The Vampire Diaries' Kat Graham on the Surprising Differences Between Bonnie Bennett and Kat Graham
For a character as relatively low-key and inoffensive as Bonnie Bennett, Mystic Falls' #1 witch sure does inspire passion among The Vampire Diaries fans. Some believe that Bonnie Bennett is nothing less than the best character on TV, a true saint and underappreciated heroine who frequently uses the whole of her powers to help friends in need. But a number of others think Bonnie is the worst, a slightly bland and judgmental presence whose spells often cause as much harm as good. Both sides kind of agree that she hasn't quite gotten the full fleshing-out by the show's writers that other characters have (we didn't even see Bonnie's home until Season 3!), but few can dispute that Kat Graham is doing her best to make Bonnie a key element of the show.
In addition to her day job of pulling off some increasingly tragic storylines (Jeremy cheated on Bonnie with a ghost! Her estranged mom was raising someone else's kid and then got turned into a vampire!), Graham's also got a burgeoning side career as a pop star with the sort of aggressive style and sass that would make Bonnie blush. In anticipation of this week's TVD Season 3 finale (in which it's rumored that Bonnie plays a key role), Graham kindly took a few minutes to provide some A's to some of my most burning Q's!
How's your summer going so far?
Good, good. It's pretty cool. It's good to be on hiatus.
I understand you're pretty busy with your music career—have you gotten to sleep in even once yet?
No. I'm actually doing this interview from my bed. It's my way of pretending I'm sleeping in, but I really know that I'm working. So if I trick myself into thinking I'm resting, then it's okay.
You are hardcore.
Last week's episode hinted that Bonnie might be in for some bad times. What can you tease about that?
Not much. Bonnie is going to be teaming up with somebody—and I can't say who—in the finale, and what Bonnie does in the finale is definitely going to surprise some people.
There were some big implications that dark magic might be entering the equation sooner rather than later. If—hypothetically—Bonnie were to turn dark, would you look forward to showing that different side of her?
You know, I feel that what makes this show great is there being a balance of good and bad. The show can't all be bad and the show can't all be good. There have to be some happy endings. There have to be some endings that don't end so happy. So for me, as long as the balance is kept, the yin and the yang, I think I'm fine. In stories there has to be a hero, there has to be a villain. I'm totally up for all sorts of different shades of Bonnie Bennett, but I'm also interested in maybe preserving the purity that is this character. So I guess I can be swayed either way. I just—I'm all about the yin and the yang.
She's definitely been more of a hero so far, but this show can change people's characters to a dramatic degree. Is there any aspect of Bonnie's personality that you think is just untouchable, that would never change?
I think her loyalty to Elena. I'd be very, very surprised if that changed. I feel like this is a character who has from the very beginning put everything on the line for her best friend who's like her sister. And I can't imagine that not happening. Something huge and catastrophic would have to happen for her to not be loyal to Elena.
In my recaps I tend to make fun of Bonnie sometimes for being really tragic and also for how her friends kind of treat her badly maybe without realizing it. Huge stuff has happened to her, especially this season; she's experienced some terrible things. Do you ever just open a script and be like, "Jeez, Bonnie. Get mad for once!" Do you ever wish she'd get more riled up?
I'm very neutral—I'm Switzerland when it comes to my job. And I try and read it as an audience member first and get the overall picture of what this episode is about. I mean I know what I'd personally tolerate, and me and Bonnie do not have much in common when it comes to what we'd tolerate from our friends.
But it's a character, you know what I mean? And there are people in this world who sometimes do get taken advantage of and they do get the short end of the stick sometimes. And maybe it's important for her development that [the writers] made her that way in Season 3. They made people want her to have something more or better and they wanted her to fight back. Maybe that was leading up into Season 4. So I don't really know which way they're going with it so I can't get— You can never get frustrated as an actor because you really don't know which way they're going to turn it. But I'm really excited that people really want Bonnie to stand up for herself.
I've noticed that out of all the characters, Bonnie's fans are the most likely to get mad at, like, the writers. And I think that shows just how much people are connecting with her. How does it make you feel to have people treating your character like she's an actual living person? Is that flattering, or do you find it a little weird, or—? Does this question even make sense?
When it comes to the fans, the biggest gift I can give them is how I treat them outside of the show. And that's what I really like to focus on: How I can reward them and constantly make them feel valued, and that's where I like to keep my focus. And that's pretty much where I stand and I want to be able to constantly support them the way they support me.
You have a pretty thriving creative life outside of the show. From my perspective, you, Kat Graham, seem a lot more edgy and stylish and confident than the character you play. Do you think that's intentional, like are you intentionally trying to separate yourself a little bit from that persona?
Well, I didn't create Bonnie Bennett. Bonnie McCullough, the original character, was created by L.J. Smith in a series of books. And Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec developed a show around that. And the character was already created, her look, her style, her feel, her tone, her essence was already pretty much created before I stepped in. And all I wanted to do was really enhance the original format of the character. But I, as Kat Graham, I haven't changed. I've still been wearing the same clothes and singing and dancing since before I've been on the show. It's not really intentional, it's just like— It's a character. I hope to do multiple characters throughout my life that are separate from me. I think it's a cop-out if you play yourself in everything.
When you do incantations on the show, are you at the point where you can just improvise them, or are they all scripted out?
They are scripted to a T. I can't miss a word. They're thoroughly written.
I love your video for "Put Your Graffiti On Me." It's so interesting, and that pony-tail part is nuts! I can't even believe that part.
I mean, you are definitely not Bonnie in that video, so I think that was so cool to see.
Thank you. I mean, since I got signed, and doing music and doing all these shows— Which I had been doing before, and even singing with will.i.am before I was even on The Vampire Diaries— But now that I've been signed and really getting a great push and the video getting on MTV and people starting to now pick it up on radio— It's been great because I feel like most people know who this character is. Which I'm so grateful for, I'm so grateful that Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec really gave me a solid platform to really put in a lot of work. I mean, creating this character of Bonnie Bennett and making her believable is a lot of work. And I appreciate that opportunity, but it's also so great that people are, after three seasons, finally getting to know who I am. And it might take some time, because sometimes people only want to see you as this character. Which is actually not offensive to me, it's actually quite flattering that they believe that this character who— I don't write the lines or direct myself, we've got amazing directors and amazing writers and amazing wardrobe department and hair and makeup that work harmoniously together to create the look and feel of Bonnie Bennett— but who they really firmly believe might be more me than me, you know? And might even question, like, "This is wrong," you know? "This isn't Bonnie." [Laughs.] Like, it's a character.
So it's interesting. I'm very flattered that I was able to pull off Bonnie Bennett.
Now that you've had a chance to reflect back on Season 3, is there a particular scene that you are proudest of?
I always go back to Episode 5 ("The Reckoning") written by Michael Narducci. It was the beginning of the season and I just love the way he writes. He's somebody who's very thorough and his style is very fluid and I really love the overall dialogue of all the characters and their motivation, and he is really great at making Bonnie a heroine, and I love that. I love girl power. So I would have to say Episode 5 of this season was actually one of my favorites. And then I think the scene of last season in the episode where I died— It was the '60s dance? I really loved that. So those are kind of my favorites, when Bonnie kind of, I hate to say it, puts her life at risk and it's really the most passionate, compelling side of her. I love playing characters who do that, because I hope to do that in my life and make sacrifices for other people and genuinely be a good person and treat people well. And so in that way, Bonnie really inspires me.
The Vampire Diaries' Season 3 finale airs Thursday, May 10 at 8pm on The CW.
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