The Season 2 finale of The Vampire Diaries left viewers with A LOT to chew on over the summer (get it, because monsters chew things), but this week we'll FINALLY learn what's become of Ripper Stefan, Low Self-Esteem Bonnie, and especially the pair of dead-girlfriend ghosts currently following Jeremy around. Yesterday, TVD boss lady and all-around boss lady Julie Plec took a few minutes out of her busy Season 3 schedule to share some insight on how The Vampire Diaries came to be the addictive hit we know and love that I may or may not occasionally poke fun at.
TV.com: Does it even feel like it's Season 3, or does it feel more like Season 10 or 11, what with all the plotlines and characters you've cycled through so far?
Julie Plec: You know, it's funny, it actually just feels more like it's still just the continuation of Season 1 in that I don't think we've ever stopped. And while it feels like I've been doing this for the entirety of my natural born life, I also feel like, in a weird way, we're just getting started.
The characters and even the tone of the show have evolved a lot over two seasons. When did you really know what you wanted The Vampire Diaries to be? Was there any one moment when it just clicked for you?
Yes, there are actually two moments where it clicked for me, and interestingly enough they're not actually the same moments that the critics and the fans might agree with. Early on, [co-creator] Kevin Williamson and I got this job very late in the game and we wrote it right away, and then the pilot got picked up right away, and then we shot the pilot right away, and then suddenly we were shooting a series. And we never really had time to sit down and say, "Hey, how are we going to do this?" And so for the first couple episodes I was just like, "All right, we know we've got to set the key relationship in motion," and unfortunately that's the stuff that feels kind of Twilight-y. But you've got to do it, you've got to set the stage.
But then there was one moment when we were writing the third episode [the football episode, "Friday Night Bites"] where Kevin called me and he basically pitched to me the Damon-Stefan storyline where Stefan's upset with Damon about abusing Caroline and using her as a puppet, and Damon says, "They're whatever I want them to be. They are puppets," and then he kills Coach Tanner, and we're sitting here thinking, God, this guy is such a dick! Like, he's such a dick, such a bad guy. But then at the very end of the show, there he is, standing over Elena's bed watching her sleep. And when Kevin pitched that to me, I felt like a tug in my chest, like, oh my God, this is important. This is important. This triangle—the duality of this character, the relationship between these brothers, what each one stands for and how it's all going to center around this girl—is so important.
So that was kind of Minute One for me personally. And then the other was—this is in my opinion when the show started, although I think people would say it started even later—when Elena puts all the pieces together at the end of the fifth episode, the car wash episode, and shows up at Stefan's door and just says "What are you?" And calls him on it! Five episodes into the whole series. And then at the top of the next episode we replay it all over again and he opens the door and instead of Elena standing there, it's a flashback to Katherine. In that two minutes of screentime spread across two episodes, that's when I think Kevin and I felt, "We're going. We are not going to stop. We know what this is, we know how this is going to work, and the train has just left the station."
So basically it's when Elena stopped being a dunce?
Yeah, when your heroine sort of says, "Hey wait a second, I'm not going to just sit in the dark, I'm going to go after the truth." And when the truth opens the door to the past. You know, that's just such a fun way to tell the story. And it really clicked for us in that moment that we can keep doing this and make it interesting and make it dynamic.
Have your interactions with the real-life actors ever influenced what happened to a character later on in the show? I think you've mentioned that ghost girlfriends were due in part to how much you've enjoyed the actresses personally. Are there characters you thought you'd kill off but you liked the actors too much? How does one thing influence the other?
It actually influences it quite a lot and yet sometimes, painfully, not at all. Sara Canning as Aunt Jenna being the perfect example. There is not a more gifted, wonderful, professional, fantastic young woman on this planet than Sara Canning, but Aunt Jenna had to go. But on the reverse, I would say the same thing about Kayla Ewell being one of the loveliest human beings you've ever met, and though there's probably 70 percent of the audience that barely remembers Vicki Donovan, she as a human being made such a mark on us that we couldn't wait to bring her back. Daniel Gillies is a great example of somebody coming in and being such a tremendous actor in a role that was just kind of meant to be a henchman originally. And he was so good and so juicy that the whole picture of that character immediately evaporated and we created this life for him, his brother connection to Klaus, and suddenly Elijah's become one of the most important characters in the canon of the show.
Did you know how awesome Katherine would end up being? At first it seemed like she was going to be a Big Bad, but now it seems like she's maybe just more of a regular character. Was that an intentional decision?
Yes. That has a lot to do with the basic mechanics of the same actress playing two parts. As juicy and delicious as Katherine is as a villain and vixen in our series, it takes a lot out of Nina [Dobrev]. It takes a lot out on our production. It's very hard to do. So the simple logistics of executing it are really, really complicated and so we have to pick and choose our moments when she can be present like a Big Bad or, like, a romantic love interest. We just have to be really careful.
Are any of these kids going to graduate high school? It seems like they're all pretty truant.
Yeah, I know. [Laughs.] Well, they've got a history teacher in their pocket who can help them out.
Alaric's gonna fake their transcripts for them!
I think that one of the things we like about the show is that while these are teenagers and it's set in a high school world, high school is only part of their world. It is not defining their day-to-day lives, you know? And we do a lot of episodes that, in our minds, take place on the weekends! [Laughs.]
This year, however, they'll be in school more. Like, we get about five or six episodes deep into the season, they're going to go back to school for the new year and they're seniors, a lot of them. And so there's going to be a lot more a sense of their education and their social lives as it relates to this great rite of passage in a teenager's life, which is, you know, being a senior in high school. But, of course, in Mystic Falls great rites of passages always get ruined by the supernatural.
Are there enough living people left in Mystic Falls to justify even having a high school? Do these characters have classmates anymore?
We have Dana, of course [Laughs.]—
We have Not Now Dana, and we have some other random occasional faces. Yes, the town's small, but it is not so small that a teenager can't go missing for a little while. A missing teenager wouldn't kick up a fuss.
So national authorities haven't yet noticed the town's death rate?
We always talk about the "FBI Episode" when the FBI shows up in town and is like, 'Um, you do realize that you have a higher death rate than all of Northern California?' But look, I think that the timeline of the show is very specific. There's a lot that's going on under the noses of the authority figures. And there's an element to that that's both ridiculous and fun. I remember that Buffy episode when the students finally, like five seasons in, gave her the award for being the class protector. And what they said was, "It might seem like we don't notice these things, but there's some pretty weird stuff that happens in this town!" And I remember thinking, "It's Season 5!" But yeah, it's a fine line.
Now, I don't mean to be THAT GUY, but The Vampire Diaries is kind of one of the gayest shows on television that doesn't actually have a gay character. Like, where are the gay characters, Julie Plec? What's going on?
Well, you know, as Kevin said very clearly early on, "This show is really gay." [Laughs.] It is beautifully, delightfully, wonderfully gay.
There was a Gone With the Wind episode!
Yeah, right? Like, we could've just put Damon in a hoop skirt and called it a day. No, I mean, look. There's always going to be a plan to have a characters of other sexualities, all that. We're not going out of our way to not have characters like that. But we've got a core group of characters that take a lot of time to tell their stories.
Okay, so for now it's just kind of enough to inspire millions of chapters of slash-fic? Is that the gay contribution?
For the moment! By the way, the other day I was watching a scene in an upcoming episode between Matt and Jeremy, and I called the editor, and I was like, "Are they in love? What is going on?" It is the most Ho Yay, homoerotic love story, accidentally being told between Jeremy and Matt right now. It's so funny. But you know, you've got these beautiful boys and they're acting their hearts out...
But we do thematically, of course, tell a lot of those stories. Tyler's story is a coming out story. Thematically, that's very much a part of Kevin's life and it's very much a part of the way he tells stories. He's just giving it the werewolf point of view.
I know you're not really involved with The Secret Circle, but its premiere is kind of like the arrival of Cousin Maddy in Twin Peaks in that it's very, very similar to The Vampire Diaries. How do you feel about having a sort of doppelganger out there?
You want the show to succeed because it's built in the appreciation of The Vampire Diaries, you know? So you're sort of saying, You guys have just done a really nice thing by looking to us as a template for your storytelling, and so we really, really want you to do really, really well to affirm that we're doing a good job over here too. And of course it's Kevin's show too so we support that beyond all.
Do you foresee a hazing situation where the crews are T.P.ing each others' sets?
Oh, if they were in Atlanta we'd at least have a softball league or maybe do some serious pranking. Unfortunately they're in Vancouver, so we're pretty separated.
The Vampire Diaries Season 3 premieres Thursday, September 15 at 8pm on The CW.