It’s been almost exactly two years since The Vampire Diaries aired its series finale, which — spoiler alert! — saw the heroic Stefan Salvatore sacrifice himself to save everyone he loved (not to mention the entire town of Mystic Falls). With his final shot of the series, Paul Wesley closed a chapter in his life, one that remains closed to this day. “I definitely closed the chapter of that part of my life in terms of in front of the camera. I can’t imagine entering that world in front of the camera,” Wesley tells EW. But the same can’t be said of his life behind the camera.
Thanks to Legacies, which exists in the same world as The Vampire Diaries, the TVD universe lives on with familiar faces (TVD star Matthew Davis is one of Legacies‘ leads) and familiar places (the Salvatore house is now the Salvatore School). So when Wesley was asked to direct an episode of the Originals spin-off, not only did he return to Atlanta, where they’d shot TVD for eight seasons, but he found himself standing in the Salvatore great room, where he’d filmed many a scene as Stefan (including his last).
“As a director, it was still a new experience for me. I was directing a whole new set of actors. The scripts have a different tone,” Wesley says. “But obviously there’s similarities. We were in the Salvatore great room and that was totally trippy. I was having weird flashbacks. Vampire Diaries ended two years ago, and I felt like it had ended three decades ago and when I stepped in there, all these weird memories started coming back. I was like, ‘Oh my god I remember when I sat here and I did this scene and I remember talking to Ian [Somerhalder] about this.’ Everything came rushing in and then it just passed and I moved on. But for a minute there, I had this flood of memories. It was very unusual.”
As for how the directing experience went, Wesley found comfort in some familiar faces he saw around set. “It was so nice having some old friends there,” Wesley says. “Matt Davis of course, some of the crew, my cinematographer and my A.D. These are guys I worked with very intimately for years and it was so nice to see them again and to hang out, and we really all worked our asses off to try to create something good.”
Wesley’s episode of Legacies airs Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.