By Mandi Bierly
September 15, 2011 at 06:38 PM EDT
Sergei Bachlakov/CBS
  • TV Show

Tonight, the CW follows the season 3 premiere of The Vampire Diaries with the series debut of The Secret Circle (9 p.m. ET), another twisty tale from TVD exec producer Kevin Williamson and Andrew Miller. The set-up: Newly orphaned Cassie (Britt Robertson) moves in with her grandmother in Chance Harbor, Wash., and learns that she’s a teen witch whose arrival in town completes a circle with five classmates. They’ll have to bind their heightened powers to control them and uncover what happened to their parents 16 years ago — when many of them, also witches, died — so they can protect themselves if it happens again. Here are five reasons we’re already loving The Secret Circle:

• The pace: There will be an open-and-shut problem of the week, but as with Vampire Diaries, there’s an overarching mythology that will unfold over the course of the season. It may not have the breakneck speed of TVD‘s second season, but it will have the satisfying flow of TVD‘s first season, Williamson says. “You can blame 24 for that,” he adds. “I watched every episode of 24 at least 2 times because I was in love with that show and Jack Bauer, and for some reason, that pace just stuck with me and this is my interpretation of that. While it’s no 24, it certainly has a rhythm that I hope is fun to watch.” 

• Vampire violence means blood, but witches can be more creative: “We’re using the elements, but we’re trying to use them in a very dangerous way so you can see how the spell interacts with the elements around them and how they can create violent situations,” Williamson says. “These witches will pray on your weaknesses. They’ll find out what’s the easiest way to get at you, and they will do it. They’ll use your fears, your physical limitations. They’ll use anything they can to attack you and also cover their tracks. It’s really kind of eerie. We’re creating a very sort of devilish view of witchcraft. But we also have the aspirational wish-fulfillment aspect of it as well, which is what the kids ultimately want to do. They bind the circle, because who wouldn’t want to have superpowers, and then, of course, it gets dangerous.”

• There is romance: Cassie learns she and circle member Adam (Thomas Dekker) are “written in the stars.” Though both Robertson and Williamson are quick to say that may not mean what we think it means, there’s no denying there’s something brewing between Cassie and Adam. The complication: Adam already has a girlfriend in the circle, Diana (Shelley Hennig), and she genuinely wants to be Cassie’s friend. We expect that triangle to be on a low simmer for a while because Williamson knows the situation will only be made more tragic if Diana and Cassie do become friends. And then there’s this: “I believe in longing and yearning, and I feel like that will always trump sex for me, but I do believe that people in this day and age have hot sex. I don’t have a formula for it,” Williamson laughs. “At the end of the day, I just know that I still yearn for things to the point where it hurts, and if you can tap into that side of the characters and then pay it off with some good sex, there you go. You got a smile on my face. I’ll keep watching. That’s what I want to see in a show, and that’s what Julie [Plec] and I are all about on The Vampire Diaries. And that’s sorta what we’re building here between Adam and Cassie. It’s a really nice romance, and it’s gonna take a lot of twist and turns. We’ve got a whole season arc for it. It’s gonna be fun.”

• The parents (Queer as Folk‘s Gale Harold and Natasha Henstridge) aren’t your usual CW parents: As we quickly see in the premiere, two of the circle members have parents that have a mysterious, deadly serious agenda of their own. ”This is how I want to see this man,” Williamson says of Harold. ”I want to see him be devilish and delicious again. All the writers are very excited about the possibilities of what they can do with him. Everyone in the writers room was like, ‘Remember Queer as Folk when he did this, and when he did that?’ We’re gonna try to revisit his bad side, but at the time same time make it a complicated character so that we have a reason to love watching him. The same with Natasha Henstridge’s character. When she got the second episode script, she called us up and was like, ‘Okay, I had no idea that this was my character.’ I think she thought she was going to be the mom on a CW show. She didn’t truly understand the extent of what she really is to the show. I’m like, ‘No, you and Gale Harold, don’t you worry. As much as it’s about this circle of young teenagers, it’s all about you guys.’ The most fascinating thing is understanding what makes them tick, why they’re up to what they’re doing, their moral compass and how it’s askew, and how they very much love their children but at the same time have an agenda and it gets a little bloody.”

• But those teens will be fun, too: We’ve already covered Cassie, Adam, and Diana. There’s also bad girl Faye (Phoebe Tonkin), who Williamson describes as “a force to be reckoned with. You’ll love to hate her, and you can’t wait to see what she does next,” he says. “There’s good witches and bad witches. It’s sort of that epic story of battling the good and bad inside of you.” There’s Melissa (Jessica Parker Kennedy), Faye’s best friend. “Melissa is the sidekick, and she’s a little tired of it, so we’ll watch her through the course of the season rise up and be an individual,” he says. “She doesn’t really need Faye as much as Faye seems to need her.” And there’s Nick (Louis Hunter), Cassie’s brooding neighbor. “We dive into his character the first two episodes,” Williamson says. “His back story is he’s actually the only one who lost both parents [16 years ago]. So he’s completely orphaned, very much like Cassie now.”

Williamson was drawn to the idea of six people who wouldn’t normally be friends being forced together. “It’s one of those shows where you just don’t know: maybe the person you don’t trust is the person you should be trusting. And so it will be fun to watch how they fraction off and how the unlikely friendships continue to evolve,” he says. “When it comes time to use their power at full force against someone who may be trying to kill them, they’re gonna have to find a way to come together. That’s what the circle is about.”

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16-year-old shy girl Cassie discovers she is a witch and becomes a member of the Circle of witches of New Salem
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