This week’s “Vampire Diaries” was arguably my favorite episode ever, largely because it shifted the focus away from the breakneck-speed plot twists and allowed the characters to pause and experience the emotional ramifications of the last few years. It marked the end of an era for the show, as we lost Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) and saw Elena (Nina Dobrev) turn into a version of herself we’ve never seen before. As a final hit, she burned down her family home with her brother’s body inside of it — as well as the family photos, journals, and even clothes that represented her childhood.
Naturally, there are a lot of lingering questions as the show enters a brief hiatus. I dried my tears long enough today to jump on the phone with executive producer Julie Plec, and discuss some of the decisions the writers have made and the new direction Elena will be taking when “TVD” returns.
That was very mean. How emotionally taxing is it for you to write an episode like “Stand By Me”?
Honestly, it came out almost too easily, and it made me second guess whether I had done it right. I build myself up to be so excited to write it, so the process of sitting down to write it was excruciating, but when I actually wrote it it just happened so naturally that I thought ‘Oh, I must not have dug deep enough.’ I had to go back and look at it. The reason I wasn’t feeling it as I was writing it was because I was disassociated from the trauma, which is exactly what, ultimately, Elena had to be, when all was said and done. I was in my own form of detached, dissociated denial, which of course is my great life crutch. It was the perfect episode for me to have written, and it was ultimately very interesting psychologically.
With the Gilbert house gone, the living arrangements are going to change. In the new promo [above] it kind of looks like Elena and Caroline have moved in with the Salvatores — what’s the situation there?
Caroline hasn’t moved in, but she is there with her shower caddy. There’s still vervain in the water, and the Salvatores have the only vervain-free water in town because of their fancy water filter. It’s a fun way for the boys to be basically going about their morning business, discussing what to do about Elena, and in walks Caroline in her cute little robe and shower caddy, like, ‘Well I have an idea!’
On set this week, I got to see Nina do a little Elena and a little Katherine. Obviously, Elena without her humanity is a little bit darker; what’s the key difference between Elena without her humanity, and Katherine? Where do you draw the line?
The difference as we write it and as Nina acts it is, trying to always keep everything Elena says and does coming from a place of truth. Whether it’s painful truth — directness, boldness, bluntness — it’s truth. Katherine, on the other hand, is always trying to seduce, or manipulate, or lie her way through to survival. It’s all in the eyes, really, and Nina, whose eyes are so expressive, really does it so perfectly.
Speaking of Katherine, I assume that she wants the cure to use it on Klaus. At this point, with Elena’s humanity gone and no living relatives or anything, is getting the cure still a priority for Elena, Damon, and Stefan?
Ultimately, the race for the cure has sort of been channeled into the race to find Katherine. Klaus doesn’t know if Katherine’s going to use it against him [to kill him] or use it as leverage to get her freedom, but he doesn’t really like option A, so he’s got a lot of concerns. Rebekah, of course, still very much wants to be human, and we’re going to just keep exploring that more and more as she gets closer to finding Katherine.
What’s in it for Stefan and Damon at this point?
The question for the boys is always “How do we help Elena through this?” If they have an easy time of it, then the cure isn’t necessarily the first thing on their minds, but I can tell you, Elena’s situation right now is not going to be the prettiest thing. It doesn’t go so well. Elena is not going to be the best-behaved humanity-free vampire in town. The cure kind of comes back into play for the boys as a method to fix her. The irony is that their arguments over whether or not to fix her at the beginning of the season come full circle back around to “How do we fix this version of her, and should we?”
Can Elena and Damon sustain any kind of romance with her humanity gone? Is that even on the table?
Well, the first question is, what does she feel, if anything? And who does she feel it for, if anything? And where does she stand with Damon? Poor Damon, the big, lingering question that he’s been feeling from the beginning is “Is this love that she feels for me real?” He doesn’t believe it’s real because he doesn’t believe he deserves it, and he doesn’t believe he can be happy, but he wants so desperately to know. Now we’re in a predicament where she’s not really feeling anything at all.
Is there any chance for anyone to have a moment of happiness at the prom at this point?
There is a happy moment at the prom — actually, I don’t even know if I can definitively say it’s at the prom. There are several quintessential “Vampire Diaries” romantic, or sweet, or sad-and-sweet moments that happen surrounding the prom, scattered throughout the prom episode. The stakes are always high on our show, but we also need our characters to be able to have those life moments, like prom. Dancing with a cute boy at prom, getting greeted by your boyfriend in his tuxedo, all those great moments.
Where does Caroline stand with Klaus right now? Did the spinoff change the direction they were going in, at all?
No. If anything, the spinoff is just another version of an obstacle. Caroline and Klaus is a very, very tricky relationship, in that we can all understand why she’s drawn to him, because we’re drawn to him. But Caroline is not the kind of character who would ever comfortably let herself go there. It’s a constant battle of fighting the attraction that’s very clearly brewing, but knowing she can never go there and still be true to herself. Something would have to change, whether it’s Caroline’s character who changes or Klaus’s character who changes, or circumstances that change, before we as writers would ever legitimately think about putting them together. You can look at the Caroline/Klaus relationship as something that will live on, in a way, even when he’s not on the show. The want is still there.
I remember a few years ago, you used to say that no matter what bad thing Damon did, the fans would never condemn him; now Klaus is in that position. No matter what he does, the fans love him.
We fight with each other and with ourselves as writers, because we genuinely love Klaus in spite of all his effed up behaviors and his darkness and his terrible, terrible attitude and his evil. Joseph gets a little tear in his eye and gives Caroline a puppy dog look and you just want him to have everything he wants. We get mad at ourselves for being so weak about him. Our goal has always been not to over-compromise the moral core of our characters even as they’re making really, really complicated decisions about their romantic lives or their sex lives. Caroline has been a very interesting character to have in the center of those relationships.
“The Vampire Diaries” returns on Thursday, March 14. The episode, titled “Bring It On,” will see E
lena head back to high school to try to get back into a normal routine… but when she joins the pep squad, throws a wild party, and gets into a terrible fight, it becomes clear that “normal” isn’t in the realm of possibility. Meanwhile, Rebekah and Damon work together to find the cure, and Klaus finds Hayley to get some answers.