How Legacies pulled off that Vampire Diaries-inspired musical episode
Warning: This episode contains spoilers about Thursday's episode of Legacies.
It's been more than a decade since Elena Gilbert first met a guy, they talked, and it was epic, but the universe that meeting launched still lives on.
After The Vampire Diaries delivered eight seasons of epic romance, epic twists, and epic deaths, The Originals continued to advance the world of the series with five family drama-filled seasons of its own. Now, week after week, Legacies brings viewers into that same universe, only this time through the lens of the Salvatore School, a.k.a. Caroline and Ric's creation in the Vampire Diaries series finale. And this week, Legacies revisited some of its history in the form of Salvatore: The Musical.
Written by Landon, the stage production told the story of Elena (as played by Josie), Stefan (as played by Jed), Damon (as played by Kaleb), Caroline (as played by Lizzie), and the inhabitants of Mystic Falls (including so, so many doppelgangers). The musical was Legacies' way to address and pay homage to the shows that came before it, and it was an idea that'd been floating around since season 1.
Penny Cox, who co-wrote Legacies' season 1 musical episode, was the first to mention it during lunch late in the show's first season. "We were sitting there just riffing and Penny said, 'I was just thinking if the kids at the Salvatore School pulled a Hamilton and they did a musical about the founding of their own school, it would essentially be Vampire Diaries the Musical," says Thomas Brandon, who co-wrote the series' first musical episode with Cox. "She just kind of took the next bite and kept eating lunch and we all stopped and were like, 'OH MY GOD.'"
Brandon, who wrote "Salvatore: The Musical" and crafted the songs with his co-composer Christopher Robert Read, continues, "It was a way to contextualize: How do these kids feel about what came before them even though they don't all know the characters but they study in the Stefan Salvatore Memorial Library? They're living in the legacy of these characters so for them it's like Hamilton, these are the people who founded the school."
The concept was an instant hit with executive producers Brett Matthews and Julie Plec, both of whom had worked on The Vampire Diaries. (Furthermore, Plec created The Vampire Diaries with Kevin Williamson.) "The happiest day of my life is the day that [music supervisor] Chris Mollere sent me the recording for the doppelganger number," Plec says with a laugh. "I laughed so hard. The first two songs I got were 'Hello Brother' and 'Welcome to Mystic Falls' and I was so incredibly giddy that I sent the songs to Paul [Wesley] and Ian [Somerhalder] and Nina [Dobrev]."
Using Matthews and Plec as sounding boards for the series' pivotal moments, Brandon, who did not work on Vampire Diaries, was able to visit the series with fresh eyes. "I loved that it was somebody who had just been a watcher of The Vampire Diaries who was writing the musical through his own point of view," Plec says, with Matthews adding, "That was one of the exciting parts of the process for us because Julie and I are very clear on why we love The Vampire Diaries and for her, The Originals, because our blood, sweat, and tears are in those shows. So it was really fun to watch that love come back from somebody who had just been touched by it and was now a part of it."
When discussing which moments would make the musical, Matthews recalls "Hello brother" being an immediate and obvious choice. But with limited time and a limited perspective, cuts had to be made. "This is structurally a little different for us because we're mostly limited to Elena's perspective," says Brandon. "We don't often do a show where one character's driving the story but that was just me putting myself into this world because I was aware I was inheriting somebody else's story and trying to figure out: How do I pare this down into a two-hour musical? Then I realized, 'I'm Landon struggling with how do I do this well, how do I honor what came before me but how do I tell a coherent story that's bite-sized, and then how do I do it in a musical theater way?'"
Of course, not every memorable moment made its way into the musical. Even Kaylee Bryant, whose character Josie played Elena, wasn't able to play out her favorite Elena moment — when she burns down her own home and flips her humanity switch during season 4. But Bryant did mention one tidbit for Katherine Pierce fans. Although they didn't have time to put Katherine in the musical, she says, "When we were doing 'Hello Brother,' I was talking about how Elena, when she looks at Stefan, is Elena and then she switches to Katherine every time she looks at Damon. That's a little Easter egg for the fans that we were playing with."
Also cut? A Klaus musical number in which he sang to his daughter. (But don't worry, the episode will have its own soundtrack, to be released at midnight, and that Klaus number will be on it.) "We had to kill a lot of darlings along the way, we could've written a 200-page version of this episode," Matthews says. "That's the beauty of it and I think it touches on the history of all the shows in the universe. It's got a lot of season 1, where the show was built upon that love triangle, but it does pay reference to doppelgangers and Hope and Klaus."
For Brandon, big bad Klaus Mikaelson was actually a major help in terms of figuring out how the musical would serve the Legacies characters in addition to being a fun homage. "I think the show's at its best when it's leaning into the title, we are the legacies, and one of the things that really started to unlock everything for me was when I realized that the students of the school probably just thought of Hope's dad as a mass murderer and no one realized he's the founder," says Brandon. "So it's the idea that we could use this story to help people see Hope's family in a different way, to help Lizzie understand her mom in a different way, for Josie to understand Aunt Elena in a different way."
And for an episode that felt like a love letter to TVD, it ended with the ultimate gift for Caroline fans: Candice King made a semi-return when she recorded a voiceover for the end of the hour as Lizzie reads a letter from her mom. "Candice has always said that she wanted to take a nice long break from Caroline after having guested on The Originals, but she said, 'If you ever need a phone call or something, of course I'd be happy to do that anytime,'" says Plec. "This was the first time where we felt like, because it was such a love letter to the series, that having her voice in it would be so perfect." As Matthews puts it, it was the "cherry on top of the sundae."
So with two musical episodes under their belt, what's next for Legacies? "I'm hoping before Legacies is over to do a fully sung episode, a full-blown 'Once More With Feeling," Plec says with a laugh. "Nothing would make me happier."