With The Vampire Diaries back on The CW, the power-hungry witch Kai (Chris Wood) is hell-bent on making the twin merge take place with his sister Jo (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe). Meanwhile, Caroline’s (Candice Accola) plan to cure her mother (Marguerite MacIntyre) takes an unexpected and devastating turn, and she needs the help and support of Elena (Nina Dobrev), Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Damon (Ian Somerhalder) to deal with a very real and human issue.
While at The CW portion of the TCA Winter Press Tour, executive producer Caroline Dries spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about getting Elena and Damon back on the same page, giving Elena the chance to grow as a woman, what Kai’s intentions are for Elena, where things are headed between Caroline and Stefan, the bond between Damon and Bonnie (Kat Graham), human mortality, what’s to come with Enzo (Michael Malarkey), what Paul Wesley is like, as a director, and just how much longer she sees the show going. Check out what she had to say and be aware that there are some spoilers.
CAROLINE DRIES: That might be one of the luxuries or benefits of having 22 episodes. We bitch and moan about, “Oh, it’s so much work.” We don’t want to drag stories out or have filler episodes, but you also have freedom to zig-zag a little bit and be a little crazier ‘cause it stretches it out more. So, it’s been fun.
Just when you finally get Elena and Damon almost back on the same page again, Kai gets in the middle of them. What can you say about how that will play out?
DRIES: Kai has a very specific need for Elena, which is that he has absorbed magic from the Traveler spell, and that’s way more magic than he’s ever had rippling through his veins. His goal, which he’s made very clear from day one, is to merge with Jo. But what he comes to realize is that he’s never had this much magic before, so what if he touches Jo and she eviscerates. So, he’s trying to learn how to hone his magic, and he’s using Elena as a crash test dummy because she can’t really die and he can keep at it. And Damon wonders, “Where the heck is my gal? She never showed up. What’s going on?” So, he makes it his mission to find her. As they finally do come face to face and reconnect, we get to play at the story that would have happened, if Kai hadn’t grabbed her. We show the beginning stages of the Damon-Elena relationship that we’ve never seen before, with beats of them trying to figure out where to go to dinner, what to do on a date, and really simple, human things that we’ve actually never gotten to witness in their relationship. It’s a story that reminds us why we love the Damon and Elena relationship. It reminds us that it’s a simple love story.
Could you ever have imagined that you’d get to a point where you could go back to the beginning?
DRIES: No. As a writer, I’ve worked on the show for so long, and it was such a breakthrough when we came up with that idea because we get to redo their love story, in a way, and it comes with all the baggage. We’re constantly looking for ways to keep things fresh, but not feel fake. This really came at the right time and felt earned. He died and she was traumatized, so of course, she wanted to forget that love. It just worked out that we could tell that story, in a new way.
Was one of the advantages of taking those memories away the fact that it could allow Elena to find her own inner strength again?
DRIES: Yeah. As a feminist, I think you never want to have your characters defined by the relationships that they’re in, and it did give her a chance to be a sophomore in college without a boyfriend. She didn’t get that before. Who is she, as a student? Who does she want to be when she grows up, even though she’s never going to grow up? What are her career aspirations? Who is she besides Damon’s girlfriend, and besides being the object of his eye? It was fun to just see Elena as a growing woman.
With Kai, did you intentionally want to bring in a villain with a very heightened sense of danger, to off-set the characters that are your heroes, but have done villainous things?
DRIES: Totally. That’s a good point. You want to make things feel heightened, and that there is the possibility that somebody could do something horrible. And Enzo is pretty unpredictable, as well, but he’s so likeable and charming that you forgot that he’s the villain. Every season, we sit down and workshop and talk about the next season, and usually one of the things we talk about is who the big bad is for the season and how we make it different from the big bad of the last season. We had Silas and we had Klaus, who are these immortal things. Julie [Plec] was like, “What if we just had a sociopath? What if we just had somebody with no redeeming qualities, who won’t soften because he likes a girl? He’s just a monster.” That’s what we really liked about that character. And then, as the character evolved, we came up with the siphoning thing and had him be a Gemini to have it all connect. That’s where it came from. It’s been fun to write Kai ‘cause Chris [Wood] is such a good actor, and you can throw blocks of dialogue at him and be like, “Here, read this.” He really is becoming a fan favorite villain.
DRIES: No, and that’s what you’ll find out. Their attempts are pretty funny. Their attempts at planning a date and the scenario it’s all happening in is so chaotic. But then, they remember to take these moments and really appreciate that they have each other. It actually hangs a lantern on how special they are to each other, when they only have these glimpses to be together.
Bonnie and Damon never liked each other, until they were really forced to depend on and be there for each other. And Caroline and Stefan gradually developed such a beautiful friendship that viewers just wanted to see more and more of. When did you start to realize that you could take both of those relationships in the way that you have?
DRIES: We saw the Caroline and Stefan one a few seasons ago, when he was teaching her how to control her vampirism. She kind of replaced Lexi in his life. She became that girl that would talk back to him, but there wasn’t a love chemistry between them. They were just friends. Now, she’s growing up and she’s realizing what she’s looking for in a partner, and Stefan has all of those qualities because he’s a really great, awesome guy, and it’s harder for her to just be friends with him, as she’s made clear. With the Damon-Bonnie thing, they’ve just always worked as not liking each other. They’re just the Bickersons, and that’s their dynamic, period. But when we decided that it was time for Bonnie to have to make this sacrifice and get whisked off, who better to put her with than the person she doesn’t want to be with, and vice versa for Damon. And then, all of a sudden, this great chemistry emerged. They still bickered the whole time that they were in the prison world, but you saw that they really care about each other. Damon’s arc will be, “How do I get my friend back?” He doesn’t even admit that he’s her friend, but we all know that he has a soft spot for her now. Fans want them to get together, but we’re going to keep it platonic. There’s just a deep friendship there. Damon has spent more time with Bonnie, on screen, than he’s spent with Alaric or the sheriff, or any of his other buddies. It’s probably the most earned friendship on the show. It was really defined when Kai came into it because the dynamic of that triangle is, “I can make fun of my family, but you can’t make fun of my family.”
DRIES: Yeah, that’s totally something that is a fear, for any show, when you bring two characters together. That’s why we’ve always said, from the beginning, we’ll earn it in baby step, slowly but surely, and if we feel like it’s not working on screen, we won’t do it. But Caroline has chemistry with everyone, and Stefan needs that feminine touch in his life to really bring out his funny side. They are just working, and I think it’s because we’re taking it so slowly and so honestly. We’re not just throwing people together to have sex scene ‘cause that’s not really what our show is. It feels like it’s working, so hopefully the fans will embrace the way we’re going about it.
What made you want to explore how mortal humans really are, with what’s going on with Caroline’s mother?
DRIES: We wanted to give Caroline a bigger storyline that didn’t necessarily involve her liking someone or being in a love triangle. We also love Marguerite [MacIntyre] so much that we wanted to give her some material that’s great. The reason that we did it now is because, in Season 6, it’s really where the profoundness of a very human enemy really resonates. You’re just so embroiled in supernatural, all the time, that all of a sudden, it feels that much more dramatic.
With everything Bonnie has experienced in the prison world, how will that change her, if/when she ever gets back to her friends?
DRIES: We’re going to see Bonnie continue to try to adjust to life in the prison world. She tried to have Christmas, and it just made things worse for her. She’s going to have a birthday in the prison world, which is going to be worse. She’s really going to hit rock bottom before she pulls herself up by the bootstraps and says, “You know what? Let me get out of here!” She will finally find her way back, and it will come at the perfect time for our friends, who are in need of a friend rejuvenation and beautiful reunion. So, she comes back and is emotionally scarred from it. She doesn’t want to admit to that. She just wants to be like, “Great, I’m back! Let’s do this! Here are the clothes I left behind. Here’s my music. Let’s go to a party!” But, that’s not how reality actually works. She is scarred by it, and it will be a big issue for her. That feeling of being left behind is something where she’s like, “Never again!” That’s her motto.
DRIES: The notion of the twin merge is such a weird concept, and we just get used to talking about it and saying, “Okay, that’s what they’re gonna do for the merge.” But then, watching that Thanksgiving episode, I was like, “This is really weird, what we are asking the audience to embrace. They merge? What even is that?” But, the audience totally embraced it and loved it. I was like, “Okay, good. They’re used to us by now. The audience is with us.” But, there hasn’t been any real fall-out. People really, really like Kai, which I’m glad about. But they always love the villains, even though they’re the meanest character on the show.
What can we expect from Enzo, coming up?
DRIES: What he said to Stefan in Episode 2 was, “You were not a good brother to Damon. You gave up on Damon. You’re not worthy of being treated like a family member.” Something Enzo has never had, which you’ll come to learn, is that he’s never had a family and he’s never had a brother, and you’ll learn why he values it so much. You’ll learn more about his backstory in future episodes, and you’ll get to understand his motivations for why he’s got such a vendetta for Stefan. So, he’s going to end up luring Sarah Salvatore into the fold, and that’s what he’s going to use Matt for. We saw him grab Matt and turn the tables on him, and he’s got a little agenda. To get revenge on Stefan, it’s going to involve Sarah.
This show has passed the point that most shows never get to, with six seasons now and the renewal for a seventh. How much longer do you see it going?
DRIES: Every year, I’m like, “I don’t have any more ideas!” And then, we’ll think of something like Elena compelling Damon away and Kai, and there’s a whole season, right there. So, I’m going into Season 7 with that mind-set. We’ll think about it and, hopefully, we’ll strike gold again. We work with 10 really, really, really smart writers with big brains and a lot of ideas, so somebody has gotta think of something. Julie [Plec] would never let the show drive itself into the ground. If we’re out of ideas and we’re honest about it, we’ll end the show.
What’s it like to work with the actors when they direct an episode?
DRIES: It’s so interesting. Paul [Wesley] has a very strong point of view for what he wants. They don’t come to it from a very producorial background. It’s like, “Well, I know that’s what you want, but this is a TV show. You have two hours to shoot that. We can’t afford that.” But, it’s fun. Paul knows the show better than anyone, so it’s a dream.
The Vampire Diaries airs on Thursday nights on The CW.