On the new CW series The Originals, a spin-off of the hit drama The Vampire Diaries, the Original vampire family’s bonds will be tested like never before. Klaus Mikaelson (Joseph Morgan), the original vampire-werewolf hybrid, has returned to New Orleans, the city his family helped build, but was then exiled from. Drawn back by a mysterious plot that is brewing in the French Quarter, Elijah (Daniel Gillies) follows his brother and learns that the rebellious werewolf Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin), a former one night stand of Klaus’, has also come to the Quarter, searching for clues to her family history while hiding the unbelievable news that she is carrying his unborn child, which would greatly displease his vampire protégé Marcel (Charles Michael Davis), who now has total control over the human and supernatural inhabitants of New Orleans.
During this recent exclusive interview with Collider, executive producer Julie Plec talked about how much fun it’s been to get to expand The Originals in this way, just how much the ideas for the story evolved as they developed it, when the whole pregnancy storyline came into play, what this all means for Hayley, how different the tone of this show will be from The Vampire Diaries, the storylines that they’ll explore this season, and how they came up with the idea to retell the story from their backdoor pilot from Elijah’s point of view for the season premiere. Check out what she had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
JULIE PLEC: We had such a burden. It was a high-class problem burden, but it was still a burden on The Vampire Diaries, in which we had this group of characters that we loved writing for so much, and who had so much available story to tell. Just talking for five minutes, you could think of the most amazing flashbacks, or the history of them. We felt like, “We can’t let this group of people who are so dynamic overshadow or overwhelm the heroes that are really the center of The Vampire Diaries.” So, giving them their own show and their own forum to tell those stories was a no-brainer, once we realized that we were struggling to write less story for them, in any given episode.
Since you knew for awhile that you wanted to do a spin-off, were you able to really take the time to decide what you wanted to do and what the best story would be?
PLEC: We had a lot of time, in the beginning, to think about what the spin-off could be, and then it all shifted about a hundred different times, over the course of the process. It took about a year and a half to put it together. At one point, we didn’t have any of The Originals. And then, we only had Klaus (Joseph Morgan). And then, we only had Klaus and Elijah (Daniel Gillies). We didn’t ever have Rebekah (Claire Holt), but then she joined at the very last second, after we had really broken the story. So, everything that we did to pretend that we knew what we were doing, none of it mattered anyway. When the time came, we actually put it together pretty quickly.
At what point did the whole pregnancy storyline come up?
PLEC: The pregnancy storyline came up when we were breaking the season for The Vampire Diaries. We were in about Episode 2 of the season for The Vampire Diaries and we kept thinking that when Klaus came to town, his goal was all about breaking the curse that prevented him from being a hybrid because he hated the fact that he was alone and the only one of his kind. And then, his next season goal was to reunite his family, who he felt abused and betrayed by, and to kill his father and make amends with his mother, who he had killed years ago. Everything from Klaus always seemed to stem from family, and we thought, “Well, here’s our guy who’s such a great villain, but he’s got noting driving him this year. But, we love the actor and we love the character, so what do we do with him?” So, we came up with the idea of the hybrid who’s always wanted more of his own to get a girl pregnant. It was gonna be a The Vampire Diaries storyline that we would have played, if The Originals hadn’t moved forward. It was something that we knew was gonna be Klaus’ journey.
Did you have to immediately figure out how that pregnancy could have happened and how to make it viable?
PLEC: Honestly, there’s nothing more deadly boring on a show than a baby, so for us, it’s more about, “What does the pregnancy mean, and what does it mean to each individual character? What does Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin) go through, as a character? What does this baby mean, on a human level and on a supernatural level?” We got really excited about all of the storytelling opportunities. So, once and when that baby is born, we shall see how we deal with the deadly boring baby problem. But until then, we’ve got a lot of really good drama.
PLEC: We’ve got all kinds of little scientific rules that we’ve created. For example, werewolves change once a month on the full moon, but while they’re pregnant, they don’t turn at all. It’s almost like this gift. If you are procreating and letting the werewolf bloodline live on, then your curse is lifted during that period and you’re not forced by the full moon to turn. It’s like treating the mother like a goddess and not putting her through that pain and suffering while she’s pregnant, and letting her have it all when she has the baby instead.
How will all of this affect Hayley, and how will they believe to keep this pregnancy a secret?
PLEC: It’s so great because the first thing that they have to do is put her away. They have to hide her. She’s not showing yet, when we begin the series, but she will start to, very soon. I do feel like the efforts to keep Hayley from being discovered that she’s a werewolf, since werewolves are not allowed in the Quarter by Marcel’s (Charles Michael Davis) rules, that she’s a pregnant werewolf, and that she’s carrying Klaus’ baby. My god, that’s the most heavily protected secret in The Originals universe, and it’s going to cause them a lot of problems, trying to keep that secret. So, we’ll see how far she makes it before somebody catches on.
How different in tone will this show be?
PLEC: This is a lot more bacchanalian in its tone. Marcel is the life of the party, man. He’s running the quarter with a jazz band in one hand and a hurricane cocktail in the other. He likes to throw a good party. So, the show itself will have a lot more fun. These are not brooding vampires. These are not guilty vampires. These are vampires that are reveling in the wish fulfillment of being vampires. The big, deep emotional stuff comes from the powerful family dynamic and the love that exists between these characters, but there’s less brooding, for sure.
You set up a lot of storylines in the pilot. Which are you looking to explore right away, and which are you looking at more for the long-term?
PLEC: Well, the notion of this being Klaus’ potential redemption and how we can bring the family back together will be driving every episode, for better or for worse, whether it’s, “Look at the crappy thing Klaus did this week,” or “Look, maybe Klaus is coming around.” The werewolf story – the story of Hayley’s lineage and what that means to her – is something we’re already talking about slowly introducing in the first half of the year. And then, if we’re blessed enough to get the rest of the season, then that’s something that would nicely get revealed, as we get deeper and deeper into her pregnancy. The history of the werewolf community could even get revealed in Season 2 ‘cause we’ve got a great story for that. We dive into the witches’ backstory. By Episode 5, we have a really interesting flashback about where these witches came from, what they’ve been up to, how they draw their magic, and what’s important to them. It’s equal opportunity. There’s tons of story to tell, so we’re just gonna start and then keep telling it, as long as we can.
PLEC: It felt like a brilliant idea, and it will either be the greatest thing we’ve ever done, or a spectacular failure. I’m hoping for the former, obviously. That was a really, really, really difficult idea to come by, I would say mostly because Daniel Gillies is on another show right now and we thought we had to protect for that, which meant that maybe we’d get him for two days, in that first episode. And then, miracles and scheduling shifts and all kinds of things happened, and we decided just to write the best episode and then figure out how to shoot it. Once we freed ourselves from the constraints of his schedule, we realized that Elijah bringing us into the world really was the most powerful way to do it. So, I think it’s gonna be great.
How difficult was it to find that balance for Klaus and find an actors who could stand up to him, with the character of Marcel?
PLEC: Believe it or not, it was a very simple undertaking that we thought was going to be a massive undertaking. We were very nervous. Joseph [Morgan] is a star. He is a magnificent actor. He has an incredibly magnetic presence. He’s just such an interesting performer. And the idea of finding someone who could hold his own, forget physically and aesthetically, but as an actor against Joseph, felt like an impossible task without going out into Academy Award land. But then, we met Charles [Michael Davis] and he just had this very, very easy, simple charisma that was 180 degrees different than Klaus’ charisma. He just had this strength, as a man, and this power, and yet this smile that lit up the room. We just instantly knew that, if he could act – which he can, thank god – and he connected to the part, then he was our guy. He really is terrific.
The Originals airs on Thursday nights on The CW.