad guys because they’re fun, and they do what they want and that’s why they do what they do.”
“We’re attracted to power, we’re attracted to confidence, we’re attracted to someone who knows what they want and how to get it. And this guy is the epitome of that.”
Can his character be killed? “The stake through the heart, a silver bullet, I don’t think any of those work on these guys except when you take off your ring and walk in the sun, you’re toast. Garlic, no, we love garlic. These guys heal immediately. You can’t drop the guy out of an airplane, you can’t throw him off a building, you can’t cut his head off.”
What does he think about living in Atlanta now? “I’m actually very thankful that we’re shooting in a place that’s not a big city like Los Angeles or New York. Atlanta, don’t get me wrong, is a huge city, but you can be very isolated there. I can spend a lot of time in the country. I can also fly home to be with my family all the time. I can go fishing in the Florida Keys. I can just disappear and it’s quick.”
Anything he wants to see his character do in the future? “We have these lapis stone rings that allow us to go into the sun. Damon likes going to the Virgin Islands (laughter). Why not? I’m going to pitch that to Kevin.”
Paul has been the journeyman actor for a while, and will also likely get some HITG! responses. He got his start in soap operas Another World and Guiding Light. Since then he's had roles in such series as Wolf Lake, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, The O.C., Everwood, CSI: Miami, American Dreams, CSI: NY, Cane, Shark, Army Wives, and 24.
I personally remember Paul as Lucas Luthor in Smallville. But wait, wasn't that character evil? “I’ve been acting for ten years and I for some reason always gravitate toward the bad guy, always play the bad guy so, playing the guy who is more inherently good is a nice change.”
Still, playing a vampire, it sounds like there's plenty of issues he needs to convey. “I don’t want to be a vampire. I have no interest in doing this, I hate being a vampire. I was turned into a vampire against my will, we both were. I hate it, I feed on animals, I don’t want to kill people, I of course am tempted, but I’m still a human, and human entity. And then when I meet Elena, it’s like escapism. I just want to pretend I’m like this guy who’s 18 years old who’s in love with this girl and I’m just a high school kid. I’m living a fake life and then Damon shows up and goes ‘Whoa, wait a minute, what are you doing?’ and then he wreaks havoc.”
But is Stefan as innocent as he looks? “He’s a good guy if you were to compare him to Ian Somerhandler’s character but he’s still a vampire. He’s not a church-goer. He wants to suck on human blood, he’s constantly tempted so I think that bad boy that we’re talking about is inherent and I think it’s a necessary component. Maybe that’s why I got the part because that same sense of danger needs to be there. He’s not a goody two shoes.”
How confident is he about his character’s indestructibility? “We were joking around with Kevin, ‘Don’t piss off Kevin or he’ll kill you.’ I was like ‘you can’t kill me, I’m a vampire’ and he’s ‘what are you talking about, you fall on a wood stake, you’re done.’”
Now that he's had time to get a good grasp on Stefan, does he have anything in common with his character? “I also don’t want to be a vampire.”
I guess we all can share that sentiment. We do love watching them though. Check out the premiere of The Vampire Diaries on The CW Thursday at 8 pm.