The Vampire Diaries, based on the popular young-adult novels by L.J. Smith, makes its series debut tonight on the CW at 8 p.m. EW grabbed one of its stars, onetime Degrassi cast member Nina Dobrev, who talks other fang-based phenomena (Twilight and True Blood), shooting in Atlanta, and the likelihood of on-air nude scenes. Come back Friday to find out our take on the pilot episode.
EW: Did you read the Vampire Diaries books?
NINA DOBREV: I have read the first three books. I’ve been told not to read any further because the creator, Kevin [Williamson], asked us to get the feel for it, read the first couple, but then he wants us to take our own interpretation. My character especially has been changed the most out of anyone because, on a superficial level, I’m not blond and blue-eyed. But other than that, my character, they made her a little more relatable and a little more vulnerable, because they want the audience to feel and relate to her, whereas in the book, she has a little harder edge. She’s a little bit more of a mean girl.
Will the series deviate from the book?
It will and it won’t. We’re using it as a guideline, and a lot of the storylines, we’re going to take from it. But we’re making little changes that just will make more sense for a TV show and will be more effective. We want to stay as true to the books as possible. I think there are lots of other books that are made into movies. Everybody wants them to be as close as possible. But at the same time, every single person has their own interpretation of a book. You have your own imagination. Even if we did it exactly like the book, one person’s interpretation is very different from another, so it would be very difficult to appeal to every single person out there.
How did you get involved? You auditioned?
Yes, I did. I moved to LA to do the whole pilot-season thing for the first time this year and my first audition was Vampire Diaries. So it kind of worked out. I read the script, and I thought it was great, and I went in. Firstly, I met Julie [Plec] and Kevin in the audition and they liked me but then I had to go back to Toronto for a couple weeks to shoot a movie called Chloe, and in that time, they were doing all the screen tests and doing all that crazy stuff, so they asked me to put myself on tape, and my tape beat out the other people that were there in person.
Did they say why you stuck out?
I talked about it later and they said that my take on it and the fact that I made her a little bit more vulnerable…I’m not the most comedic person, so I tried to make it real, and sometimes the comedy is in the reality and the awkward moments. So they just liked my natural approach to it.
Do you think you have a lot in common with Elena?
I think you have to draw from any character and bring it to yourself as much as possible. And Elena – I hadn’t suffered as many tragedies as she has fortunately, so I don’t have much in common in that aspect. But just in some personality traits, yes. And then in terms of [Renaissance-era vampire] Katherine, everybody has as darker edge to themselves. I’m going to exaggerate that and see where it goes.
What attracted you to the project?
There were a lot of things. For one, vampires clearly right now seem to be something to talk about. And I am a fan of the vampire shows, especially True Blood. I’m obsessed with it. I got to meet the entire cast at Comic-Con and hang out with them. And that was awesome. I basically died and went to heaven.
Did they give you advice?
Yeah, actually. They were really, really awesome. Michael [McMillian], the guy who plays the preacher [Steve Newland], we talked for a long time, and we had the same agent, so that was the start of our conversation. And he was telling me, ‘You should read the rest of the books. I know that Kevin told you not to read the rest, but it’s something that’s out of respect to the fans of the book. At least read them, get a feel for it, and then you have a respect for that, and then you can go from there.’ That’s what he did. He read all the True Blood books. And then you can really get a feel for it and decide how much you want to deviate, how much you want to stay the course. They were so cool…we ended up talking and hanging out for a lot of the night at the EW party. And because of that, we really got to know each other, a lot of us. I know obviously because we all have vampire themes in our shows, we’re going to be constantly running into each other. And now we know each other. It’s kind of fun.
You can help each other out…
And I am so inspired by their work. First of all, HBO is such an awesome network, and a lot of the directors Marcos [Siega] has hired to work for us. Like John Dahl, who’s doing the next one. They’re all HBO directors. So we’re trying to make it a little more cinematic than you usually see on the CW. A little edgier. A little darker. We’re trying to push the envelope as much as we possibly can for network television.
No nudity like in True Blood?
We can’t do nudity. But you know what? There’s lots of implications. Where we go, we get this close.
Besides True Blood, were you into the whole genre?
I read the Twilight books before the movie and the whole craze happened. And then I loved it. I was in love with Edward before every other girl that says she’s in love with him was. Because I read them a long time ago shooting a movie in Salt Lake City, and one of Stephenie Meyer’s friends said, ‘Make sure you read my friend’s book.’ And I read it, and I was like, ‘This is actually really great.’ And then it turned into what it is now.
Anything that touches vampires becomes huge. Are you ready for that?
I really hope that people respond to the show and they like it, and as much as that’s very flattering when people keep coming up to me and telling me that and it’s really great to hear, we have some serious shoes to fill. The thing is, with us coming out with this TV show, we’re kind of like the third installment, where a lot of people think this is the rip-off. But at the same time, we’re very different. Every show is very different. And we’re trying to keep it that way. We’re not trying to step on anyone’s toes.
But if it does do as well as everyone is saying, I don’t know. We’re blessed that we’re in Atlanta, so it’s not the same kind of crazy whirlwind as it would be to shoot in LA, or Vancouver or Toronto or New York. So we have a little bit of a semblance of a life.
How’s the mood on set?
Oh god, we all hate each other. Kidding. We’re, like, awesome. Honestly, I can’t even put it into words. We just all gel so well. We hang out more than you think we should because we want to. We want to be a part of each other’s lives. Paul [Wesley] and Ian [Somerhalder] are like my big brothers. The girls and I get together for girls night and go to the movies and hang out. We’re so lucky.
Photo Credit: Quantrell Colbert/The CW