Spoiler alert! After a traumatic season 5 finale of The Vampire Diaries, fans were left wondering if they’d seen the last of Damon (Ian Somerhalder) and Bonnie (Kat Graham) — and who may have returned from The Other Side as a human. Exec producer Julie Plec provides EW with some answers, and teases where we go from here.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It seemed as if Damon and Bonnie found peace as The Other Side was destroyed. Let’s start with the big question on fans’ minds: Is Ian Somerhalder a series regular in season 6?
JULIE PLEC: I think the ending of the episode is meant to be left up deliberately for speculation of what exactly did happen to them. I can say for certain The Other Side is gone for good, and I can say for certain that when The Other Side disappeared for good that they had already been dealt with — whether it’s through finding peace or other means. Outside of that [laughs], I think I’ll let the speculation blow around a little while longer.
But can you say whether we’ll see Ian and Kat again?
We will definitely see Ian Somerhalder and Kat Graham on the show. I mean, there’s a million different ways that you can do that. But as far as in what context — how, why, and where? — that’s part of the mystery.
You tweeted about a year ago that you had thought of the ending of season 5, and it was a “mind f–k.” Was this the ending you’d thought of?
[Laughs] Yes, it was. When you think of the ending at the beginning of the year, you always have to leave yourself open to shift[s]. Because when all is said and done, trying to force your way somewhere that sounded cool in the moment and then you’re struggling to find your way back there — you can actually compromise the story a little bit. But we just believed in this ending so, so much, and everything kind of gracefully led us there. So we didn’t have to make too many changes.
I loved the way Ian played Damon’s goodbye to Elena. You felt Damon was at peace. Was that sense of calm scripted?
You know, I think by the time we got to this episode this season, Ian was so profoundly dialed in to Damon’s character and to Damon’s relationship with Elena that he just found it for himself. Ian was on fire this year. To be able to come to terms with this character that is so fearless and is facing true oblivion and death, probably for the first time in his vampire life — I thought it was so beautiful the way he was able to embrace it and face it and say his goodbyes in that way. So hat’s off to Ian Somerhalder for that.
Tyler came back from the Other Side no longer a hybrid. Is he now just a human with a werewolf gene?
You hit the nail on the head: What got stripped away from him when he got thrown over the border were the elements that made him both vampire and triggered-werewolf. So he is back to being a boy with a werewolf gene. And so it puts him in a really interesting predicament next year because it’s almost like a do-over in a good way, but also a scary way. Now with that comes that testosterone, needing to work out his aggressions and find a way to not lose his s–t, so to speak, so that he doesn’t re-trigger the curse [laughs]. I think after having gone through everything he went through, re-triggering the werewolf curse would be possibly a fate worse than death at this point.
That leads us into the question of whether Stefan and Elena and the others who came back from The Other Side are human.
No. Tyler died within the boundaries of Mystic Falls, and he actually physically got stripped all the way down to his base state — which was a supernatural being, [human] boy with werewolf gene. Therefore he could be on the Other Side. But Stefan and the rest of them died still being supernatural beings, so they came back the way they were left. They are not human. Everybody’s circumstance is the same, except for Tyler, who specifically got everything stripped away from him down to the guts.
So that means Alaric (Matt Davis, who’ll be a series regular) is still sort of a super Original vampire.
He’s still a super Original, and I think if anybody doesn’t want to be that, it’s Alaric. We never really got to see him deal with having become a vampire, because Esther had gotten in his head and screwed with his brain so badly that he just kinda became the villain with no conscience. So now this is our favorite sexy teacher back in our lives and having to hide the fact that [laughs] A.) he’s this weird, weird breed of vampire and B.) he’s not particularly sure if he likes it. So it’ll be a good story for him.
With Stefan and Elena — will you pick up right away with them trying to figure out if Damon and Bonnie are really gone for good?
I think the most important thing I can say about season 6 is our characters fundamentally have to come to terms with the fact that Damon and Bonnie are gone forever, and have been doing so for quite some time when we return. Some are in denial, some are still searching for answers. “They’ve got to be somewhere. Where are they? We’ve got to rescue them.” Some have given up completely. Each individual character’s reaction to the loss of these two people will be what informs the beginning of the sixth season.
Does this set the stage for a Stefan-Elena-Caroline love triangle?
Well, you know, I think people will actually be surprised by how each of those three have individually handled the tragedy that they’ve had to face. In the beginning of the season, it’s really about trying for all these friends to find their way back to each other, as opposed to having set the stage for any romantic entanglements. If anything, they’ve disentangled briefly from each other. Part of the journey of the first part of the season is, if we can’t stay close and have each other and be here for each other, then what’s the point? We don’t have anything. And in addition, of course, it’s if we can’t get our home back and live in our home and get back what was ours, then all of this was for naught.
What about Enzo (Michael Malarkey)? It seemed like he was walking off when he returned from The Other Side.
[Laughs] We have not seen the last of the delicious Michael Malarkey. He’s a wonderful addition to the team, and he will be officially a series regular next year. I think you’re the first person that knows that.
I love his chest hair. When we saw his chest hair the other week —
I screengrabbed it and tweeted that seeing chest hair on a CW actor was like seeing a unicorn.
[Laughs] I sorta feel like in season 9, if it’s Enzo and Alaric, we just spin them off into their own show. I think life would be pretty good.
Do you anticipate them having scenes together next season? They would have fun chemistry.
I think so. I anticipate them not liking each other very much.
When I talked to you for our Women Who Run TV package, you said you and Kevin Williamson had thought of the ending to the entire series as you were writing on deadline in an Atlanta mall early in season 2. Are you still on track for that same ending?
Well, it’s a modified version of the same track [laughs] in that it did involve a ghost. In the absence of The Other Side, we might have to make some modifications. But I think emotionally, we knew where we wanted the series to end. I think it will depend, obviously, [on] when the series ends and who’s still a part of the show contractually. And if they’re not, who’s willing to come back and play. We definitely have a sense of where we want each character to land when it’s all over.
Are you plotting for season 6 to be the final season, or is that not on your radar yet?
No. It’s not on our radar yet. You could ask 10 different people that question and you’d get 10 different answers, in terms of how long the life of the show is. Warner Bros. would say, “17 seasons!” And I think I would say, “Seven!” [Laughs] Presumably we’ll land somewhere closer to my wishes or theirs, depending on the circumstances.