Kat Angus, Dose.ca
You could be forgiven for initially dismissing The Vampire Diaries as another melodramatic teen vampire drama. A beautiful teenage girl falls in love with a devastatingly handsome vampire – gee, where have we heard that before? Even star Nina Dobrev admits that her reaction was somewhat similar.
“I’ll be honest: when I first read the pilot synopsis, I remember thinking, ‘Oh, this is just Twilight on TV,’” the 21-year-old Canadian says during one of her few days off from filming in Atlanta. “Then I researched and realized it was much more than that. We began shooting and it kind of grew a life of its own. It’s such a huge departure from how it originally came across.”
The first few episodes of The Vampire Diaries followed the standard vampire formula: young Elena (Dobrev) meets and falls for Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley), unaware that he’s a centuries-old vampire – or that his brother, Damon (Ian Somerhalder), is similarly afflicted and has been attacking the town’s residents. But once Elena discovered the Salvatores’ true nature, The Vampire Diaries let loose, employing a breakneck pace of storytelling rarely seen on other shows (ahem, Lost).
Events that could take weeks to develop on another series instead occur within a single episode (or less) on The Vampire Diaries. Elena gets kidnapped? She’s rescued within the next 20 minutes. Stefan discovers a terrible secret about Elena’s past? He shares it with everyone immediately so they can determine a plan of (literal) attack. Now in its second season, The Vampire Diaries is enjoying great ratings and even better reviews – many of which begin with, “You’re not going to believe it, but…”
“You always hope that a show will be successful and it will do well and people will watch it and love it, so we always had hopeful expectations,” Dobrev says. “And then when the show premiered, it started doing well and had a good response, we were absolutely thrilled. It’s just been going strong since then; the ratings have been consistent, people are still watching and I think it’s because we’re still delivering intense, jam-packed, sexy, dramatic, action-filled episodes.”
Describing the show’s writers as “masterminds,” Dobrev adds that The Vampire Diaries won’t let up on the action any time soon: “They’ve got a plan and I’m so confident in them. I know they’ve got a good, long plan for the show.”
That’s not to say that The Vampire Diaries sacrifices character development; rather, showrunner Kevin Williamson seems to have realized his actors’ talent and has written their characters accordingly. Dobrev and her costars are constantly acting out the devastating emotional consequences of living such dangerous lives: Stefan has shown to have a dark side, while Damon has struggled to confront both his feelings for Elena and his more destructive tendencies.
Dobrev has the added challenge of playing two characters: the well-meaning Elena, and Katherine, her evil vampire doppelganger who wouldn’t hesitate to snap the spine of an innocent bystander.
“As Katherine, I can get away with a lot more and say a lot more and be a little bit more edgy and bad. She has a very playful personality. As soon as I put on the heels and they start curling my hair, I’m in the zone,” Dobrev explains. “As Elena, it’s the same thing: I put on the Converse and jeans and a T-shirt, and I feel like this strong, young woman, figuring herself out. That’s who she is: she’s figuring herself out and she’s growing.”
And while Elena may not be as over-the-top as Katherine, Dobrev appreciates that she’s evolved beyond the sulky teenager who is constantly in danger.
“Elena started out as a very troubled young woman and throughout all the hardships and experiences of the last year and a half, she’s grown and taken on responsibilities. She’s becoming a strong, confident woman. She’s very courageous; if you ask me, she’s a very courageous individual. I wouldn’t be able to do half the things she’s dealing with.”
Read the interview in full here