'The Vampire Diaries' bosses reveal 7 debates from the writers' room
Five seasons in and 100 episodes later, the writers behind all things related to Mystic Falls, the Salvatore brothers, and of course, doppelgängers have given us countless twists, turns, and heartbreaking memorable moments. But what were the stories that turned out differently than they expected? And if that’s the case, what had been their original plan? Was Elena originally going to remain a vampire? Actually, no. Was Jeremy always going to come back from the dead? Again, not so much. We caught up with executive producers Julie Plec and Caroline Dries to get a look back at seven of the biggest debates from the writers room over the past 100 episodes, as well as a glimpse into two storylines they never questioned and the real reason why the Originals are immortal (Hint: It wears a suit.).
Check out the biggest debates below:
Will the show have flashbacks? Believe it or not, those flashbacks that you have come to know and love were not always in the playbook. “It was one of the most hotly contested debates of our entire experience because Kevin [Williamson] was very very very aggressively opposed to the room’s desire to do flashbacks and basically tortured us for a good month and kept explaining all the reasons why flashbacks were not good writing and why it would be a terrible mistake and kept playing devil’s advocate, forcing the room to fight harder and harder and harder for why flashbacks would work, and I’m sitting there in the middle being like ‘Oh God, I don’t know,'” Plec said. “And then Kevin finally harrumphed and insisted that we take a vote, and it was very intense and very scary. It was a blind vote, and everybody had to write down yes or no and put it in a hat. He was playing the role of stern father very well and when we counted all the votes and he finally showed what his vote was, his vote was yes. That was the resolution of whether there would be flashbacks on The Vampire Diaries, so I think what he was doing was just making us really fight for it and prove that it was a necessary element to the show, and it turned out to be a good thing for him to make us fight because we realized all the great ways we could make them work, and they’ve worked like a charm ever since.”
When will Elena become a vampire? In the books, Elena’s transition occurred at the end of book one. But for Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson, they considered all possibilities, from having Elena never become a vampire to making it happen at the end of season 2. “When Kevin and I first started on the show we were like, ‘When the hell are we going to do that? Are we ever going to do that? That seems kind of ridiculous. [Laughs] We certainly can’t do that in the first season. The strength of the human character of Elena is so powerful, we’re definitely not going to do it.’ I think we even made a joke to Dawn Ostroff at the time, ‘Oh in season 18 when we turn Elena into a vampire.’ Then, cut to season 2 when all the sudden, there was a brief moment in time where we were planning to turn Elena into a vampire by the end of season 2.”
“Low and behold we were able to think of introducing Klaus to the show and unveiling the hybrid mythology as slowly just propelled that whole storyline another season,” Dries added.
“We were like, if we’re going to do this freakin’ sun and moon sacrifice, we’ve got to kill her but we can’t kill her because she can’t be dead for the series, so that’s how she’ll become a vampire, that’s how they’ll save her is they’ll feed her vampire blood and she’ll wake up and she’ll be a vampire,” Plec said. “And the way that we found our way around that was Uncle John’s sacrifice and him finding that way to link his life to hers so that in death it was him who died instead of her and that beautiful letter that he wrote her about how he wanted her to grow up and have everything she wanted because she was extraordinary in her ordinary-ness, the speech with Skinny Love playing and me crying. That’s how we bought ourselves that freedom to follow through on everything we’d promised without having turned Elena into a vampire. And then the best part of that was that we were then able to play the entirety of season 3 knowing where we were going, knowing that at the end of the season, she would be killed for real and wake up as a vampire at the end of the season. So everything we did in season 3 was about Elena thematically questioning her life and questioning her morality and her strength as a human being. ”
When will Stefan and Elena break up? In the end, Stefan and Elena called it quits on her front porch six episodes into season 4. But that wasn’t always the plan. “We went back and forth about does she break up with him or does he break up with her or do they not break up at all and are just sad and is it not final? From my memory we decided that if she dumped him and then went and jumped into bed with his brother the next episode, the passionate Delenas would be thrilled, but nobody else would be happy,” Plec said.
“The show is built around this love triangle and it’s always been these two brothers that love this girl and the girl loved one of the brothers but no the other and yet over seasons and seasons they got closer and Damon started really winning her over,” Plec continued. “I know in my mind, and not necessarily in everybody’s, but in my mind I felt very strongly – and I’m going to get killed for this – that Elena could not and would not separate from Stefan and fall in love with Damon until she was a vampire. Because along with becoming a vampire is sort of like a right of passage, it’s shifting into a new phase of your life, it’s shifting moralities, it’s shifting context, it’s heightened emotions. You feel different things stronger than you ever did before and given everything that Damon had done to Elena, given the fact that in season 2 he literally killed her brother, given all the chaos he had caused, in spite of their chemistry, I didn’t feel comfortable letting her let go of what is pure in her heart, which is Stefan, to explore the darker sides of her impulses and a more adult relationship in the form of Damon until her entire life had been turned inside out. It doesn’t make what she feels for Damon any less profound. If anything it’s more profound on some levels but one could not happen before the other in my mind. So everything was sort of stemming from that.”
What can Damon do once he knows about the sire bond? One of the most debated decisions among fans was season 4’s sire bond twist. After Stefan and Elena broke up, she and Damon ended up sleeping together in the next episode as the audience simultaneously found out that Elena was sired to Damon. It was something that angered some fans, pleased others, and shocked all. That being said, the sire bond itself wasn’t much of a debate for the writers, but rather it was Damon’s actions once he knew about it that made them debate. “It makes you wonder, once he knows that information, what is he allowed to do with Elena before it’s inappropriate or almost like rape, so can he kiss her or is that weird and is he taking advantage of her? So that became this huge thing in the writers room of where do we stand on what Damon with this knowledge does, and it actually opened the door to us questioning how we tell that story and when we let the information come out in the plot,” Dries said. “It actually became this really good debate of even if Elena knows they’re sired, the question is where do you draw the line? What we came up with [at] the end of I think it was episode 8 of season 4, Damon and Elena are just standing in the great room and it’s like they both know what the situation is, but the question is, what are they going to do about it? We went into another episode on the huge cliffhanger of what are they going to do – are they going to sleep together, not sleep together, kiss? That actually made it better that we were fighting about it so much and what’s the appropriate thing to do. They ended up not sleeping together but in the same bed.”
Should we bring Jeremy back? After losing her brother in season 4, Elena went downhill fast. She turned off her humanity and nearly killed both of her best friends before turning all of her hate on Katherine. So why did the writers decide that bringing Jeremy back would be the right decision, even after Elena had grieved her loss? “Bringing Jeremy back was a massive debate. Massive,” Plec said. “We knew that his death needed to happen in order to make Elena turn to the dark side and to get us that story. When all is said and done, I can defend it with all honestly. Sometimes when you don’t look at your show critically but you look at your audience, and I as a fan have watched shows like Alias and like Buffy where really really terrible things keep happening to the heroes and it gets to the point where they get so depressed and everything’s so sad that it actually becomes kind of depressing to watch. So I thought about it from the point of view of an audience member saying you know what yes, to be a good writer, your deaths should feel permanent, but our audience that has been watching our show faithfully and sobbing along with us every time somebody dies, there is something beautiful about getting to revisit them every now and then and in Jeremy’s case, it was actually about bringing him back into Elena’s world so that she could find herself again.”
Who should take the cure? The cure was something Plec and Williamson thought up before they even wrote one word of the series. When the decision was made to turn Elena, they knew they needed to be able to cure her. But four years later, they weren’t so sure she was the one they wanted to cure anymore. “When Kevin and I first started talking about it it was Elena, of course. And then it was Jose Molina, who was our writer during season 4 who said, ‘But if you start the season searching for a cure for Elena and then you end the season and you cure her, then isn’t that kind of a buzz kill because you accomplished the exact thing you set out to do and don’t you just generally want to twist that?'”
The answer to that seemed obvious to Plec: “The next person that we thought of was Damon. We were like how perfect, the one person who loves to be vampire more than anything should be the one person that we cure, and [we] went through a good chunk of the season believing that that was the choice we were going to make. And then a couple things happened that made us really talk about it further: One was people were instantly guessing it on the Internet so we decided we weren’t as clever as we thought we were, and two was we starting thinking about the deliciousness of Damon the character and Ian [Somerhalder] the actor as the vampire Damon and were we really going to be able to get a lot of story out of Damon as a human, as much as we wanted to, or was it just going to be kind of depressing for Ian the actor and for the character to have to see him struggle with things like the common cold and not having any powers? And would that in a way de-sexify the character or make [him] less of an enigma?”
So was anyone safe from the big cure debate? “We knew we didn’t want to cure Caroline because Caroline is just too awesome as a vampire,” Plec said. “We even thought about Stefan for a bit but then somehow in the middle of it all the notion of Katherine Pierce came up. We had not been using Katherine a lot because it’s very taxing on production and very very very taxing on Nina Dobrev. So as fun and enjoyable as it is for the fans and for us as storytellers because we love that character, it makes everybody’s life really difficult, so we had kind of promised not to do any stories with her for quite a long time. So the first hurdle we had to cross was how can we get everybody on board with this because this is the one thing we’re not supposed to do right now is to use Katherine. [Laughs] But when all was said and done, everybody got on board and it just was the perfect choice and it got us basically to where we are now with the 100th episode, which is human Katherine where her past and her age has finally caught up with her and she has to look back on her whole life and the mistakes she’s made and the choices she’s made and really, it’s her come-to-Jesus moment, so in a way, it’s the perfect episode to be finally delivering on that choice that we debated so much last year.”
Do we bring Silas onto the show? The man of many faces (and one very attractive real one) wasn’t always going to step foot in Mystic Falls. “Somebody threw out, I think as a joke, that it would be Stefan’s doppelganger, but once we were like, ‘Yes let’s do that,’ we realized how do we not introduce him until the very end of the season? So it became a lot of discussion and opinions about how to make Silas the person that he is. What are his powers? What does he look like,” Dries said.
“And saying maybe this should be the first time that we actually show more of a demon face or a monster face and that maybe that should be what Silas really looks like,” Plec added. “Then we got to building the prosthetics and shooting it, and it just felt so off tone for us that we then made the course correction to say well, that was just one more mind screw that Silas was capable of doing which is making Bonnie see whatever he wanted her to see. So Silas was a constantly evolving creature, and mostly because we had been told that we couldn’t really do much doppelganger work, because it was so hard on everybody.We had to bide our time and fight the good fight for that.”
NEXT: The two stories they never debated and why the Originals cannot be killed
The two stories they never debated: The sire bond and the cure! “Kevin and I talked about the cure the minute we were breaking the series and deciding one day Elena would become a vampire. We were like we need a cure then because she can’t stay a vampire forever. We always knew some version of once we find a cure, and Stefan and Elena will find it together, and then he’ll realize that when you take it you age to the point that you die, so he’ll make her take it not telling her that he’s not going to take it. That was always our plan. So the cure was always the plan,” Plec said.
“And the sire bond was on the table for us the minute we introduced the notion of it with Tyler and Klaus. It seemed like what a perfect consequence to Elena becoming a vampire, this one-in-a-million connection to happen that would completely complicate the choices that she made moving forward. Yes, Elena was being victimized by the circumstance, and it was conflict, and it was a struggle, and it was making her have to question her feelings and her behavior and her choices, and to us, that was a really interesting way to approach her character as she was going through this really massive life transition for her to then have to question every little thing she was feeling. It was a really interesting predicament for us to explore. But boy did it get a lot of snark in the Twitterverse.”
Finally, what made the writers decide that the Originals were not only an entire family of vampires but that they were immortal? Well, it seems we have Daniel Gillies and his suits to thank for that one. When Elijah first came on the show, he was “filler, plain and simple,” Plec said. Dries added: “We left for like the weekend or something and somebody sent you and Kevin a script and then on Monday I read it, and all of a sudden there was this Elijah person who I’d never heard of once and nobody had ever mentioned his name in the writers room.” So how did the name even come about?
According to Plec, they were just trying to buy a little time: “We knew we didn’t want to meet Klaus until the end of the season because we knew he needed to be our big bad for season 3, and so we needed to basically buy ourselves as much time as humanly possible before we met Klaus and build him up in such an epic way that when he finally set foot on camera for the first time, everybody was so ready to meet him. So Elijah was just his lackey, his righthand guy, his thug, any way you want to look at it. And then between Kevin’s beautifully wicked writing of that character when we meet him in that first episode and Daniel Gillies’ miraculous performance, all the sudden we were like, ‘Who is this character? He is not just any lackey or any thug or any sidekick. He is important,’ and I mean that with triple underlines. So that was the birth of Elijah. Then when we started talking about Klaus being an Original, we thought of the whole idea of an Original family as opposed to just Klaus the Original and then realized, what if they were brothers? How cool would that be? That’s a total testament to Daniel Gillies being just as freakin’ awesome. He was supposed to die and then we kept coming up with ways to make the Originals unkillable. The only reason the Originals are immortal is because of Elijah.” [Laughs]
“And Klaus, we were going to kill at the end of season 3 because he was the villain, and if your heroes can’t vanquish your villain then what the hell good are your heroes for? When we started pitching that, the studio and the network had a heart attack. They looked at us and they said look guys, from a strictly studio network point of view, it is so rare that you get a character and an actor like this that connects with the audience, that breaks out, that the actor is so talented and works so well on this show. If you kill him, you are making a major mistake. And we said, ‘But he’s our villain. Our entire season will have been for naught because our heroes will have just blown it.’ But we managed to make it work. He got to throw around some soccer balls and then he got to get desiccated and then he got to pull the body-swap trick and have his own fun story. And then he got to fall in love with Caroline and get his own series. It all worked out in the end.” [Laughs]
The Vampire Diaries 100th episode airs tonight at 8 p.m. on The CW.