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When The Vampire Diaries returns, Stefan (Paul Wesley) will have been missing from Mystic Falls for two months. That means Nina Dobrev, who stars as Elena, is getting accustomed to having more scenes with Ian Somerhalder, who plays bad boy Damon (and is rumored to be Dobrev's boyfriend in real life). ''I see Paul in the halls,'' she says, ''and it's funny because we're like, 'Oh, hey! How's it going?''' But don?t worry, the gang has plenty of opportunities to hang out off screen: ''We rented a lake house for the summer as a cast,'' says Dobrev, pictured on the set of the season opener with Somerhalder and boom operator Trevor Stott in Atlanta on July 18. ''Whoever has a day off can go up and use it.''
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In the premiere, Elena celebrates her 18th birthday with a party planned by Caroline (naturally). ''You can imagine, the Salvatore house is a high schooler's dream,'' Dobrev says. ''When we were on set, we were like, 'Ah, this would be a really cool place to throw a masquerade party. It's giant and beautiful and old. We should come here on a weekend or something.'''
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Elena, however, is less enthused about the idea of a party. ''The one person she wants to be with she can't be with, so she's sad at a time that's supposed to be happy,'' Dobrev says.
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''Damon's there, so it's kind of interesting because he wants to be with her, but she doesn't want to be with him. And yet, at the same time, they're both going through the same thing and trying to find Stefan and find out what he's doing, is he alive, is he dead,'' says Dobrev. ''Her mind is in a lot of different places on this day.''
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On the upside, her hair looks great.
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In case you're wondering about those guitars, we're told Stefan is a pack rat.
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Dobrev between takes. We miss Stefan's bed too.
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We assume the guests have more fun than this shot of waiting extras implies. ''Random people are saying 'Happy birthday!' and you're like, 'Oh, yeah, thank you. Didn't know we were friends,''' Dobrev jokes of the padded guest list. ''All of a sudden, a whole bunch of people come out of the woodwork. Apparently Elena is very popular.''
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But does anyone end up dancing on the balcony like Damon did when he was partying at the house with Vicki in season 1? ''Not in any of the scenes that I was in,'' Dobrev laughs. ''But at one point, there was a kid doing a keg stand, which was really funny. There's a beer pong table.''
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Probably discussing whether Damon should undo another button on his shirt. (Or not.)
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The Elena-Stefan-Damon triangle isn't the only epic love story on The Vampire Diaries. Executive producer Kevin Williamson says the renewed friendship between Caroline (Candice Accola) and Tyler (Michael Trevino) is ''building to be a fun, romantic Romeo and Juliet'' in season 3. ''We now have a mother who knows her daughter's a vampire, and we might soon have a mayor who figures out that her son is a werewolf,'' Williamson says. ''When that happens, it's certainly building itself to a family feud. That's the fun Mystic Falls story line that's underplaying throughout the entire season.'' Adds EP Julie Plec, ''When their mothers find out the truth about each of them, they're gonna have a say in whether the two of them should be together. There's always going to be push and pull in their friendship as it travels down a romantic road. There's gonna be people who don't want them together, including themselves. It's that forbidden love: 'We can't quite stay away from each other, and yet, we shouldn't be together.' And the question will be at what point will they act on that and how will that go?''
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Continuing our set tour, we find the essential props on a vampire show — miscellaneous stakes...
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...and severed body parts. (We already blame Klaus.)
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Prop master Joe Connolly stows a wolf in the show's storage closet.
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And speaking of werewolves, we don't see a lot of shirts for Tyler in wardrobe. We approve.
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If you need a pencil, machete, or chain, you know where to look.