By Mandi Bierly
Updated February 07, 2011 at 09:46 PM EST

Image Credit: Quantrell D. Colbert/The CWIt turns out, you can’t actually sleep when you’re dead. At least not if you’re an actress whose character got as meaty and moving a send-off as Lauren Cohan’s Rose did on the Jan. 27 episode of The Vampire Diaries. The actress has already moved on to filming a five-episode arc on NBC’s Chuck, which begins Feb. 21 when Valentine’s Day is interrupted because a reclusive young heiress named Vivian McArthur (Cohan) needs protection in England. When we finally caught up with her last Friday, she’d just spent the morning testing for three pilots — a mix of cable and broadcast, comedy and drama. She hadn’t even had a chance to watch the previous night’s episode of Vampire Diaries yet, so she had to ask us who Damon (Ian Somerhalder) took a bath with. (Then she genuinely sighed “ooh” as we described the tears in his eyes as he poured his heart out to his new distraction before biting her during tub sex. “That’s what makes him so sexy, that tortured soul,” she said. The episode was waiting for her on iTunes.)

Cohan says she knew that her arc was a limited run, but she had no idea how Rose would exit — with Damon mercy staking her after Jules’ werewolf bite — until she read the script, and cried. “So dramatic,” she says. “It’s not usually what you expect to get to do when you’re guest-starring on a TV show. I just thought it was such a moving script. First and foremost, she’s in that dream sequence, and she’s just so happy. Just that moment where she’s enjoying the sunshine. Wow. Jesus. What a huge thing that was for her. She’s overwhelmed by that, and then realizing why [Damon] was doing it… The peace of knowing that he was making those last moments enjoyable and just letting herself enjoy it.”

As for Rose’s final undead moment, Cohan says there was a lot of conversation about how to stage it. “Did we want Damon to be looking at her when he did it, or with her strength being totally gone, was he holding her?” She and Somerhalder had to deal with a bit of extra drama (or comedy) with a malfunctioning stake. “There’s a series of stakes that they use for the vampire stunts. Sometimes it’s a rubber stake. Sometimes it’s a solid stake with a rubber tip, and you just use that to mime going toward someone. Sometimes it’s a retractable stake. And if it’s going into a dummy, then it might be a full-on solid stake. You have to keep track of which ones you’re using, and all the protocol for each one. Our stake was retractable. I had all this padding where he as gonna plunge it into my chest, and we practiced it a couple of times. When you turn the stake a quarter it [retracts] all the way in, and when you turn it off that quarter turn, it doesn’t go in. So Ian has to make it look like he’s really plunging it, and the thing kept sticking,” she says, laughing. “So after 10 minutes of reassurance that it was gonna be fine, we’re about to do the take and then the stake won’t actually retract. We’re like ‘Ohmygod, stop! Stop! Stop!’ So it actually felt really real. Obviously nobody would get hurt, but it was just funny.”

Another fun tidbit: We asked Cohan about that conversation between Rose and Elena that was in the promo but not in the actual episode — specifically that line in which Rose told Elena it was okay to love both Salvatore brothers. She says they shot a bunch of stuff that she assumes was trimmed for time, including “a deranged rampage through the parking lot, which really felt like the peak of the dementia” in between Rose killing the janitor and the car couple, as well as that revealing portion of her chat with Elena. “I loved that piece between Rose and Elena because I think Rose looked at Elena like a younger sister in a way, and it really was okay that Elena loves different things in both of these men. Being conflicted doesn’t make her a bad person. It was almost like Rose needed to tell her to not be so hard on herself and to not give up,” she says. “It was really cute because Elena tried to cover the fact that she does love them both in a way. That’s when Rose kinda pushed her to say it. [She’s saying] Come on. Just admit it. You don’t have to feel bad about it,’ in the same breath as, ‘Own who you are. It’s okay to let them fight for you. It’s okay to want to live. And it’s okay to be conflicted. Keep going.'”

Cohan says she would be open to the idea of returning to the show somehow — if the writers intentionally left open what Damon did with her body after showing it to Sheriff Forbes in the trunk of his car in the woods. In the meantime, she’s enjoying her time on Chuck. “This character’s fun. She’s actually been such a nice departure from the dark ages,” she jokes. “She’s not quite bumbling. She’s a well-educated person with no purpose, who just kinda gets unwittingly wrenched into this CIA world. This girl is kinda like, ‘I don’t know what to do with my life,’ and then the CIA arrives, and they’re like, ‘You have all these skills, come with us.’ We don’t actually know what her role is gonna be. The CIA comes to protect her, and then events turn.” Cohan says those skills involve weaponry, languages, and karate, and that Vivian is also an equestrian. Fortunately, Cohan is a quick learner. “It was really funny because in the break down, it said, ‘Must be an experienced horse rider,’ and I went for the audition and I booked the job, and I called them, and I said, ‘They do know that I couldn’t just jump on a horse and, like, run, right?’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s fine.’ In the end, they don’t want any of their actors doing the really dangerous stuff anyway. They teach you as much as they can, and then they have amazing pros do the other stuff.”

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