[11/10/11 - 07:36 AM]
Interview: "The Vampire Diaries" Executive Producer Julie Plec
By Jim Halterman (TFC)

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With tonight being the last new episode of "The Vampire Diaries" until the new year, there was definitely a lot to talk about with Executive Producer Julie Plec about the goings on in Mystic Falls these days. Plec, always good at teasing the details without giving too much away to our Jim Halterman, touched on all the storylines driving the show's third season including the triangle between vampire brothers Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Damon (Ian Somerhalder) with the lovely mortal Elena (Nina Dobrev), the reason why some characters seem to disappear for episodes at a time and what exactly the arrival of Original family member Mikael (Sebastian Roché) means in tonight's episode.

Jim Halterman: Talk to me first about Stefan and Damon. To me, it seems Damon is getting nicer and Stefan, of course, is on a bad track right now due to Klaus (Joseph Morgan). But where are things headed?

Julie Plec: I think that it's nothing so specifically tangible that today one is good and one is bad and tomorrow will be different. I think that the series-long evolution of these characters Is that there are two things at play with them and that's that they are two brothers who were once human, lived a human existence and became vampires, which we labeled it [last week] as a predatory species. There is constantly that battle fighting within both of them. Damon, in his own weird way, handles being a vampire better than he handles being a human being. Stefan is better as a human being than he is being a vampire and so the switch in their roles and where they are in relationship to each other is often just whoever is having the bigger internal struggle. For poor Stefan, unfortunately, he is a really, really, really dark, troubled vampire who has a very difficult time coming out the other side of that and right now he's under having been compelled to turn off his humanity. I think he is a little bit happier there and more protected there because he doesn't have to deal with all the things he hates about himself as a human. So with Stefan, what's going to happen? Is he always going to have to be under Klaus's rule? Will he always have to obey Klaus or will he be able to find a way to turn that humanity switch back on and if and when he does what does that mean for his relationship, specifically with Elena? Has too much happened? Has she seen too much? Has he done too much? Can that be saved? And where is his brother now fitting into all this?

JH: Of course, everyone is excited about the potential for Damon and Elena to be together which I might guess would be all the more reason to keep them apart. But it almost seems like destiny. What can we expect to see with 'Delena?'

JP: I think the complicating thing about Damon and Elena is she, as a girl who fell head over heels for a vampire, maybe should've learned her lesson but instead what's happening is that she's falling into a deep, deep, deep friendship and level of trust with the least likely person in her life. I think that's really complicated for her because it's going to make her ask herself all sorts of questions about 'Who am I? Why do I love the way I love? Why do I love who I love? What am I supposed to do about it?' That's a long-term question for her. For Damon, as we've already established, he loves desperately; sometimes so desperately that it gets too messy. For him not wanting to compromise or sacrifice this real intimate bond that's been growing between Damon and Elena is going to be one of his challenges. 'How do I not screw this up like I usually do?'

JH: These are series-long questions they have, not even season-long, right?

JP: Exactly! And it's very much in the storytelling right now, the triangle. Certainly we have not seen the most exciting pieces of it yet this year. There's certainly more exciting pieces to tell in the context of the triangle but the series is also about the love story between these two brothers and between this girl who, in her own way, loves them both and is loved by both of them.

JH: A general question - some of the supporting characters come and go over a course of episodes. Bonnie was gone from the first few this season, Tyler was out for two episodes and returns in this next episode. Is that done more for the economics of the cast? Or is that storytelling device?

JP: It's honestly two-fold. We have an enormous ensemble, each of whom we treasure individually. It's an absolute storytelling impossibility to service all of them in every episode and so one of the ways that we have structured our storytelling, which is supported by contractual stuff that means not everybody is in every episode, is to not just throw a character in for the sake of seeing them. It's to make sure if they're in an episode it's with purpose and their stories have purpose. Some of our actors are contracted to do more episodes, some are contracted to do less so we work within those boundaries as well.

JH: In the last episode, the show went further back in time than usual to the Originals, which was fun because what we see in the flashbacks always reflect back so well on what's going on now. What can you tease now that Mikael is in present day Mystic Falls?

JP: You've got a guy who has the means of which and desire to kill Klaus, which is right in line with what our characters have been trying and failing to do for the better part of a year. They are aligning themselves with someone who is unpredictable and dangerous and that they don't know and they certainly have no reason to trust and hinging the success of their plan on his participation and, as they all experienced last year, Elijah (Daniel Gillies) certainly wasn't the most reliable Original. This episode is mostly about, given all the obstacles in our way, that we don't think we can trust Mikael but we need him, we need Stefan to get Klaus back but Stefan has been compelled to obey everything that Klaus says so Stefan could very easily screw this up. There is danger and pitfalls lurking around every corner and haven't we learned our lesson from all the times we've done this wrong? Damon and Elena try to come up with the best version of the plan that cannot fail given all the lessons that they've learned as a group in all their failed efforts to take this guy down.

JH: What's going to come for Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) and Bonnie (Kat Graham)? They have a big rift between them since Jeremy was falling back in love with Anna, the ghost (Malese Jow)!

JP: Jeremy and Bonnie are still at odds. Bonnie is still feeling very vulnerable and delicate about the demise of her relationship at the result of Jeremy basically admitting that he loved Anna and still loves Anna and that he kissed Anna. No girl likes to be in that situation so Bonnie is nursing her wounds a little bit and she's having a hard time being able to open up freely to Elena about it so it's complicated for the girls' friendship.

JH: Now, I love me some Tyler (Michael Trevino), became a hybrid and then was gone for a few episodes. What piece does he have in this episode?

JP: The piece of Tyler in this next episode is that we've discovered that he has this sire bond to Klaus, which is sort of the supernatural equivalent to faith and devotion in its own way. While Tyler recognizes that he thinks he has free will and that he's not bonded to this guy, inevitably he finds himself in a situation where Klaus's actions and demands need to be followed and Tyler needs to be the one to follow them. That puts him in an awkward and a very, very dangerous situation with his friends and then with Caroline (Candice Accola) specifically that he has to deal with.

JH: You were able to bring back so many of our past favorites with the ghost storyline but are we done with that for now or are we going to revisit that chapter?

JP: Yes, the ghost chapter, which was designed to end our last season and carry us through the beginning of this season, has come to a close for now as we move into the next chapter of our show. What's fun about having been able to tell the ghost chapter was, as writers and people working and making a show, you've got so many wonderful actors and characters and human beings that come through your doors. For the best storytelling, we often have to part ways with them very early and it's fun to invite them back in and say 'Come again and play with us again' and also to be able to say to the audience 'Your love for these characters did not go ignored.' We love being able to see Lexi (Arielle Kebbel) again and give Anna her closure with her mother and then, of course, to revisit the Mason Lockwood (Taylor Kinney) universe.

JH: Now that we've seen a piece of Rebekah (Claire Holt) and Klaus's backstory and why they are the way they are, does that take away from their villainy? Is it ever a concern that we don't sympathize with them too much in order to keep them as villains?

JP: The definition of villain for us has always been someone who is willing to do the most extreme things in the most extreme circumstances without care for what it does to other people. But always driven by their own particular need, want or desire. Nobody is just evil for the sake of being evil and some of the fun that we like to be able to have on the show is exploring why people do what they do and act like who they act like. Especially with Klaus, I think the big reveal from Klaus is that just when you're feeling sorry for this guy you find out he ripped his own mother's heart out! As you'll see in [tonight's episode], he is not going to go down without a fight...the lengths he will go to to try to avoid death are fairly profound and dangerous.

JH: Since we've talked several times, I want to ask about Alaric (Matt Davis), who is a character I've never quite connected with. Am I the only one who feels this way about him? How is he going to play out the rest of this season?

JP: I've seen some of your tweets! [Laughs.] There are plenty of people who would vehemently and violently disagree with you, myself included, in that I think Matt Davis is a tremendous actor and a very sexy, attractive, wonderful person to have on 'The Vampire Diaries.' However, I will say that Alaric, in mine and Kevin's mind and in the writers' mind, has been a character of not-yet-fully-realized-opportunity. Where we wanted that character to be versus where he currently is has been a challenge and it's something that we are working very hard to actually overcome because the actor is worth more than what the character has been given to do. But we love his friendship with Damon and his guardianship with Elena and this idea of this lost soul who at one point was married to a woman who became so obsessed with vampires that she became one, and is now the guardian of a girl has her own interaction with vampires and his need to protect her and take care of her and her brother. I like everything that we're doing. It's just that it's just the beginning of what's to come.

JH: I will give him a chance and open my heart to him. How's that?

JP: This is what I would say. 100% you have just begun to see the layers that exist in this character of Alaric Saltzman and there are some really great layers and some really great stories to be told and it's a priority for us and it's something we're excited about.

JH: Is this going to happen this season?

JP: I think we're going to start to see a little bit more from him very soon.

"The Vampire Diaries" airs every Thursday at 8:00/7:00c on The CW.

  [november 2011]  


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