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The Originals star Daniel Gillies on directing: 'I got the best episode of the season'

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Elijah Mikaelson is a monster. Yes, he’s noble. Yes, he wears a suit. But at the end of the day, he’s a vampire, and Daniel Gillies would like all of you to remember that.

“The whole premise of the show is that we are these monsters,” Gillies tells EW. “Your good guys are bad guys, essentially.”

It’s something fans of The Originals need to keep in mind, particularly when it comes to this week’s episode, which takes viewers inside Elijah’s fractured mind as Hayley and Freya try to recover him. (Refresher: In the last episode, Freya managed to put Elijah inside her pendant before the Hollow killed him.) And let’s just say that Elijah’s mind isn’t nearly as pretty as his suits, which is something that Gillies, who directed the hour, and his team had to keep in mind when finding a visual representation that would work best.

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“Elijah’s mind was originally conceived as this dark and sinister-looking corridor,” Gillies says. “And my DP and one of the designers said, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if it was kind of pristine, a little bit more like Elijah?’ I immediately had Kubrickian visions and I thought, ‘If we can go with a super wide angle then the corridor can be sinister and we can create this alternate dimension.’ We went wider than the show has ever gone before in terms of the lenses that we shot on in that corridor.”

And based on what happens inside that corridor, Gillies thinks that fans will look at the character differently after the hour. “I think he’s going to be repulsive to people now. He only gets darker,” Gillies says. “They really took a brave turn with him to introduce these other elements. He’s no stranger to violence and to nightmarish bloodshed, and the floodgates have opened. There are behaviors that certainly human beings would find unconscionable that are going to be on full display.” But again, Gillies would like to remind you that this is not new behavior for Elijah. “He just happens to be in a suit and carry a degree of elegance, which people confuse for morality,” he says.

Bob Mahoney /The CW

With this episode marking Gillies’ directorial debut on the show, he found himself at the helm of an Elijah-heavy hour, which meant he was probably the right (though very tired) man for the job. “It was incredibly fortunate that [the episode] happened to be part of the Elijah mythology in a show which I know so intimately,” says Gillies, “so obviously I was a pretty good person to navigate through those waters.”

He adds: “I was wholly exhausted by the end of it. I don’t remember sleeping much. Luckily I had the best DP in the world, Kurt Jones, and I had the love, trust, and support of [showrunner] Michael Narducci and his team to allow me to do it. It was such a privilege. It was written by this incredible woman named K.C. Perry and her accomplice/partner-in-crime Kyle Arrington. I think I got the best episode of the season to direct. I really do. I just hope I didn’t f— it all up.”

The Originals airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.